At a hot and humid Sepang circuit, on the eve of the second Sepang test, Yamaha unveiled the official color scheme for the 2011 MotoGP season, and as expected, the bikes will be carrying Yamaha corporate colors, with no sign of a title sponsor. Yamaha's factory team had been linked to deals with Malaysian budget airline Air Asia and petroleum giant Petronas, but though Petronas is continuing as a subsponsor, they have not expanded their role to take on the role of title sponsor.
Naturally, Yamaha are putting a positive spin on the lack of a title sponsor, preferring to focus on the fact that 2011 will be Yamaha's 50th season in Grand Prix racing, and use this as an opportunity to market the brand. But at the Sepang launch, Yamaha Racing's managing director Lin Jarvis told the media that the team was still open to a title sponsor, should the opportunity present itself.
The lack of a title sponsor for Yamaha in both MotoGP and World Superbikes is surely a disappointment for both the factory and for motorcycle racing in general. And yet there may be very good reasons for electing to run in corporate colors. It is clear from reliable paddock gossip that Yamaha had parties interested in sponsoring the bike, the real issue being the amount of money on offer. While some teams are rumored to have sold title sponsorship for a pitiful sum - in one case, a six figure sum, paddock gossip insists - accepting a much lower amount as a title sponsor makes it much more difficult to negotiate a more appropriate sum in following seasons. It also undercuts the market, undermining the negotation positions of all of the factories in the future.
Without inside knowledge, it is hard to know just how much these factors influenced Yamaha's decision to run without a title sponsor, and what sums of money were involved. But there is also undeniably an upside for Yamaha in electing to run a corporate livery: with Jorge Lorenzo running the #1 plate - something which Valentino Rossi steadfastly refused to do - Yamaha can at least use the Spaniard's 2010 title as a marketing tool, using images of a clearly-marked Yamaha with a great big #1 on it to sell their machines. Cynics may point out that when Valentino Rossi was riding for the factory, they had no need of the #1 plate, but given that Rossi has elected to leave Yamaha, the Japanese factory have to make the best of what they have.
Below is the official press release, and photos of the livery (photos courtesy of Yamaha Racing):
YAMAHA FACTORY RACING UNVEILS 2011 TEAM LIVERY IN MALAYSIA
Yamaha Factory Racing unveiled its new livery today, a day in advance of testing tomorrow at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia. The team, which starts the season defending its third consecutive triple crown victory, fields a new rider in 2010 Rookie of the Year Ben Spies alongside the defending World Champion Jorge Lorenzo. The 2011 YZR-M1 features a Yamaha corporate blue colour scheme incorporating the iconic Yamaha speed block design.
The press conference, held at 1800 local time at the Sepang International circuit, included welcome speeches by Lin Jarvis, new team director Massimo Meregalli, and team manager Wilco Zeelenberg. They were joined by Shigeto Kitagawa, Masahiko Nakajima, Kouichi Tsuji and riders Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies.
Tomorrow's test, running from 22nd to 24th February is the second of three pre-season tests, with the third and final at Qatar on the 13th March in advance of the opening round of the 2011 championship the following week.
"I'm very happy to be here again preparing to start another season riding with Yamaha," said Jorge Lorenzo. "Winning the World Championship last season was an incredible feeling, but now we start again. I have a great crew and with the hard work of the Japanese engineers over the winter I feel confident we can fight for more success this year."
"We worked really hard last year to earn the seat with the Yamaha Factory team so it's a great feeling to be here alongside Jorge," commented Ben Spies. "It's obviously a special year for Yamaha with the 50th Anniversary of GP racing celebrations so I'm really stoked to be part of it. The bike's feeling really good, we've got a few days more of testing now to really shake it down and fine tune the set up and we'll be ready to go. I'm loving the corporate blue colour scheme, I'm a big fan of the design."
"I'm proud to be here for the 2011 Yamaha Factory Racing launch and the start of a new era for the team," said Lin Jarvis, Managing Director, Yamaha Motor Racing Srl. "This is an important year for us being our 50th anniversary of involvement in Grand Prix racing and we start the season not only with the reigning MotoGP World Champion but also welcoming Ben Spies, last year's Rookie of the Year to the Factory Team. It's fitting that we will line up for the start of this special year in our corporate colours."