Yamaha remains hopeful of an impressive comeback and stellar 2020 season despite Marc Márquez extending his lead in the 2019 MotoGP season after a win in the San Marino MotoGP over the weekend. With Monster Energy Yamaha riders Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi only able to clinch third and fourth place respectively, the Japanese manufacturer will have to pull out all the stops to ensure that its riders are not being disadvantaged in any way. With Yamaha often being criticized for not offering its race team enough noteworthy developments to test, the pressure is on to see whether the manufacturer will rock or flop the coming MotoGP season.
New prototypes not well received by riders
Towards the end of August, Yamaha’s preparations for the 2020 season moved up a notch with the continued development of its new engine. Approximately one month after the first 2020 Yamaha M1 prototype undertook its maiden public run in Brno, the Iwata factory released an updated engine for Rossi and Viñales to test-drive at the Misano MotoGP test. Although both riders admitted that the engine did boast potential, they were significantly less enthusiastic about the developments than was hoped for. If you want to win the MotoGP, you need a powerful and safe bike, and the latest offering simply didn’t make the cut. In an interview, Rossi stated that: “We are in a good way, but we need to improve more. It’s not the big step we need, but it’s in the right direction,” while Viñales simply added: “We need to keep working, it’s not the step I think we could make.”
Project leader remains optimistic
Shortly after the prototype was released, Yamaha MotoGP project leader Takahiro Sumi said: “After the disaster of last season, we had to change something.” He further went on to say: “On the bike and also in our way of thinking, especially in terms of development. We have changed many small things. The bike is not so different, actually, but Yamaha is different: now we actually use every resource to develop a more competitive bike and get out of the crisis for next year.” Regardless of the indifference displayed by the riders, Sumi remains optimistic and believes that the final 2020 offerings will exceed everyone’s expectations.
Carbon fiber swing-arm a step in the right direction
Yamaha has experienced increasing pressure to adopt an approach that is more aligned with that of its biggest competitors, Honda and Ducati, who are known to prioritize speed over agility. While the M1 sports the strongest cornering ability on the grid, it is unable to counteract the straight-line limitations at a large number of tracks. Thankfully, Yamaha is finally joining the carbon fiber swing-arm club, which will significantly improve the riding experience. After asking for it repeatedly, both Rossi and Viñales finally got to test the swing-arm at Misano with great success.
The Yamaha factory team has been enjoying mixed results of late with Rossi not winning a MotoGP race since 2017 while Viñales has a 2019 win under the belt. Luckily, there are a lot of improvements being developed that will undoubtedly increase the team’s chances of producing multiple MotoGP winners in the near future.