Can Yamaha give Rossi a winning bike?
by Mat Oxley on 2nd January 2018
Valentino Rossi’s chief engineer Silvano Galbusera explains what went wrong last year and what needs to go right this MotoGP season
Yamaha has a lot of work to do: the factory needs to win back the MotoGP world title and (for the sake of Dorna and millions of fans) build a bike good enough to keep Valentino Rossi racing for another season or two.
Achieving both those goals will keep Yamaha busier than any of the other factories, because it’s got to dig Rossi and Movistar team-mate Maverick Viñales out of a big hole. Last year was one of Yamaha’s worst MotoGP seasons, with just four wins from 18 races. But it wasn’t only last year that was bad. Since the start of MotoGP’s new technical era – different tyres and electronics – Yamaha’s win rate has slumped by more than 50 per cent. Indeed the factory won fewer races in 2016 and 2017 combined than it did in 2015 alone.s
In other words, Yamaha has made the worst transition of all from Bridgestones and tailormade software to Michelins and Dorna-spec software. It’s not so much that the YZR-M1 has become a worse motorcycle, but that the bike hasn’t been adapted to suit MotoGP’s latest control components.
Last season the M1 suffered corner-entry and mid-corner issues, plus a lack of both mechanical and electronics grip during acceleration. In other words, the full set of woes.
“It was a very terrible season,” admits Rossi’s chief engineer Silvano Galbusera. “In 2016 Valentino had a good feeling with the bike but we destroyed the rear tyre with five or six laps to go. For 2017 Yamaha modified the bike to save the tyre. At some tracks it was good, but Valentino missed the feeling he needed, so he could not go into the corners quickly and keep his line. On the data you could not see this very well, but it was clear from the rider’s explanation. The 2016 bike was easier to ride, with better feedback from the tyres, so he could push more, but we used the rear tyre too much.
“At the beginning of 2017 we found that the new bike wasn’t 100 per cent for Valentino. At the same time Maverick was very, very fast. The first races weren’t so bad for us, but after we couldn’t find the right setting. Yamaha changed the chassis a little bit, with different geometry and similar stiffness, but Valentino never had the feeling he had in 2016.”
Yamaha’s lack of corner-exit grip was compounded by problems earlier in the corner.
“If the rider can’t make a nice line through the corner then he’s a little in delay,” adds Galbusera. “That loses him some time, so he opens the throttle more to recover that time, so he uses the rear tyre too much.
“During the 2017 season, we often had to stop thinking about better lap times and start thinking about saving the rear tyre. So we reduced the power, which saved the tyre, but cost us acceleration. This was a critical moment, because we could not use all the power from the engine because the bike wasn’t able to accelerate without spinning and destroying the tyre.”
Although Yamaha needs to find a better chassis balance to improve all phases of the corner, Galbusera believes that the biggest job awaits the factory’s electronics engineers, who must unlock the secret of the Magneti Marelli software, as Ducati and Honda have done.
“I think Honda and Ducati discovered something in the power delivery, from the electronics, to help the rear of the bike,” he says. “When the rider picks up the bike, the system recognises this and then they can push. If you listen to their bikes you hear less cutting noise from the electronics, so they have better acceleration. Yamaha needs to work on the electronics to find something like this because we need acceleration without destroying the tyre.”
Ducati and Honda have the advantage of intimate knowledge of Dorna’s Magneti Marelli software because they have hired some of the best people from the Italian electronics giant.
“Ducati has worked with Magneti Marelli for many years and last year HRC hired one electronics engineer who had worked at Ducati and then at Magneti Marelli,” says Galbusera. “These people know everything about the system, so it’s easier for them to find the right setting.”
So why doesn’t Yamaha follow suit and hire a Magneti Marelli engineer?
“Because I don’t think there’s anyone left there with that kind of experience,” Galbusera chuckles ruefully. “Anyway, Yamaha needs to work on the electronics to find something like Honda and Ducati have found. This is very important for us because we need acceleration without destroying the tyre, while also keeping the bike’s agility.”
Last season was one of Rossi’s worst in MotoGP, apart from his dismal two years with Ducati. He wasn’t the only one, of course. Viñales started the year as title favourite and won three before his season also turned rotten.
Source: Motorsport 2 January 2018.
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