Yamaha launch new bike in Barcelona with lots of questions to be answered with MotoGP set to undergo huge changes in 2016.
With Catalans once again calling for their secession from Spain the Movistar Yamaha squad may have been one of the few people in Barcelona hoping for the status quo to remain in place for 2016. As the reigning MotoGP world champions pulled back the covers on the updated YZR-M1 in front of a packed house at Telefonica’s headquarters the challenges for the coming season were never far from the mind.
Having dominated proceedings last year, winning 11 of 18 races, the Japanese manufacturer faces a huge challenge to maintain their position in the coming season due to new regulations. MotoGP will be a very different environment this year compared to 12 months ago with new electronics and Michelin tyres offering a completely new challenge to teams.
Understanding how to get the most from the new regulations will take time. Yamaha developed a new tank to change the weight distribution to aid the change of tyres but with testing having taken place last year using bikes developed for Bridgestone tyres there is still a chance that teams could score an own goal in their development.
“The situation is that Yamaha made a new tank and bike to try and understand how to use the Michelins,” commented Rossi. “Moving the weight distribution for the Michelin tyre but they don’t know [if it will work], it was just one idea. Now for the first test in Sepang it will be very, very important to decide the correct way for our bike.”
Teams are shifting the weight towards the front of the bike and bringing the centre of gravity higher in the frame in an attempt to place more load on the front of the bike to help increase grip from the Michelin front tyre. Understanding those tyres will take time. The riding style required from the French rubber is alien to riders at the moment. However nine days of testing before the start of the season will give the field plenty of time to find the feeling required.
“The Michelin is a little bit different from the Bridgestone,” said Lorenzo. “You have to anticipate the braking, releasing the brake a little bit sooner but this kind of riding style can be better for me but until we practice in more tracks and pass more time, we will not know. We have asked for Michelin to improve the front tyre but from Yamaha we need to understand more how to develop electronics that is as close as possible to the one we had last year.”
The introduction of the unified electronics package will mark a rare occasion in racing where the big teams are forced to take a step back in their development. The first time that Rossi experienced the new electronics was at the post Valencia Grand Prix test and the Italian immediately ridiculed the package by saying it brought electronics back to “2008 levels.”
Over the course of the three pre-season tests teams will develop their package and as they understand it better the level will come closer to what riders expect. The sophistication of 2015 electronics will not return but as engineers learn the new software strategies the feeling on the bike will improve.
“For me it’s normal that all the riders complain – complain isn’t the right word – but the new electronics are a little but worse compared to our normal one,” surmised Rossi. “The Yamaha engineers work very hard to improve the acceleration of the bike. In fact our electronics system works very well.
“When you start with the other ECU the first impression is a little bit worried because it’s different and a bit worse. For me it’s not a big problem. Everyone is on the same level and I think that we are strong enough to adapt the new system to the bike. We are a bit more worried about the tyres. From that point of view the question mark is bigger how the new tyres match with the different bikes. This is important to understand the level for this year.”
Last year saw the bitter dispute between Rossi and Marc Marquez take centre stage at Sepang and Valencia and the dark shadow of their relationship has hung over MotoGP for almost three months. It’s hard to outrun a storm and at the launch of the bike Lin Jarvis, Yamaha’s Managing Director, spoke about the need for respect in MotoGP and for all parties to show respect to one another.
Whether his words will be heeded or fall on deaf ears remains to be seen but with Sepang two weeks away the answers to the questions about the 2016 bike and its adaptation to the new variables of the MotoGP equation will begun to be answered soon.