Yamaha have just about cleaned up during the 2010 MotoGP season. The factory secured the 2010 World Championship with Jorge Lorenzo, the Spaniard scoring a record points total along the way, with the Japanese manufacturer also wrapping up the constructors' title, and the factory Fiat Yamaha team taking the team title. In addition, Ben Spies took Rookie of the Year aboard a satellite YZR-M1, finishing 5th in the championship, and with Valentino Rossi taking 3rd - despite missing races due to a broken leg, as well as racing with a long-running and debilitating shoulder injury - Yamaha finished with three riders in the top five.
All in all, then, little reason to change Yamaha's 800cc M1 MotoGP machine, given the startling level of performance that the bike has already displayed. But when Spanish journalist Diego Lacave, editor of the magazine Motoracing, wrote an open letter to Jorge Lorenzo on the website Motocuatro, claiming that the Yamaha will be the bike that gets the least amount of development for the 2011 season, Lorenzo's crew chief Ramon Forcada was quick to deny any such suggestion. Lacave was guilty of only looking at Yamaha as a company, not at the culture which that company has, Forcada explained. "I've worked with the Japanese enough to understand their attitude," Forcada wrote in an email to Motocuatro. "They either decide to leave, like Kawasaki did, or they stay and accept all of the consequences."
Forcada had a mountain of emails from Japan cluttering up his inbox, he claimed, discussing all of the changes to be made to the 2011 Yamaha M1 based on the data found at the Valencia test. The changes to be made would include modifications to the chassis, the engine, the aerodynamics, the electronics, the suspension, and possibly even the brakes. "What other aspect is there to evolve the bike in?" Forcada asks.
From the evidence presented to them, Motocuatro concludes that the 2011 M1 could be a very different bike to the one that was raced in 2010. Though the word which Forcada uses remains "evolution" rather than revolution, there still appears to be plenty of room for improvement.
Forcada's intervention suggests there could be a surprising amount of work going on for the 2011 MotoGP bikes, despite this being the final year of the 800cc formula. All four of the current manufacturers are expected to bring heavily revised 1000cc - or at least, larger capacity - versions of their bikes for the new 1000cc era from 2012, but that will not apparently prevent them from working on the '11 machines. Ducati MotoGP project leader Filippo Preziosi is at Jerez for the next three days, where test riders Vito Guareschi (still working in his role as test rider, despite now also being promoted to team manager) and Franco Battaini will be taking the data provided to them by Valentino Rossi at Valencia and working on geometry and weight distribution during the combined Moto2 and MotoGP rookie test in Southern Spain, while a range of new parts are being prepared for the next test at Sepang. Meanwhile, Suzuki are believed to be pouring money into major modifications to their GSV-R machine, after an utterly dismal year in 2010. Only Honda appear to be close to leaving their machine alone, although work continues on the electronics, and Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso will be working on revised chassis and engines when testing continues at Sepang in early February. Despite the imminent demise of the 800s, the development war continues.