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.
Can Yamaha dig itself out of its hole?
Yamaha’s 2020 YZR-M1 was a disaster, so what chance has the company of fixing its problems after five years out of the title fight? And is Yamaha’s best bet for the 2021 title a two-year-old motorcycle?
Yamaha won its last MotoGP championship in 2015. It’s no coincidence that 2015 was the last year of Bridgestone tyres, because since then Yamaha engineers have been unable to make the YZR-M1 work consistently with MotoGP’s current tyres, made by Michelin.
Yamaha’s problem is as simple as that, although fixing the problem is anything but simple.
Spec-tyre racing requires engineers to build their bikes around the tyres, rather than the other way around, which was how it worked before spec tyres took over most major motorsport championships.
Michelin’s MotoGP tyres famously work across a narrow temperature range, so what Yamaha needs to do is build a bike that generates the correct temperature in the tyres, regardless of the track and conditions.
In recent years the M1 has done just that now and again – when it’s got grip the bike can exploit its corner-speed potential – but not consistently enough to win the championship. And that’s despite having Jorge Lorenzo, Valentino Rossi, Maverick Viñales, Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli on board.
And yet last year was Yamaha’s best since the Bridgestone era, with seven race victories.
Does this suggest that the factory is inching towards fixing its problems? Not really, because three of those victories were achieved by Morbidelli, riding a 2019 M1, while the 2020 bike seemed to have much more erratic performance.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.