BSB blog:The battle of the BSB Yamahas

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I’m not surprised that GSE racing issued a press statement, saying they’ve ‘postponed’ their planned testing schedule in Europe.

Things have been very quiet on the Airwaves Yamaha front this winter but, from what I heard last week, their GSE Racing technicians were finally in Italy, building bikes.

I’d heard there had been delays in parts coming from Japan and the Italian-based Yamaha World Superbike team obviously had other things on their mind with the WSB season starting so early.

It’s a very alien situation for the team find themselves in. Historically, GSE Racing ordered Ducatis well in advance and come the pre-season testing period, picked the finished bikes up from the factory, plugged in the factory-supplied software and went testing.

This isn’t how the Japanese manufacturer teams in BSB have done things (apart from when Honda Racing got factory bikes after signing Ryuichi Kiyonari in 2004 rather than the second-hand ex-WSB twin that Plater raced the year before)  – and it’s certainly a new concept for the Yamaha World Superbike team.

GSE Racing’s team manager has often said that their normal testing programme would mean covering about half the mileage of a full racing season.

Currently it looks like Leon Camier and James Ellison will be lucky to get a day or two at a BSB track before the Brands round.

But delays in parts hasn’t stopped the rival Rob McElnea team successfully completing six separate days of testing on British tracks – all but one of them blessed with good conditions.

McElnea’s technicans have just been doing what they’ve done for years, taking a stock bike and building it into a racer in their Scunthorpe-based workshop and spending hours on the dyno developing stuff.

They’ve suffered similar late delivery of parts that GSE has, but sourced enough racing con-rods and pistons from a European supplier to build race engines for Chris Walker and Michael Rutter while Graeme Gowland has been running around with an engine that has more production-based internals.

Aside from a minor overheating issue (still waiting for bottom radiators), a rectifier and a minor Rutter spill at the Knockhill hairpin, none of the bikes have missed a beat.

The team haven’t even had any kit generators which meant Rutter and Walker have been grounding out the left-side cases but all the parts they need have now arrived so the team can build their full race engines – and plan even more testing before the first round!

The interesting thing is how long it’s taken Rutter and Walker to get their heads around how the Yamaha delivers its power in a different way to anything they’ve ridden before, while BSB rookie Gowland, with no real preconceptions of how a superbike should feel, has virtually matched the times, track to track, of his more experienced team-mates.

It must be pretty frustrating for Airwaves Yamaha riders to still be sat on the sidelines but at least they know that the Brands Indy is not the most technically demanding track to start at.

But even if Camier and Ellison do get out for a shakedown run before Brands, they may have to go into the first race with very little track time. So not only will their heads not be fully up to speed of racing, they’ll also have to cope with a very different type of power delivery.

In reality, it’s not a massive drama for two very experienced racers but it’s certainly not the perfect preparation for a season of racing either.

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Gary Pinchin

By Gary Pinchin