MotoGP: Rossi sees light at the end of the tunnel

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Nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi sys he finally sees light at the end of the tunnel for the Yamaha M1 project after last weekend’s French Grand Prix, with the more capable bike that he and teammate Maverick Viñales have been hunting for now in sight.

The duo has gone for months without tasting victory thanks to issues with the bike’s grip levels, especially in high temperatures or in the rain. But, after a season of trying to fix those issues by concentrating on chassis development, Rossi says that their pace in Le Mans shows that the issues they thought they had there are now gone.

“In Le Mans, historically you spin less because the corners are short and the asphalt is good. When you get those two things together, the electronics are less important. It shows that this bike is good, that we just have to improve in some other areas that aren’t easy.”

But improvement in that area – electronics – has been slow. Believed to partly be a consequence of a ‘we know better’ attitude from Yamaha’s Japanese engineers, they’ve spent eighteen months trying to develop MotoGP’s control system, first introduced at the start of the 2017 season, instead of bringing in outside experts.

Yamaha have taken the opposite approach of rivals Honda, who have poached a number of key Italian staff from control software manufacturer Magneti Marelli. Now working with members of the team responsible for the control system in the first place integrated into Marc Marquez’s team, they’ve made rapid steps forward in understanding how to get the best out of the new system.

While there’s no doubt that the Yamaha engineers will eventually crack the secret to understanding how to control the M1’s wheel spin and rear grip with the stock system, Rossi’s main concern is that while time might be on their side, it isn’t on his.

“I hope we’ll have something after the Barcelona test, but I don’t know for sure. But it’s a long time from Barcelona to Brno, and we need something soon. I trust in Yamaha, and it’s a difficult moment for them too. But I’m in more of a rush than they are, because maybe they’ll race for another hundred years. I know that I don’t have a lot more time to win, so I’m pushing them to shorten the time that it takes.”

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Simon Patterson

By Simon Patterson

MotoGP and road racing reporter, photographer, videographer