For Yamaha, 2019 was certainly not an easy year. The Iwata manufacturer had very little success with the factory team’s M1. The numbers speak of seven podiums and two wins, third place in the team standings behind Honda and Ducati. In Japan, however, there was a clear change of direction with the hiring of new technicians and the reorganization of the MotoGP structure. This small revolution, which probably started with the admission of blame by Kouji Tsuya in August 2018 after Austrian GP qualifying, has a name and a surname: Takahiro Sumi, who is the replacement for Tsuya.
“At the beginning of the season, we were very nervous,” Sumi confessed in a lengthy interview with Motomatters.com, “until we won the race in Assen, to be honest. We are always trying to improve our engine power, but in the 2019 season, Honda acquired as same top speed as Ducati, and KTM became faster, too. Which means the Yamaha became slower compared to them, and it made our riders struggle more than ever.”
During the current season, however, Yamaha was unable to improve the engine due to the technical regulations and therefore the Iwata engineers had to work on other components.
“We had to do something, but as the technical regulations stipulate, we cannot improve our engine to gain more power during the season. Consequently, we tried to improve our chassis and setup little by little and set an objective to win races where we wouldn’t have a big disadvantage in top speed.”
Not a great goal for a house like Yamaha which for 2020 has tried to improve the bike in many sectors. Speaking of 2019, the situation was more or less the same, with 2018 not living up to the great Yamaha name. How do you proceed at the beginning of the season?
“Before starting the development for the 2019 season, we discussed with engineers, teams, and riders about what we have been lacking and what we would have to concentrate on. Although people say turning is one of the Yamaha’s strong points, we couldn’t take advantage of it enough in 2017 and 2018. Obviously, we don’t have the same top speed as Ducati, so that our objective was developing the bike that is the strongest in the 100 meters before and 100 meters after the corners. You may assume that we improved chassis, but we didn’t do that very much. What we concentrated on was improving the engine in order to be more competitive in the corners.”
With two important and strong riders like Valentino and Maverick there will certainly have been some sort of comparison…
“Although Valentino said he has a problem in acceleration and Maverick said he struggled in braking, when we improved Maverick’s setup in entry and tried it with Valentino, it worked for him, too. Both riders’ complaints looked different, but the treatment for one rider worked well for another, which meant what we had to do for them was quite similar between the two riders. As a result, both riders’ bikes were almost identical and there were no big differences.”
A development path that has already got underway, and concluded, also for 2020 with the new M1 that will be brought to the track by Jorge Lorenzo tomorrow in the MotoGP shakedown tests. The arrival of a great champion and fine connoisseur of Yamaha like Lorenzo in the test team underlines the change of course undertaken by the Iwata manufacturer in recent years. The up-and-coming youngsters Vinales and Quartararo, a pairing for the future, have repeatedly stated in the past that they wanted to read Jorge's data on the M1, a symbol of the authoritativeness of the new tester.