Analyzing Yamaha's MotoGP Launch - A Motivated Rossi, A Lean & Mean Lorenzo, And A Fully Seamless Gearbox

2014 did not go to plan for Yamaha. After the first four races of last year, Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo trailed the Repsol Hondas by 76 points in the team championship, and Yamaha was 33 points behind Honda in the manufacturers standings. Marc Márquez was in the middle of an unbeaten run, Dani Pedrosa backing him up strongly. There were a lot of good reasons for Yamaha's troubled start. Yamaha was struggling to get a smooth throttle response from a liter less fuel, the new Bridgestone tires were less suited to the YZR-M1's need for high corner speeds, and Jorge Lorenzo arrived at the start of the season out of shape, after neglecting his training after surgery during the winter.

2015 looks like being the polar opposite. At the launch of their 2015 campaign, the Movistar Yamaha team looked forward with some optimism. Building on the progress made in the second half of 2014, the bike is much more competitive, Valentino Rossi arrives motivated by his strong season, and Jorge Lorenzo is lean and fit, having spent all off-season preparing. They are ready for big things.

With 2014 out of the way, one of the big sponsorship issues could also be addressed. When Movistar signed up alongside Monster, that caused a confusing clash on the fairing of the 2014 bike, with two large fluorescent green M logos on the bike. A redesign has given Movistar a little more prominence on the fairing, the logo now much larger, the text moved elsewhere on the bike. Key to the sponsorship is not just the visibility, however, it is also the ability to showcase technology. Movistar demonstrated an excellent 360° smartphone app at Aragon last year, which is the start of much more to come.

Three new sponsors have also joined the team. Fiat is back, though in a very small and limited way, as a link with their Abarth high-performance brand. The Abarth logo adorns the front of the fairing, and many fans will have their fingers crossed for a return of the Abarth livery which appeared at Phillip Island back in 2007. Cromax, a coatings brand, and Descente, a Japanese technical clothing (that's specialist outerwear, to you and me) will be supplying the team.

Valentino Rossi made his intentions plain in a press release interview, stating his aim of securing a tenth world championship. At the launch, he was a little more circumspect, anointing Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Márquez as favorites for the title, but that should be viewed as false modesty. After a mediocre return to Yamaha in 2013, after his years in the wilderness at Ducati, his hopes for 2014 were modest. He far exceeded those, ending the season as runner up, and with wins at Phillip Island and Misano. His goal for this year, he said, was to score more wins during the season. Race wins provide an ideal stepping stone for a championship challenge.

To do that, he will not only have to beat Márquez, but also his teammate, Jorge Lorenzo. Lorenzo has a lot to put right in 2015, after the shambolic and frankly embarrassing start to 2014. He is keenly aware of this, not just of his duty to Yamaha, but of his duty to his reputation, which was badly tarnished by the first part of last season.

His desire to regain his former glory was quite literally visible at the team launch in Madrid. The rider who took to the stage to present the bike was lean, trim and ready. 'I have never been this lean and wiry,' Lorenzo told Spanish media. He was as lean as his first season in MotoGP, back in 2008, and had spent the entire month of January training, having finally found a physical trainer he was happy with. Lorenzo told Spanish journalist Borja Gonzalez that he was 3kg lighter than last year. Given that Lorenzo's own father told reporters that Lorenzo had arrived at Sepang 1 in 2014 about 5kg overweight, that is quite a lot of weight he has lost.

How closely Yamaha have been following his preparations is a good question. On his Facebook pageteam manager Wilco Zeelenberg posted photos of him skiing with Jorge Lorenzo, as well as some of Lorenzo's friends. Did Zeelenberg go because Lorenzo asked or because Yamaha asked him? Whatever the truth, Zeelenberg will have been in a position to see just how fit Lorenzo is.

The Spaniard was careful to temper expectations, pointing to Marc Márquez and Valentino Rossi as favorites for the title. They had finished first and second in the championship in 2014, and so they should be regarded as favorites for 2015, Lorenzo reasoned. If he was to be regarded as a title candidate, then first he had to prove it on the track.

If he is to do so, and if he and Rossi are to challenge the supremacy of Marc Márquez, they will need some help from Yamaha. Development during 2014 saw the M1 already take several major steps forward, especially in the area of throttle response. The bike both Rossi and Lorenzo tested at Valencia continued that work, the riders praising the bike as being very smooth. That will be one key to success in 2015.

The bike's main weakness, though, was in braking and corner entry. Already vastly improved over 2013, the 2014 bike was still a little behind the Honda RC213V in that area. It was, Yamaha's MotoGP Group Leader Kouichi Tsuji said, the area they had been working on hardest, and where they had made some progress. The next step is the introduction of a new seamless gearbox which allows clutchless downshifts as well as clutchless upshifts, which the existing gearbox allows.

Lorenzo and Rossi have been pressing Yamaha for a new gearbox for many months now, but Yamaha have continually remained vague on when they would finally allow it to be used on track. The gearbox is especially sensitive, as its reliability has to be beyond question, without limiting performance. If an engine seizes up, the rider can pull the clutch in and roll into the gravel. If a gearbox seizes up, so does the back wheel, and the rider ends up in low earth orbit. That kind of risk is not acceptable when challenging for a championship.

Yet the seamless gearbox looks likely to be ready for the 2015 season. Yamaha's test team is currently on track in Sepang – alongside Casey Stoner, who his doing test work for HRC there – and the seamless downshift is one of the things they will be testing, ahead of the first official Sepang test which starts next week, on 4th February. Kouichi Tsuji told Spanish journalist Manuel Pecino that the new gearbox would not be ready for Sepang 1, however, with more testing still needing to be done. Lorenzo and Rossi are likely to get their first taste of the new gearbox at the second Sepang test, at the end of February. Conveniently, that test is far less well attended by journalists...

The difficulty, Tsuji told Pecino for Speedweek, is that the new mechanism is physically larger than the former version of the seamless gearbox. That meant more weight and complexity, which Yamaha then have to try to reduce. But reduce it too much, and you sacrifice reliability. That complex interplay of factors is what has caused the delay.

Once Yamaha have solved the problems, they should be in good shape to challenge the Honda. Tsuji said that in 2014, they had finished second behind a Honda by two seconds or less. Simulations and testing predicted that over race distance, the new gearbox would gain them the two seconds they lost.

Will the 2015 Yamaha be capable of matching the Honda? The prospects are looking good. Jorge Lorenzo managed to make a pointed dig at the Honda, saying that he felt Yamaha had an advantage at the moment, as the Honda was struggling a little during testing. 'We suspect that Honda has some difficulties,' he remarked, going on to say that he hoped that Yamaha could capitalize on the situation.

Can they? The bike looks good, there has been a lot of progress made in the right direction, and the new gearbox is finally on its way. The issues which plagued the bike during the first half of 2014 have been solved, and more improvements are on their way. Valentino Rossi is in form, and as motivated as he has ever been. Jorge Lorenzo is in better shape than he has been for years, and clearly out to clear his reputation. Things are looking promising. The truth, however, will only be revealed once the bikes hit the track. For that, we have to wait until next week.

Jorge Lorenzo in March, 2014

Jorge Lorenzo in January of 2015.

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Finally, we get to see the battle we were denied in 2010. Same as back then, impossible to predict who will come out on top, although I still see Lorenzo as the slight favorite. I feel like qualifying for Rossi will be one of the keys to this battle, as I doubt Lorenzo will fade in the second half of races like he did last year.

So many great storylines with all the riders and teams still to come!! Stoked!

Yamaha's ongoing improvements with the decreased fuel allowance during 2014 plus the additional 2 litres for '15 probably favors them for the championship. But will 46 and 99 take points away from each other and allow MM to get his 3rd?

The anticipation of a TIGHT 3 (or 4?) way duel makes the wait........argh- START the season!!!!

Is Ducati gearbox full seamless?

Which is better, Ducati or Honda gearbox?

Not sure if Ducati is seamless downshift, but it definitely is seamless upshift. They've had seamless nearly as long as Honda I believe.

As for who's is better?
Dang, I'd struggle to say if anyone's anything is better than Honda.

Yeah, but one thing is for sure:

Yamaha turns better than Honda, and Ducati's engine is the most powerful. Well, both of it doesn't make the whole package better than the Honda.

Let's see if Ducati can keep the horses at the same time they put that beast to turn.

Yes, I agree. I sure do hope Ducati gets it's stuff together. I'm a relative newbie as a fan of motorcycle racing, but I like rooting for the small guys. Not much interest in seeing the richest, biggest entities to win everything, all the time. It happens in most other facets of life all day, every day so I figure it's time for the "commoner" to get some licks in :)

I understand that dual clutch systems were preemptively banned in Motogp some years ago to avoid the bikes going almost semi automatic.
now It seems like the manufacturers, in true engineering style, have found an incredibly clever, expensive and difficult way to get around that rule restriction with the current seamless gearboxes.
So i'm wondering why not just allow dual clutches now?
I would think it would lower the cost greatly and serve to even up the playing field between new and existing manufacturers a little.

So, you're advocating a rule that would reduce costs and increase the competitive balance?? That's crazy talk, Dorna won't consider anything so bizarre. Next thing you'll want to increase the fuel limit!! Get a hold of yourself man!! :)

David could please correct me if I'm mistaken but I think the MMSA ( mostly Honda ) banned the DCT . Thinking conspiratorially, it seems like the the DCTs were banned while Honda had then worked out an ingenious work around of the rules with their patented seamless. Probably not a coincidence.

I seem to remember Honda also banning gasoline-direct-injection (which would make lean burn easier to implement for everyone)

**Tsuji said that in 2014, they had finished second behind a Honda by two seconds or less. Simulations and testing predicted that over race distance, the new gearbox would gain them the two seconds they lost.**

I'm thinking these simulations didn't account for the MM93 factor.

There were numerous races where Marquez would get a 1-1 1/2
second lead and control it from there. Many of those were after coming from 2-4 seconds down after bad starts. Then there were at least 3 races that i can think of where Marquez had 3-4 second leads and rode the last few laps in victory formation that ended up under 2 seconds. Making up 2 seconds will be great for Yamaha, but the actual difference is higher, and thats assuming Honda makes zero headway in performance from 2014 to 2015.

And the Honda & Yamaha are about equal. I think Yamaha need to focus on strategy and find ways to keep MM unfocused. A happy relaxed MM is unbeatable.

I think Yamaha is too busy copying Honda's designs. While they can beat them sometimes it's hard to beat anyone at their own game.

Don't forget it was the defection of a Yamaha technician to Honda that allowed them to catch up after years without a title. MM is a huge factor, but Honda's engineering dept. have made huge progress too.

They simply never had a standout rider during their lean period. Much as it pains me to say it, but even in 06, when the title went down to the wire, and the best man on the day won, they simply didn't have the best rider. Between Doohan and Rossi and Stoner and Marquez, they didn't have the goods to win against an opposition with machinery nearly or just-as good and better riders/teams. Biaggi was clearly a superb rider but did not quite put it together in the top class on either Yamaha or Honda.
Surely the off season is over soon!!

"Submitted by BrickTop on Fri, 2015-01-30 15:39.

They poached two engineers (Laptop Jockeys) from Lorenzo's team. I had forgot about that."

It was Yamaha that poached engineers from Honda in the first place with the rossi defection. It was Yamaha that broke the gentlemen agreement that they would not go after another manufacture top rider. Know the facts before making silly statement like that.

They poached two engineers (Laptop Jockeys) from Lorenzo's team. I had forgot about that.

I still think the Honda has the edge and the Yamaha is not equal. Yamaha can't be equal because even they say they are losing a couple of seconds over race distance due to the transmission. They currently have clutchless upshifting, but not downshifting. Once they have a fully operational clutchless solution, both up and down, will that bike be on par. The Honda still enters corners better.

The bigger issue at the start of the season will be any changes to compounds that Bridgestones have done. They seem to throw a wrench into the beginning of the season that either hurts Yamaha or Bridgestone. Doesn't seem to affect Ducati as much because they aren't on the pace anyway.

And the Yamaha is dominant. There is not another rider alive outside the top 4 that you could plug into Marquezs bike and beat Lorenzo, Rossi, or Pedrosa, except maybe Stoner. Without MM in 2014, Yamaha more than likely wins 14 races.

Can anyone tell me how this works exactly on the downshift?

I get not using a clutch on the upshift, but when clicking back down through the gears, does the new gearbox blip the gas as well or does the software modulate a slipper clutch that can be adjusted for engine breaking? Just not sure how it keeps the rear wheel matching the engine speed and not locking up - ejecting the rider. As you can see from my name, I have a keen interest in this!



I think that would be an excellent article; differences in seamless clutch implementations.

With that said, pretty sure the rev-matching is done via ignition already, so question would be how the transmission handles these downshifts well enough to appear to be seamless.

It would indeed be an excellent article. However, the chances of HRC explaining to me exactly how their seamless gearbox works is only slightly less then me being offered a contract to replace Marc Marquez in the Repsol Honda team. They keep this stuff incredibly secret. Even Marquez' and Pedrosa's garage crew are not allowed to see the gearbox. When gear ratios need to be changed, or the gearbox needs to be stripped for maintenance, the entire engine is taken out to the HRC truck, where Japanese specialist engineers open up the gearbox, replace the parts, and close it back up again. Yamaha's seamless gearbox is something similar. 

That is a reasonable question. I would think that both would be required in order to downshift safely and seamlessly, so in effect a Blip/Slip/shift operation would have to be executed. The gearbox will handle the mechanical aspects of course while talking to the ECU software to handle the electronic aspects based on environmental parameters.

I have heard that HRC keeps such a tight lid on their seamless technology that ONLY a HRC specialist can even see and touch the gear box, no one on the team has access or authority to touch that area of the bike. So it's pretty complex stuff, and obviously something that you don't want to give away to your competition!

I think the M1 is in position to seriously challenge the RCV this year. But, as Mr. Emmett has said, we will have to wait just a little while longer to find out. Personally I like their chances. In particular I like Jorge's chances. How hard he races Vale is yet to be seen, and they gotten after each other pretty hard in the past, but I think he has Marquez squarely in his gun sights. Which is gonna be good, because Marc does not appear to be in any mood to back down and in fact loves a good fight. I feel that is actually when he is at his best.

Bottom line, it's gonna be great to watch.

That expensive 'torductor' is what is measuring the torque of the back wheel so the engine management can adjust ignition/revs to respond accordingly, the function of the clutch is already being done by the seamless transmission due to how it can engage the adjacent gears without using a clutch.

In effect this latest development is akin to the introduction of traction control, whereas the rider formerly had to adjust manually, it's now ecu controlled. Only now it is the clutch use and blipping during the braking which is automatized.

There was often technical articals in magazines and papers explaing new engineering principles which fueled and increased fans knowledge. But these have sadly long since disappeared as factories have become more secretive.
That link back to an absolutely exellent explanation of seamless gearboxes is why this site is head and shoulders above any other and remains compulsive reading.

The seamless boxes work by allowing the rider to engage the next gear - either upchange or downchange - to allow a faster change, and reduce suspension movement as a result of on/off throttle transitions, thus smoothing out corner exit/entry.
Motorcycle boxes are engaged by dogs (engagement blocks) between gears, with the selector drum moving gears up or down along a shaft to engage with dogs and therefore change gears. The commercial seamless boxes - which are already under development - have some unusually shaped dogs called bullets that engage with the circumference selector rings to provide the pre-engagement between selected gears. In standard gearboxes there's a gap between the gears to allow the dogs of the non-engaged gears to clear the dogs of the selected gear, but in a seamless box this space is taken up by the selector rings that engage with the bullets to allow the current and pre-selected gears to be effectively meshed.
The box has 2 of these sliding selector rings around the circumference of the meshed dogs, and the position of these rings, which is controlled by some sort of servo, determines which gear becomes the drive gear. So when the servo slides the rings rapidly to the other side of the dogs, this then brings the pre-selected gear into play as the gear providing drive. There must be some very sophisticated electronics in play to make the transition for the rider so the up or downshift revs are precisely matched for exiting power or engine braking respectively.
The question for me is whether the seamless changes are achieved using the standard ECU, or is a separate gearbox control ECU allowed under the regs??? I guess all the relevant information - wheel speed, lean angle, RPM, throttle position etc are all available using current standard ECU to maybe the calculations are able to be made using current processor speed and memory constraints. The page from zeroshift may help:

Shifting and clutch actuation are required to be accomplished by unaided direct action of the rider.
So no servos controlling the clutch, nor pushing shift mechanisms.

Electronics to work the throttle, spark and fuel to smooth out the shift are allowed.

IIRC clutch actuation is no longer required to be completely under human control and can now have electronic actuation. It's one of the technical areas I'd love to see investigated by the media, but technical analyses these days are few and far between due to the extreme secrecy of these modern 'service free' machines.
Time was, the fairings would be off after every session, often the bottom end disassembled in the open pit for a ring change etc. No longer. Unless they're crashed, the most that seems to get done is to plug the laptop in, change the wheels and suspension.

Seeing as nothing interesting is happening right now, who wants to analyse this:

I think it's a hydraulic actuator of some sort (clutch??), I see two pressure transducers, a fluid coupling, some sort of machined (pump?) housing and a black box.
Does anyone have any more idea what it is other than Scott Jones' elegant description of "gubbins"? It's one of the only fascinating and mysterious bits of these bikes I've ever seen photographed.

I've read the 2015 MotoGP provisional regulations, from here:

Hydraulic or pneumatic powered systems are expressly forbidden, other than systems powered only by the rider’s manual inputs, pneumatic engine valve closing systems, and engine oil and coolant systems.
Engine oil can only be used for lubrication or cooling.

Last year cosman - who is quite well versed in such things - pointed out that clutches could be under electronic control. I cannot open the supplied link right now so cannot confirm. In any case, what is the gubbins??? If not clutch then perhaps part of the pneumatic valve system? Those two things are pressure transducers I'm sure, one leads to the black box and the other to the housing. The hose at the rear is either a hydraulic or pneumatic quick release fitting surely.
The bigger mystery is why hrc would put it there and have the bike available to photograph with lower fairing removed if they didn't want people seeing it. Maybe yams use some generic unit gaffer taped to the frame and hrc just wanted to thumb their nose?

Obviously, I have no idea what that is either. But since we know that HRC is using a 90° V4, the lower to cylinder heads should be quite close to where that device on the picture is located. So it might be the compressor driving the pneumatic valves (Maybe?).

Avintia's Giacomo Guidotti explains the technology here:

The Avintia team basically strapped the necessary compressor to the fork and below the dashboard which doesn't strike me as the most elegant solution. HRC might have went for that position below the engine for a better mass centralization and a lower center of gravity? And they might have to make it easily accessible at all times because, as Guidotti explains, apparently the whole system has to be preloaded in order for it to provide enough pressure to drive the valves initially after start-up.

Anyway, that's just wild guessing.

I've searched but I can't find the RC213V parts fiche on the web so we're still guessing... at least it helps the time pass till round 1. :)

Looks like there's something going into the exhaust too. Water injection to tune the back-pressure in the pipes? HRC had such a system for the NSR500, gas density / pipe length is critical on 2-strokes. I didn't think it mattered much on four-strokes though, so probably it isn't water injection, but just a thought.

It is my understanding that national series teams (AMA, BSB, even privateers) sometimes fit a second quickshifter and/or auto blipper to achieve a seamless downshift in addition to a seamless upshift. Is it safe to assume that the gear change offered by over the counter quickshifters is simply not seamless enough (indeed there is a slight break in power when the quick shifter cuts the ignition on my race bike) to satisfy MotoGP teams and riders, otherwise manufacturers wouldn't go to such lengths to develop the seamless gearboxes in question?

Quickshifters cut power in order to give an upshift without the rider backing the throttle off, and the auto-blipper blips the throttle for them, with the computer control making them quicker and smoother.

The seamless shift is achieved by the internal mechanicals of the gearbox, and then there is still the quickshift/auto-blipper systems on top of that.

Yamaha and Lorenzo are both coming into the season looking fit. I still have Rossi beating him and am VERY much looking fwd to watching them at it.

I want to be clear that I LOVE everything about Marquez. And ditto the Honda motorcycles I clearly prefer to ride. With that out of the way there may be a pre season hopey-dreamy rose colored (wait, no...) blue colored glasses thing going on right about now. True that there are signs of both the Honda having taken a development path that focused on squeezing the next 2 tenths out of it that has left it less rideable. Also, there have been some signs that Marquez is human and with a vulnerability or two. I get this and share in it.

However, because it synchs up with my wishes for HRC to be toppled under their own (manipulated BS) constricted rules re fuel and motors AND desire for a close title chase I am noticing some dream land over reach in consideration of 2015.

2016 on the other hand...THAT may be the year of the Yamaha OR the Ducati! (And no, not the Suzuki, gotta call BS on that one).