Hard times for Yamaha in SBK. After a promising season start, with the début of the new R1 entrusted to the Crescent team, when the main riders Alex Lowes and Sylvain Guintoli were quick on the flying lap and through mid-race, problems began to crop up, especially toward the end of the races, due to excessive tyre wear that inexorably forced them to drop their pace until moving out of the podium zone.
From Imola on, things got worse: Guintoli flew to the ground at the Acque Minerali corner, suddenly hurled from his Yamaha and finding himself at the ER in pain, with Alex Lowes doing his best to defend, also suffering an injury that caused him to forfeit his home race at Donington. Various riders have taken turns astride the R1, from Niccolò Canepa to Cameron Beaubier, even without doing too badly, but to develop a new bike and make it go fast, it takes consistent riders in performance and presence. In other words, they need to be fast and in good health, keeping away from injury.
As if all that was not enough, some disagreements cropped up between the British team and Yamaha that brought some decisions into question in terms of communication and riders, with the usual and repeated question: “when will Guintoli be back?”
Guintoli, for his part, after the scare, fracture and rehabilitation, realized that with that bike and on that team, a premature return would certainly not extend the life of his career... quite the contrary. A career that the Frenchman even risks bringing to a close if, on his return to the saddle, he does not find the right feeling and motivations.
Several times, Andrea Dosoli has tried to put out the fire, easing the tension between team Crescent and Yamaha, and the Italian manager has also hoped for Guintoli’s return to the track but, four rounds from the end, still nothing has been decided: “We’ll have a test with the Yamahas after August 15th, around the 18th, on the German Lausitzring track. Besides trying to find a good setup for our R1 there, Sylvain will be back on the bike and only then will we take some decisions. Before that test, I cannot speculate because nothing has been decided.”
In short, the only thing (almost) certain is that next year Dutchman Michael Van Der Mark will have his own official R1, probably riding alongside Alex Lowes who, with the win at the Suzuka 8 Hours, won the hearts of the Japanese and straightened out his season.
And Guintoli? Will he be back at the races from the German round in mid-September? And the R1 bikes? Will they still be managed by team Crescent who, as of now, has not exactly shone with either results or communication?
Rumours of another official Yamaha team are more and more common and the list of possible riders is long and interesting, from Beaubier, MotoAmerica champion, to the return to SBK of brilliant Northern Irish rider Eugene Laverty, not to mention Canepa and other Italian talents.
Of all these, the name Guintoli does not come up, but will Sylvain, already the 2014 world champion on an Aprilia and with a career spent in Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing and SBK, still want to take risks?