Franco Morbidelli

Lin Jarvis Interview, Part 2: "Our Main Challenge Was To Convince Fabio Of Our Program And Commitment"

At the Barcelona round of MotoGP, I sat down with Yamaha Motor Racing managing director Lin Jarvis, ostensibly to talk about the decision by RNF to leave Yamaha and switch to Aprilia for the 2023 season. If you want to read what Jarvis had to say about that, you can read the first part of the interview published yesterday.

After discussing RNF, we moved on to discuss the wider situation with the rider market. Jarvis offered insights into how Yamaha is working with Franco Morbidelli, how surprised he has been by the transformation of Aleix Espargaro into a championship contender, and how Yamaha persuaded Fabio Quartararo to sign on for two more years.

Q: Suzuki’s withdrawal has thrown the rider market to chaos. All of a sudden, Alex Rins, Joan Mir, both top riders, are being discussed as options everywhere. You’ve signed both of your riders for next year, but Franco Morbidelli is not really showing what he showed in previous years. Is there a chance you might let him go? Have you had conversations with Frankie about next year?

Lin Jarvis: No, we have a commitment with Frankie. It’s something we must work on together to get him to rediscover the confidence again with the bike and to be able to perform. So, that’s our mission. In that sense, it’s a bit strange that Frankie has… Last year was not strange because he missed half the season, then he came back. The leg was completely not good. So, it was a very difficult circumstance last year.

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Mugello MotoGP Subscriber Notes: The Cream Of MotoGP, Why The Ducati Is Best, Mugello Makes Passing Possible, And The New Marc Marquez

Mugello is a real motorcycle racing track. And on Sunday, it served up a real motorcycle race. After close games of follow-my-leader at Jerez and Le Mans, we had battles, we had passing, we had riders attacking and counterattacking, lining people up to dive underneath, or sweeping out of the slipstream to dive under the rider ahead at Turn 1.

Does this mean MotoGP's overtaking problem has been fixed? Only if we hold an entire season's worth of racing at Mugello and Phillip Island (which doesn't sound like such a terrible idea, to be honest). But it offers hope that when conditions are right, we can see the kind of spectacle which we have come to expect from MotoGP.

Even the atmosphere was good. Sure, the crowd was much thinner on the ground than in previous years – roughly half of what you might expect, making the drive into the track smooth and easy – but they brought the smoke bombs, the passion, the cheering, helped in no small part by the fact that there was an all-Italian front row, and an Italian rider won the Italian Grand Prix on an Italian bike.

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Mugello MotoGP Thursday Round Up: Mugello Makes Passing Easier, And The Merits Of Banning Technology

If there has been one topic which has dominated MotoGP so far in 2022, it is the profound lack of overtaking in the first few races. The causes have been discussed ad nauseam – ride-height devices mean riders are braking later, loading the front more, aerodynamics are creating turbulence which makes following difficult and overheats the front tire – but there is another factor which has not been touched upon so often.

"Nowadays with the problems that we have, that the front is heating and to stop the bike is hard with the wings and everything, the tracks where you have to stop and go, it's quite difficult to overtake in the braking area, you know?" Joan Mir said on Thursday. Tracks like Le Mans, or Austin, or even Jerez, with tight corners where you can sit in the slipstream and try to outbrake the rider ahead pose a problem.

"This track is completely the opposite," Mir pointed out. "You don't have to be good in the braking, you have to be good on corner speed, to find the flow, to get a good line, that's so important in this track, and that's why this track is good for overtakes, and for the show."

Flow = show

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Portimão MotoGP Subscriber Notes: When The Rider Makes The Difference, And A Dash Of Normality Returning

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. It is a painfully trite cliché, and yet like most clichés, it gets used so often because it generalizes a truth. You may not always have the best tools at your disposal for the job at hand, so you just have to find a way to make the best of what you do have.

The current MotoGP elite know this lesson all too well. Marc Marquez won his Moto2 championship on a Suter against superior Kalexes. Pecco Bagnaia and Jorge Martin came up through Moto3 riding Mahindra, a competent but underpowered motorcycle. Fabio Quartararo found himself on a Speed Up in Moto2, and found a way to win on a finicky but fast Moto2 bike. They didn't have what they wanted, but they found a way to make it work anyway.

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Argentina MotoGP Subscriber Notes: The Long And Winding Road To Success

In November 2014, at the Valencia post-race test, there was something of a buzz. Aprilia to make a return to MotoGP as a factory team for the 2015 season, albeit under the umbrella of the Gresini squad. Up until that point, Aprilias had been racing in MotoGP, but they were modified versions of the Noale factory's RSV-4 superbike, with a lot of chassis work and a much more powerful engine. They would be racing more or less the same bikes in 2015, but the ambition was to step up development and build a genuinely competitive motorcycle.

To do that, they had abandoned their factory entry in the WorldSBK championship – a championship which Sylvain Guintoli had won for them the previous year – and drafted in Alvaro Bautista and Marco Melandri. Bautista was keen to push the project forward, but from the very first moment he appeared in the MotoGP paddock again, Melandri made it glaringly obvious he did not want to be there.

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2022 Sepang MotoGP Test Review, Part 3: Aprilia, Suzuki, Yamaha - A Question Of Progress

With Ducati hogging all of the technical limelight with their latest gadget, it is easy to overlook what was going on elsewhere in pit lane at the Sepang MotoGP test. Yet there was plenty of interesting tech on display, some of it working well, other parts not quite so much. So here's a look at what the other MotoGP manufacturers were up to in Malaysia.

Aprilia – lighter, slimmer, but more chatter

Aprilia face a major challenge in 2022. For the past two years, their rivals have been unable to develop their engines, engine design having been frozen during the pandemic. 2022 is the first season where the factories without concessions have been able to bring updated engines. So the Noale factory is about to find out whether it has done enough over the past two years to close the gap and be competitive.

The evidence so far points to them being successful. Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales topped the first day of the official test, and finished second and fifth respectively on the second day, Viñales just 0.130 behind Enea Bastianini, and on the same time as fourth-placed Alex Rins.

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2022 Sepang MotoGP Test Friday Notes: New (And Old) Liveries, Braking Assistance, And Defending Titles

Pit lane is finally open, if only for some teams – notably Yamaha and Suzuki – to show off their new liveries, and we are starting to get a first look at the new parts some of the factories have to test. The new Yamaha livery is almost indistinguishable from last year's, Yamaha following the "if it ain't broke" philosophy.

Suzuki's is updated, and to my mind improved by having a dash of black to set off the other colors on the bike. The black panel around the race numbers something of a throwback, though historically, white numbers on a black background were used in the 125cc class.

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Ramon Forcada Interview: On Dealing With 5 Different Riders, Rookies vs Veterans, Ride-Height and Michelins

It would probably be fair to describe the Petronas Yamaha SRT team's 2021 season as disappointing. After an exceptional year in 2020, they started 2021 with high hopes. Franco Morbidelli had finished 2020 as runner up to Joan Mir in the championship, and between them, Morbidelli and Fabio Quartararo had won six races.

For 2021, Morbidelli was joined by MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi, now back and fully fit after a period off with Covid-19. But their expectations were dashed in what would turn out to be a bizarre and unpredictable year. They managed just a single podium from Franco Morbidelli at Jerez, finished second to last in the team standings, lost their title sponsor at the end of the year, and then the team was disbanded and reformed as RNF Racing for 2022.

Nothing quite encapsulates how strange 2021 was for the Petronas Yamaha SRT team like the parade of riders which veteran Catalan crew chief Ramon Forcada had to work with through the season. He started at Qatar with Franco Morbidelli, who started to struggle after a training crash in which he damaged the ligaments in his knee before Le Mans. Morbidelli kept going with a very painful and weak knee through the Sachsenring race.

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The 2022 MotoGP Silly Season Primer: Who Is Likely To Move Where Next Year?

It is the second week of January, and there as yet no substantial rumors of MotoGP rider contracts being signed. Compared to recent years, that is a bit of a late start to Silly Season, given that all but a handful of riders have their contracts up for renewal at the end of 2022.

In past years, January has been a hive of activity. In 2020, there were rumors over the new year period that Maverick Viñales was being courted by Ducati, with Yamaha forced to make an early announcement to keep the Spaniard in the Monster Energy factory team (and we all know how that turned out). A couple of weeks later, rumors followed that Ducati had signed Jorge Martin, and at the end of January, we learned that Fabio Quartararo had been signed to the factory Yamaha squad, displacing Valentino Rossi.

Two years earlier had seen a similar story, with Yamaha signing both Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi up in January, in time for the team launch. And to think, Valentino Rossi bemoaned Casey Stoner's move to Repsol Honda for the 2011 season as a decision taken early, when the deal was sealed after the Jerez round of MotoGP in early May, 2010.

By those standards, the current lack of movement on the contract front almost qualifies as tardiness. Riders are not jumping on contracts early, and factories are not pushing hard to sign riders before they get poached by someone else.

A different environment

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Takahiro Sumi Interview: Yamaha's MotoGP Project Leader On The Key Change That Helped Quartararo Win The Title, 2022 Objectives, And Valentino Rossi

In 2021, Yamaha's motorsport efforts can rightly be described as formidable. In MotoGP, Fabio Quartararo became the first ever French premier class champion. In WorldSBK, Toprak Razgatlıoğlu won the championship, becoming the first Turkish rider to do so. Yamaha also clinched the title in All Japan Road Race Championship, BSB, and MotoAmerica. It is literally a clean sweep. Meanwhile, their competitors started preparing for revenge. Ducati will line up eight bikes in 2022. Their invincible armada must be a grave menace to Yamaha and other MotoGP manufacturers.

At 18:00 on the eve of the final race weekend at Valencia Ricardo Tormo Circuit, we visited the Yamaha factory team’s office and interviewed Takahiro Sumi, the project leader of YZR-M1. It was three days before Valentino Rossi would take the grid for the final race in his racing career.

Q: In 2021, Fabio Quartararo won the MotoGP championship, and Toprak will likely win the WorldSBK in Indonesia. Yamaha also won in JSB, BSB, and MotoAmerica. Could you tell us the reason why Yamaha is so strong this season in all road racing categories?

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