GP Insider: Yamaha Falters at Le Mans

May 16, 2011
Scott Mathews
Contributing Editor|Articles|Articles RSS

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.

Jorge Lorenzo - Le Mans
Lorenzo managed a fourth-place finish and held on to the points lead but still feels dissapointed with the Yamaha’s performance at Le Mans.

Jorge Lorenzo admitted Yamaha has work to do to bridge the gap in performance to Honda after he was comprehensively beaten in yesterday’s French Grand Prix at Le Mans. Lorenzo never looked like competing for a third straight success in France and he missed the podium for only the third time in the last 20 races after a difficult 28-lap race.

He ended a massive 21 seconds behind eventual winner Casey Stoner, but was also comfortably beaten by Andrea Dovizioso and former factory Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi, who claimed his first podium for Ducati with third.

A mistake on the brakes at Turn 6 on Lap 25 cost Lorenzo any hopes he had of fighting to maintain his 100% podium record in 2011 and the Spaniard said: “If speak about the seconds we finish behind Stoner then it is not a good race. I improved my lap times in the race compared to practice. But I was very at the limit and struggling a lot to keep this pace so at the end of the race I was tired like in Portugal. I made a mistake in one braking and when Andrea and Valentino went it was very difficult for me to fight with them again for second.”

Lorenzo said the YZR-M1 simply hasn’t taken the leap in performance that Honda’s factory RC212V has during the winter, with Stoner’s win the third in four races for HRC. Lorenzo, who still leads the world championship by 12 points over Aussie Stoner, said: “The problem is the bike is more or less the same as last year. This is the problem and Honda improved. We are not worse but we are not better. We are more or less the same, so we win less than last year.

Jorge Lorenzo: As Ive said before  this year its going to be a difficult year. Some of the other riders are much faster than before. Were working hard and we are trying a lot of things to improve the bike. We will keep on  we made some improvements over today and I hope tomorrow we will make a step and be a bit faster.
As the race progressed Lorenzo continued to lose ground, eventually being overtaken by Dovizioso and Rossi.

“We had some big problems with the exit of the slow corners. My bike always had a wheelie problem like all the Yamahas, so in the straight we lost a lot of tenths. And the bike doesn’t turn the same, so when the tire was getting old the bike moved a lot and this also causes more wheelie. It depends on the track because in Estoril I finished five seconds in front of Stoner and now we finish 20 seconds behind him. We are not as competitive as last year and this is clear but also it depends on the track whether we can fight for the victory or whether it is impossible.”

Lorenzo denied his sluggish performance was the result of his confidence being dented by a heavy crash in the pre-race warm-up session. The reigning champ lost control of his YZR-M1 machine at the second chicane after pushing too hard before the right side of his Bridgestone tire had reached working temperature. The result was spectacular fireball in the immediate aftermath, but he said the spill had nothing to do with his race pace.

“It was my mistake completely. I exit too excited from the box to go fast from the start and my experience of the cold tires doesn’t help me this time and I forget it. I made a mistake and I hope in the future this experience gives me more quietness for my next first laps.”

Spies Confident Yamaha Can Improve

Ben Spies - Le Mans
After consecutive DNFs Spies finished sixth at Le Mans, the Texan getting passed by Simoncelli on the final lap.

Ben Spies is confident Yamaha can improve its factory YZR-M1 machine and bridge the gap to Japanese rivals Honda. Although teammate Lorenzo is currently leading the 2011 world championship rankings, Honda’s factory RC212V has won three out of the opening four races in convincing fashion. At Le Mans the Yamaha seems to take a step backward.

But Spies, who had crashed out of two consecutive races, before finishing sixth at Le Mans said: “I’ve said this numerous times this year because obviously the big talk is the Hondas in the top five and how good they’re going. But the positive thing is it’s a prototype class. Things can change overnight. Things could change tomorrow and next year with the 1000s. We’ve seen manufacturers get on a roll. They start doing really good and then all of a sudden it changes. So that’s the good thing. We can always fix it; we can counter it and make it better. Right now they’ve (Honda) got their stuff together. They’ve got good riders on the bike and they seem to be a little step ahead of us, but it’s not going to faze us and we’ll keep working 100% and try to close the gap and try to pass it and see what happens.”

Explaining where the Honda is superior to its rivals at the moment, the Texan added: “They look like they fixed some of the stability issue and it accelerates hard and it’s smooth on the gear change. It’s doing everything good, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make ours do the same thing or better in the near future. Development is only a step away from making our stuff better and that’s what we look forward to.”

Crutchlow Upset at First DNF

Cal Crutchlow was left to rue a small mistake early in yesterday’s French MotoGP race that he believes cost him the chance to score his first premier class top six in Le Mans. The British rider was putting 2009 World Superbike champion Spies under severe pressure in a battle for eighth position when he lost the front of his Monster Tech 3 Yamaha YZR-M1 machine at Turn 6 on the sixth lap. Crutchlow was able to remount but he couldn’t continue in the race because the throttle on his YZR-M1 was stuck open.

Cal Crutchlow - Le Mans
Crutchlow will be reviewing his mistakes at Le Mans. The English rider’s first DNF came after losing the front of his bike while challenging Ben Spies for eighth.

Crutchlow, who had claimed a stunning sixth place on the grid for the 28-lap clash, said: “I’m pretty disappointed because looking at how the race panned out I could have been in sixth place because when I crashed I was having a good battle with Ben. I’d caught him quite easily and was looking forward to a good race when I made a stupid little mistake in Turn 6. I touched the curb and I lost the front. I literally fell off the side of the bike and that was it. It is disappointing because I had the pace to get another top eight but these things can happen when you’re pushing so hard in a competitive class like MotoGP. I managed to get back on the bike but there was a problem with the throttle, so it was impossible for me to carry on. I showed my raw speed all weekend so I’m not going to be too hard on myself, though I was desperate to get a good result.”