Estoril MotoGP Insider 2011: Yamaha

May 2, 2011
Scott Mathews
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There are few people worthy of getting an audience with Mathews but he makes himself available on occasion to the racers of the Grand Prix paddock. If they’re lucky, he might even mention their name. He’s Scott Mathews, and he’s bringing you the inside scoop on MotoGP.

Despite leading for 25 out of 28 laps  Jorge Lorenzo lost his perfect form at Estoril after being passed by Dani Pedrosa.
Despite leading for 25 out of 28 laps, Jorge Lorenzo lost his perfect form at Estoril after being passed by Dani Pedrosa.
Jorge Lorenzo - Estoril 2011

Jorge Lorenzo praised Spanish rival Dani Pedrosa after the reigning world champion saw his perfect MotoGP victory record in Estoril broken yesterday. The factory Yamaha rider led for 25 laps despite coming under severe pressure from Pedrosa throughout and looked a strong candidate to win for the fourth year in a row in Portugal. But as soon as the Repsol Honda pounced, Lorenzo had no response and he was easily beaten by just over three seconds.

The triple world champion said: “I tried to ride at 100% and tried to ride smooth and perfect. But I didn’t have the same good feeling with the bike that I did in 2009 and 2010. The lap times were much slower and my feeling on the bike was not the same. I made 37.8 for a couple of laps, but Dani was still behind and following me. Maybe he was fresher physically, because I put all the effort to be in the front, so when he overtook and he made 37.6 I saw it was impossible to win this race and I just stayed calm and finish. I guess Dani was very comfortable or a little comfortable behind me, because I always saw plus zero, plus zero on my board. Normally my pace is consistent and I can open a little gap, but this race was not the case. I didn’t race so fast and it was not enough to win. But Dani deserves this victory 100% because he was faster at the end of the race, and normally it’s the opposite. I’m happy because at the start of the championship everybody and even us didn’t expect to get a second-, first- and second-place in the first three races and this is really good for the championship.”

Lorenzo’s lead in the standings though was slashed to just four points going to the next race in Le Mans.

Ben Spies’ bid to get his MotoGP season back on track ended in disastrous and embarrassing fashion after a fuel clamp was left on his factory Yamaha YZR-M1 for the start of the Estoril race yesterday. A clamp used to temporarily block the fuel overflow pipe on grid was accidentally left in place for the race start and severely hindered the Texan in the opening laps before he could discard it himself.

In the early laps the 2009 World Superbike champion was making numerous mistakes on the brakes as the clamp’s close proximity to the front brake lever made it impossible for him to brake effectively. He eventually crashed out of tenth-place on Lap 13 and was clearly incensed that such a basic error had cost him so dearly in the 28-lap race.

Ben Spies
A mistake by Ben Spies’ Yamaha crew left the American trailing the field during the early laps before his crash on Lap 13. 

The 26-year-old said: “At the beginning of the race there was a piece on the bike that we take off before the race and it was just a mistake, it got left on. In the first couple of laps it was in a place on the bike where I was having trouble braking. It was lodging in the area of the brake, I was having difficulty with that. It spelt for a disaster of a race but it was just a mistake and it happens. I was upset about it but I’m sure there are people upset more than I am. It was a little bit of safety issue for me which is why I was riding the way I was. It was unfortunate because the team had made the bike a lot better this weekend and I was definitely confident in the race and we had a top five bike. A win was out of the question for sure and I don’t think a podium was on the books, but I believe we had a bike and I had the potential to be in the fight for the top five. Looking at the pace of Andrea (Dovizioso) and Valentino (Rossi) I’m 100% sure that I could have been there.” 

Cal Crutchlow looked like he was going to claim his best ever MotoGP result in Estoril yesterday, only to be denied by a determined Hiroshi Aoyama on the last lap. Crutchlow and San Carlo Gresini Honda rider Aoyama had diced for almost the whole 28-lap encounter, with the British rider holding the advantage starting the final lap in seventh-place. Former 250GP world champion Aoyama made his decisive move though at the first corner and Crtuchlow was unable to mount another fightback, the 25-year-old settling for his second successive eighth position.

The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team rider said: “I’m happy enough with that because before the start of the weekend I’d have never thought it possible to finish in the top eight on a circuit I’d never even seen before. And considering I had problems with both my arms all weekend, it is a great feeling. My right arm, which I had the operation is fine, but my left arm is really sore because I’m been compensating with it. But the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team have been awesome all weekend. They have experience of helping rookie riders and they are doing a great job for me. And they’ve adjusted the bike to help me feel more comfortable with the arm problems. It is a shame I couldn’t quite beat Aoyama at the end. Earlier in the race I felt really comfortable and kept some really fast and experienced guys behind me. It was a really good battle with Aoyama and while I don’t like to get beaten in a last lap fight, I gave him a good run for his money and it is great experience for me to be in a scrap like that. If I keep doing what I’m doing at the moment then there is no reason why on tracks that I know that I can’t be even further up.”

Yamaha’s 2012 MotoGP Plans Won’t Expand

Cal Crutchlow
Cal Crutchlow was on the losing end of a terrific battle with Hiroshi Aoyama, and eventually finished eighth.

Yamaha will not increase its involvement beyond four bikes when the new 1000cc four-stroke rule is introduced in 2012. The Japanese factory has no plans to increase its entry beyond its current two-rider factory team and a two-bike supply deal to Cal Crutchlow’s Monster Yamaha Tech 3 squad.

Yamaha expects to negotiate a new deal with Herve Poncharal’s Tech 3 squad, even though the French-based squad has the option of developing its own project for next season under rules that permit modified production 1000cc engines in prototype chassis to compete.

Former Yamaha boss and current consultant Masao Furusawa said: “I prefer the Tech 3 team to stay with us for 2012. Tech 3 is an independent team, so Herve if he wants to do a reasonably priced new bike then it is okay, but I will ask him to keep the same conditions with Yamaha. Two bikes is not enough to develop good technology but six is too much for me, so four is a good number.”

Yamaha is already well advanced with development of its new 1000cc machine for next season having undergone extensive testing with the new bike in Japan. Yamaha plan to give Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies their debut on the bike at Mugello on July 4, the day after the Italian Grand Prix.

Kouichi Tsuji, the man behind development of the project, said: “We have already started our development and I am pleased to say our schedule is on time. We will begin testing at Mugello after the race. The engine power will obviously be more, but what we will be looking to find out is what kind of chassis requirements we have. The test in Mugello will give us the direction to work for this.”

Yamaha Boss Says MotoGP Needs Wider Global Appeal

MotoGP needs a wider global appeal to help attract vital new sponsorship and investment to safeguard the future of the sport. The premier class is now too heavily biased towards Spain and Italy, according to Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis, who is campaigning to get MotoGP run in more countries to broaden its worldwide appeal.

The impact of the global economic crisis has been felt hard in MotoGP with Kawasaki withdrawing its factory effort at the beginning of 2009 and Suzuki reducing its involvement in 2011 to just one machine. The Interwetten Honda squad folded at the end of 2010 after just one season in the premier class. And despite dominating the world championship

Colin Edwards
Texan Colin Edwards finished sixth in Round 3 as he continues to post top-10 results this season. 

for the last three years with Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, Yamaha has been unable to find a replacement title sponsor for Fiat, who quit at the end of 2010.

The solution is to increase the profile of MotoGP outside of its traditional markets, says Jarvis. Eight of the 18 races take part in just three countries in Spain, Italy and America and Jarvis said: “We should have more races in Asia. One of the successes of Formula One is it has moved its championship according to the trend of the global economy. There are many races in the Arab countries and they are looking at other new markets like India and Russia. We’ve been too stuck in our traditional environment and four races in Spain is too much.

“Every Grand Prix is successful but it is too much of a burden on the Iberian peninsular. Why are we not in South America for example? India would be very positive if it came on board but personally I’d like to see a race in Indonesia because it has a huge market. Yamaha and Honda together sell more than six million units in Indonesia. Does that not justify having a race there? And there is an enormous TV audience there too. We have to work harder in those expanding business areas from an organisation and team point of view. We are moving in that direction but to convert that into commercial partners takes time.”

Abu Dhabi will join the MotoGP calendar in 2012 to form part of a special Middle East Bike Week that will see the race at the spectacular Yas Marina track run immediately after the Qatar night race. India has been locked in talks with Dorna about hosting a race next year while Argentina has also been rumored to be bidding for a race for the first time since 1999.

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