The apprenticeship year has been completed and Yamaha now looks to 2017 with confidence. Andrea Dosoli's face leaves little doubt, and the team has finally found answers to its questions over the winter. The R1 that we will see at Phillip Island will be faster and more competitive, and Yamaha will aim to try and make up ground to Kawasaki and Ducati, who right now seem to be on another planet.
Where do you start from?
“From our 2016 experience, improving those areas where we suffered. There's been a step forward from a technical point of view, and we've redefined the organisation of work at the track. A private team cannot aim for certain results on its own, and so Yamaha has increased the number of people we'll have at the track, so we'll always have two engineers present during race weekends. Now we head to Phillip Island where we'll make further evaluations ahead of the championship”.
What's new on the bike?
“We've been able to improve grip and corner exit. In the past, the Yamaha would suffer through the slow turns, we've worked to better manage the torque, calibration and settings. Until now, all of our work has focused on race performance, so on used tyres and without looking at the stopwatch”.
What are you still missing?
“At the moment I don't think we're missing anything big in any given area, perhaps there are still some adjustments to make in terms of set-up. In 2016 we hoped to be in the top five-six, unfortunately we had to deal with significant rider injuries”.
Is your goal now the podium?
“ Right now, I don't know if we'll be able to fight for the podium, but we definitely have solid foundations with which to try”.
Van der Mark is your new-entry. How do you find him?
“Michael has great confidence in himself and knows what it takes to be competitive, without worrying about the stopwatch. He never holds back and I think he can run at the front”.
Then there's Lowes.
“In the past, he's made various mistakes, paying dearly for them, but now he's transformed his work method. He has natural talent but need help in order to improve. He has a clear goal in mind, or rather to work consistently and focus on race performance, without trying to set the fastest time at all costs”.
Where do you see Yamaha in the line-up?
“I believe that Kawasaki is the favourite, then there's Ducati, and then us I think, we'll do our best to bother our rivals”.
Could we see a head to head with Honda?
“We shouldn't be fighting against Honda, but rather trying to reduce the gap from the leaders, because comparisons should be drawn with the best”.
2017 is a year of new things in SBK. What does it still need?
“Big steps have been made to make the championship more appealing. Perhaps it needs a charismatic rider and we need to work to find one”.
Could this rider be Van der Mark?
“He has the right characteristics, but I think Alex does too”.