Motor sport

How Yamaha finally won back MotoGP

“For 2020 we made big changes to the engine and chassis and we were stronger, so Fabio, Maverick [Viñales] and Frankie [Morbidelli] could get many wins. Our bike’s overall performance was stronger but the consistency wasn’t good and we couldn’t figure out why.

Like most MotoGP engineers, Sumi won’t talk about specifics, but the 2020 engine was different inside and out, which changed the overall stiffness of the bike. At the same time, Yamaha moved parts around to allow for better intake airflow, for more power, which changed the overall balance of the bike. This may explain the sensitivity of the M1 2020 to different track and weather conditions.

“Our goal for 2021 was to achieve consistency. Engine development was frozen, so we changed the chassis to return to the same performance as the 2019 bike, which our riders said offered better braking performance and of turn.

Quartararo loved the 2021 M1 from the start.

“I understood the bike very well and with that awesome feeling I could always push to my max and push to the limit,” said the 22-year-old Frenchman who won five races en route to his first world title.

The Magneti-Marelli/Michelin situation has also improved for Yamaha. Unlike the other factories, Yamaha didn’t hire people from Magneti to help them get the most out of the software, because they wanted to solve their problems internally, but eventually in 2019 they hired someone from Magneti.

New welded section in Jerez trial frame changes lateral stiffness to improve cornering and rear grip

Then, in 2020, Michelin introduced its softer-built rear slick, which generally worked best for smooth-turning inline-fours.

“From the outside, it looked like other manufacturers had a harder time with the tire, so maybe that helped us,” says Sumi.

“We also tried to understand better how the tire works and how it loses performance, so now we have better control of that, by the bike and the rider, so that we can keep the performance of the tires until the end of the race. race.”

Yamaha also made a breakthrough with electronics for 2021, reducing the amount of traction control used during the second half of races, relying instead on the rider.

“I don’t want to imagine our bike surrounded by eight Ducati bikes”

Sumi has a big goal for 2022.

“Engine power for speed on the straights is the main point to improve. Our riders are fast with our bike but even though they are a second faster in lap times, they sometimes struggle to overtake, especially when battling with the Ducatis.

Quartararo agrees. “My only request to the engineers is to focus on top speed – if I have the same bike plus a bit more power I’ll be happy.”

Yamaha is also working on chassis performance, with revised frames evaluated at last month’s Jerez tests. These featured different stiffness because the flex in the frame helps with turning and the sooner the rider can turn the bike, the sooner he can accelerate, which means more straight-line speed.

And yet, whatever extra power Yamaha finds in its M1 engine, Sumi must be a bit worried about having eight Desmosedici on next year’s MotoGP grid.

“Not a bit,” he smiles. “I don’t want to imagine our bike surrounded by eight Ducati motorcycles.”

The difference in straight-line performance between the Ducati (the fastest motorcycle in MotoGP) and the Yamaha (the slowest) is breathtaking. At the last race in Valencia – a good track to gauge the power, aero and anti-wheelie electronics, as the entry into the straight is very slow – the best Yamaha reached 199.9 mph, while that the best Ducati did 208.4 mph!

Quartararo wants Yamaha to increase its anti-wheelie aerodynamics, but Yamaha can’t because the M1 engine doesn’t have the power to deal with the extra drag. So Yamaha is damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t.

Fabio Quartararo celebrates winning the 2021 MotoGP Championship

Quartararo celebrates the title with his crew, including team manager Gubbelini (right)


Yamaha will have to work harder than ever to beat the phalanx of the Dukes in 2022. Once again, its engineers must focus on qualifying, the start and the first laps to come out on top, because what the M1 needs is of a clear track and clean air. , so riders can carve out their large arcing corner lines to exploit the bike’s cornering speed advantage and keep their front tires cool.

As soon as a Yamaha rider mixes up with a few other bikes they can’t use their favorite cornering lines and then the heat from the other machines increases the pressure in their front tires which changes the profile of the tire reducing grip .

Quartararo is blessed with a very smart and tight-knit team around him, especially team leader Diego Gubbelini and data engineer Pablo Guilliem.