The 2018 MotoGP season triggered a year of change for Yamaha. After two seasons of decline, major changes were needed to turn the project around, and start to challenge for the title again. Results during the 2019 season gave reason for hope, with more wins and more podiums than in 2018, and Yamahas running more consistently at the front.
In the first part of our monster interview, Lin Jarvis, Managing Director of Yamaha Motor Racing, went in depth into the changes Yamaha had made to their internal organization, and how they went about improving processes and communication to make the factory more competitive. In the second part, Jarvis talks about the changes inside the factory team, and what they are aimed at achieving.
Jarvis first discusses the changes made to Maverick Viñales' side of the garage for 2018, and how that helped Viñales become more competitive, especially in the second half of the season. He also talks about the changes to Valentino Rossi's side of the garage for 2020, and what effect he expects that will have for Rossi next season.
The interview also covers where Jarvis believes Yamaha went wrong in the past, and their failure to understand the spec electronics until they got outside help. The Yamaha Racing MD also discusses the process of developing the Yamaha M1 for the future, and what their objectives and expectations are for 2020 and beyond.
Q: All of this focus has been about the bike. It’s not been about the team. It’s about building a better bike?
Lin Jarvis: Yes. We have looked at and we have adjusted and modified over the years elements of the team. So now so far, in this interview we’ve been talking about the bike. That is the primary issue at the moment more than anything else. Because anyway, it’s definable. Look at our top speeds and you can see enough. Look at the lack of traction and the problems that we’ve had. We’ve been suffering with electronics. There’s a lot of things that are definable.
So anyway, whilst we can still definitely improve the team and our operations over here, this is 100% the base and this is what our riders have been complaining about. I think if you look at maybe Maverick’s case, it is really indicative of our technical difficulties, in my opinion.
When he came onboard at the end of 2016 he started really, really well and really strong. Because our bike at that moment was very competitive. We won the championship in 2015. The bike in ’16 was still good. We hadn’t lost out yet at that stage, once they introduced this common software as well as the common hardware. Then we started to lose the way and our competitors started to benefit from the fact that they were going down the right direction and were working in a better way.
Maverick’s career, or let’s say his results with us pretty much followed that, because then he had difficulty, then came the frustration, then we struggled. Now we’re starting to get it back together again. You can see Maverick’s results also picking up and improving the second half of this year. He’s been very consistent. So, the core is always the bike, in my opinion.
That said, we’ve also modified certain elements of our team structure, but it’s not as radical. These are fine-tuning. If we look at the changes that we did in these last twelve months, because if we look primarily we could say that this time last year we were still in trouble, and this time this year we are doing a lot better, we’re on the right path again.
We lost, of course we changed both Wilco [Zeelenberg] and Ramon [Forcada] for two different reasons, I would say. Wilco in particular because he had a great opportunity with the Petronas team. We recognized that opportunity. He needed to grow. He was very much needed there. Brand-new team. It was in his advantage, their advantage, and also in our advantage.
Q: And it shows what a good choice that was.
LJ: Yeah. I think that’s been a really good choice for Wilco to leave. In the case of Ramon, it was different. We won three championships with Ramon as a crew chief for Jorge. So there was never any doubt or any question about his technical skills and ability. Not at all. But it wasn’t clicking with Maverick. So, that’s a matter of communication. That’s a matter of personal styles, needs, interactions, et cetera.
So that was a change for a different reason, but also luckily we were able to keep Ramon in the fold as well. Also, they needed an expert crew chief as well. So, Ramon followed Wilco and went over there.
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