The 2016 season of MOTOGP World Championship is coming with a lot of changes, specially software and tires. So, when the Yamaha’s team reveal their new super bikes, they answered a lot of questions to the press.
The Team Yamaha’s Moto GP: Lin Jarvis, Massimo Meregalli, Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, also the group leader Kouichi Tsuji, for the technical questions.
How are preparations for the Sepang test unfolding?
Kouichi Tsuji: “To be honest we are still trying to find the direction and we have a new bike for next year that we are going to test in Sepang. But the new bike is not always good! Sometimes the old bike has a possibility to work with new software and new tires, we’re still undecided and we’ll have to decide later. We’re trying to provide the best one possible.”
Obviously the season last year ended in a big disappoint for you. Are you over the disappointment of last year and how did you get over this disappointment?
Valentino Rossi: “Yes I think yes. It’s normal that the end of last year was quite difficult, but at the end I am happy with the 2015 season because I enjoyed it a lot and I could fight for the championship through the whole season to the last race. This is just the past, from today we start with a new season from the beginning, it will be hard but we will try to stay at the same level.”
Massimo Meregalli, do you think you will have problems dealing with the two riders like you did at the end of last season or will it start from zero?
Massimo Meregalli: “Honestly I don’t see anything different compared to what we saw last year and the year before. I was prepared to have some troubles when Vale came back, but it never happened and I don’t think it will happen next year or in the future.”
This year we have the unified software; electronics have always been a very big reason for all the manufacturers to go racing to help develop the electronics. What will be the areas in which you’re looking to develop the bike and why is it still worth it to go racing?
Tsuji: “Now it is common software and that is supplied by Dorna. There is traction control, wheelie control are all a lot of parameters within the software, if we made these parameters by ourselves we know how it will work but now we have to study with this, If we change this value how it will change the bike. Lots of things to understand how the software works, if we change a parameter how the bike will react. It will be very important. Both riders are always asking more traction control, more wheelie control and I’m sure it’s possible to find a good setup for them. We just have to learn how to manage the new software for this year.”
There are lots of changes for this year, new tires, and new software. Which has been the most challenging area in the development of the bike?
Tsuji: “We always develop the bike to win races. Now, we work and develop the bike to make the tire perform as well as possible. That means the biggest challenge will be the common software and the tire, how we can setup both together to make the tire perform as much as possible, that’s a new challenge for us.”
Lin, will the internal construction of the team remain the same as last year with data sharing and no wall?
Jarvis: “I think Massimo answered that, we will go into the season the same as before. There’s no reason to put a wall in the garage. One of our strengths is the fact that the team work really well together. The riders are individual competitors against themselves but the team of mechanics and engineers all work really well together. If we put a barrier between them or a wall in the garage, it will be to the deficit of the team, the riders and the engineers. This is a thing of the past and as I said last year, we understand both riders are competing against each other. As Jorge said, if Valentino is his main competitor for the championship then it’s a good thing, it means Yamaha are at the front. That’s our main goal: to beat our competitors.”
We have seen in the past with Michelin that the front tyre is not as strong, can you specify where the problem is? In braking? In the middle of the corner?
Rossi: “Yes, unfortunately the feeling with the front tire is still a problem for everyone more or less I think. The Michelin are very different compared to the Bridgestone, especially about setting. Like we saw in the past when we came from Michelin to Bridgestone, we modified the setting of the bike very much. We need a bit of time to arrive at the right balance and I think during the winter this work will be important to try and understand how to use the Michelin tire at the best and try to improve the feeling with the front. We need to understand our level with these tires compared to other manufacturers because last year our bike was very good with the Bridgestone as it was well balanced. Now it will be hard work to make the same with Michelin.”
Do you think it will be hard for you to compete this year with all these changes?
Rossi: “I don’t know, it’s difficult to say. We have to see what comes from the test. Can be better, can be worse, can be the same. We have to wait.”
This year almost all the riders are out of contract and this means that during the middle of the season there will be a very busy period with a lot of negotiations and speculation about how goes where, that could also be a distraction from the championship. Is this something you’re worried about and how will you handle it?
Jarvis: “I’m going to not actually go to any GPs this year because it’s probably the only way to avoid it! It’s actually a very good question, it’s will be very interesting to see what’s going on off the track. As you say, all the major teams and riders are out of contract, normally riders will sign for two-year agreements. There will be a lot of talks going on but I think most riders will see how they manufacturers are performing at the start. Every rider’s number one desire is to be competitive in the next two years of their life, before that they want to be sure that the Honda or the Yamaha or the Ducati will be competitive. I don’t know when the first move will come from the contracts but I guess it will be after three or four races, but maybe sooner you never know.”
Lorenzo, do you think this year Valentino will be the clear rival or will the Hondas recover?
Jorge Lorenzo: “It’s difficult to know at this moment because we’ve only made one practice in Valencia after the race so we didn’t check how the new electronics or tires are working in other tracks. Especially as the factories have been improving their bikes and the electronics during this time from Valencia. Soon we will discover in Malaysia how all the bikes, factories and riders are in this new situation. At this moment I can’t tell you the performance of how the riders will change.”
Lorenzo and Valentino, how much will you have to change your riding styles and what have you asked Yamaha to change with the bike?
Lorenzo: “Well I’ve been lucky that in 2008 I had my first year in MotoGP on the Michelin, I don’t remember so much how the feeling was. But I understand the way of riding these tyres is quite different to riding the Bridgestone. You have to anticipate the braking, release the brake a little bit sooner. Theoretically it can be a little bit better for me, but until we practice in more tracks and pass more time we won’t know. We ask Yamaha for the electronics and for Michelin to improve the front tire a little bit. We ask Yamaha to understand the electronics a little bit more, investigate how to create electronics that are as close as possible to last year’s. “
Rossi: “I think that the way to ride with the Michelin is quite different compared to Bridgestone, a lot of small differences in braking and entry but also different type of lines and a different way to open the throttle. At the end the bike remains the same but the tires change quite a lot. Every rider has to be fast to adapt to this situation. About the bike, we will try to have a little more top speed in the straight because last year it was the only place we suffered. Also the electronics are important as they changed a lot, we discovered during the test that if you have a little better electronics the difference is quite a lot. The rest is the weight distribution that we need to understand with the Michelin.”
Lin Jarvis, do you think having two riders who fought for the title all year harmed your preparations for 2016? Set back development?
Jarvis: “I don’t think it harmed at all. Basically what happened at the end of last year, having our two riders there to be fighting for the championship until the last race is what we planned to do. No, I don’t think it had an effect.”
Tsuji: “Normally with Sepang, Qatar, now we want as much data as possible from different tracks and from this point of view the three different tracks are good.”
A question for Rossi, everyone is talking about the change from Bridgestone but there is also the change from 16.5-inch tires to 17-inch. Can you feel the change or is the change in manufacturer bigger than the change in the wheel size?
Rossi: “I think that at the end of the lap, I think that 16.5 is better compared to 17, Michelin decided to use this size. It also has some good points; in general the bike is different in corner entry. Speaking very easy, the bike gains some agility but lost stability so it is more reactive but if you make a mistake is less safe than last year. This is just the first, we did just one test. The way is long and we can arrive very similar to the level of last year at the end.”
(Interview and pictures from MOTOGP web page)