MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
What's going on at Yamaha?
The factory team seems in disarray, so could Johann Zarco be Yamaha’s greatest hope for this year’s MotoGP crown?
The Movistar Yamaha team seems to be digging itself an ever-deeper hole. Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi completed the second tests of the year in eighth and 12th positions. Their lap times weren’t a disaster, but more worryingly, both riders were confused by their inability to get closer to the front, which is always a bad sign.
On Sunday evening Viñales seemed so lost that it was hard not to feel a bit sorry for him.
“By a long way this is the worst test,” he said. “Even Sepang, that was the worst one since I’ve been at Yamaha, then today it’s even worse. I don't know… Honestly, I don’t know. We are struggling as a factory team, so I don’t know. I don’t know what to say. It’s difficult… We are missing a little bit in all areas. I’ve used different chassis, different engines, different electronics, but there is no solution, so I don't know. Honestly, I don't know... Maybe it’s better to ask Yamaha…”
Rossi is older and wiser, but even MotoGP’s ancient warhorse seemed somewhat defeated, which isn’t a good place to be during preseason testing. “The problem is clear, but not easy to fix,” he said mysteriously.
While his team-mate’s lap times are spoiled by corner-entry issues, Rossi’s are ruined by corner-exit problems. Yamaha has built a softer engine for 2018 in the hope of finding better traction, but in red-hot Thailand the nine-times world champion couldn’t find a good balance between traction and tyre temperature.
“We always suffer with the rear tyre,” he added. “For me the problem is that we can go faster if we can use a softer tyre, but that tyre is chunking, because the temperature is too high, so we must go with a tyre that’s a bit harder…”
So, what exactly is Yamaha’s problem? And how deep is this hole?
MotoGP is closer than it’s ever been, so even the deepest of holes isn’t that deep. Viñales’ best lap at the Chang circuit was just 0.6 per cent slower than Pedrosa’s. The differences in performance are therefore tiny in real terms, yet significant when it comes to results.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.