Italy is the Automobile World's favourite piece of land on this third rock from the sun, with almost all the legendary, iconic and downright sumptuous news and products throughout the history coming out from this tiny little country. The collection at Italy of high-performance enterprises and plethora of world-class racetracks are impossible to beat. Thus, when a company as legendary and as Iconic as Yamaha decided to set up its European headquarters for its racing operations, it chose Gerno di Lesmo, a stone’s throw from the historic Monza circuit not far from Milan.
Officially called Yamaha Motor Racing Srl, the facility is the HQ of the Movistar Yamaha Moto GP team. YMR was founded in 1999, with the factory taking control of the race team after Wayne Rainey’s retirement from managing the GP effort. Originally located in the Netherlands, the team transitioned to Italy in 2005. Much of the technical work is taken care by 65 engineers working at Yamaha’s Technology Development Division in Japan, but several members of the Japanese engineering staff work out of Italy’s YMR.
YMR consists of 17 full-time staffers, working mostly on engine development, and there are 25 members of the team who travel to races. YMR uses eight trucks to support racing logistics: two team trucks, one engine truck and one data truck, plus four hospitality rigs.
One of YMR’s biggest challenges was the transition from 500cc two-strokes to the 990cc four-strokes beginning in 2002 with the first YZR-M1. The M1’s directive when it debuted was “One Mission,” referring to winning in the four-stroke era, but in the hands of Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa, the Yamaha came up short to Honda’s RC211V and Valentino Rossi’s superb riding talent. Rossi scored another championship for Honda in 2003. Then, in December 2003, Came the big move: Yamaha lured Rossi away from Honda.
As it turned out, Rossi signing with the team led to a string of championships, with VR46 winning titles in 2004 and 2005, then again in 2008 and ‘09. Then came the number of the Spanish phenomena Jorge Lorenzo who brought in for Yamaha, the championships in 2010 and 2012.
It should be no surprise Yamaha places such a large emphasis on motorcycle racing, as, unlike most other Japanese OEMs, the vast majority of its business (65.8%) comes from motorcycles. Marine products comprise 17.3%, followed by 9% in power products. Industrial machines and robots comprise 2.3% of Yamaha’s total income, amounting to nearly 10 billion euro in 2013. It employs 63,627 staffers, 55 of which attend GPs.
Yamaha currently offers three levels of support in MotoGP, led by the factory squad of Rossi and Lorenzo whose bikes receive the latest in developments. Next up is the Tech 3 satellite team that receives hand-me-down technology from the factory team. Then there’s the Open-class bikes that Forward Racing campaigns with Yamaha equipment, leasing engines, frames and swingarms from the factory. If you’d like to start your own Open-class GP team, leasing a bike from Yamaha will cost a cool 800,000 euro. Honda was selling, rather than leasing, its Open bikes for 1M euro, but their lack of pneumatic valves severely hindered their performance potential.
Honda, of course, is Yamaha’s arch-rival in Grand Prix racing, with each trying to leapfrog the other in technology and speed. Honda got the jump on Yamaha by their introduction two seasons ago of a seamless-shift transmission. Honda also seemed to have a braking advantage over the Yamaha. But with 2014 regulations allowing the use of larger front brake rotors, and with Lorenzo changing his riding style to improve braking performance, Yamaha has closed the gap.
The 2014 season began as a disappointment for Yamaha, with Rossi and Lorenzo being unable to keep pace with the brilliance of Marc Marquez and his seemingly flawless Honda RC2113V. Lorenzo was recuperating from injuries, and his high corner-speed style wasn’t gelling with Bridgestone’s front tire. But with the strong end-of-season form from both Rossi and Lorenzo, Yamaha believes it has caught up with the quick Honda.
YMR is staying on the gas heading into the 2015 season while preparing for major rules changes in 2016: Michelin will replace Bridgestone as Moto GP’s tire supplier, and the factory teams will be forced to share a common electronics package. Both Yamaha and Honda were initially reluctant to share proprietary software, especially Honda.
In the closed doors bonded by secrecy, it comes as a breath of fresh air when the lesser mortal world gets to see up close the incredible talent and hard-work that goes behind the scenes of creating the Moto GP beats we al love to see fight it out ever race weekend. YMR Head-Quarters are no doubt among the most divine places in the world when it comes to Motorcycle Racing, and those who get to visit it are indeed very lucky souls.
Courtesy - motorcycle.com