MotoGP – Valentino Rossi – Yamaha Racing

Five-time MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi starts his fifth season with Yamaha in an unusual position, following what was undoubtedly one of the hardest seasons of his career. Rossi took four race wins in 2007 and several podiums, but his prodigious talents were limited by technical and tyre problems as well as plain bad luck. The Italian missed out on the runner-up spot in the championship by just one point after his final race was wrecked by injury and third place was his lowest championship finish since his rookie year in 1996. 2008 will see Rossi hungry to win back the title he previously made his own for five years as he sets out on a new chapter in his career, having made the switch to Bridgestone tyres.


It was only right that the rider who has had most direct interest and influence on the development of the M1 MotoGP machine should be one of the first to ride the finished 2007 R1 – containing the DNA of the M1 itself.

Valentino was clearly enthused by the abilities of the newest R-series product, finding it well suited to the fast layout of the Losail circuit in Qatar. “The first impressions are great,” said Vale. “I think it’s a good step from the previous R1. The first difference in the feeling on the track is from the engine. It has a lot more power from the bottom; when you open the throttle the engine is more eager to accelerate. From that point of view it’s a lot easier to ride. Also, there is a very different feeling from the chassis. The bike feels a lot smaller, more compact, so there is a gain in agility; it is also more precise at the entry of the corner.”

Rossi also sensed the improvements that the adoption of the new YCC-T throttle has brought, especially as it is another offshoot of the MotoGP experience. “This system helps a lot because the connection between the throttle and the engine is a lot closer – and is better,” he asserts. “Like this the bike gives more feeling during acceleration and it is easier to open the throttle earlier and go faster. Now, in MotoGP, this aspect is very important because the horsepower is high and the way the engine delivers power is most important thing to make a good lap time. Especially when the tyres start to slide. They have taken these ideas and adapted them for the R1. In acceleration the engine is more closely matched to the throttle, so it is more easy to control the power.”

The influence of the two-stage variable inlet YCC-I system is also plainly evident to Rossi, as it plays its part in smoothing out the engine’s delivery. “This is a big advantage because I think when a bike has this amount of horsepower normally we need to work a lot with the engine, but on this bike the acceleration remains very easy to use. The power arrives at a very constant curve. This is important for the track but especially for the road, where you ride more slowly, where you can have some bumps and surface changes. So the feeling of the throttle is very important.”

Rossi even goes as far as to say that the cornering abilities of the R1 are up there in M1 territory. “It is very close to the M1 – it is possible to go through the corners very fast. The bike is stable in braking and the front gives a good feeling for corner entry, so you can go in very fast, and the position of the bike at maximum angle is comfortable for the rider. You have a lot of feedback from the tyres, from the surface, to understand the limit and the amount of grip of the track. Also the clutch is very important on the MotoGP bike so they have taken the technology from the M1 for this part as well. This aspect is very different from the previous bike, because the slipper clutch needs to be used in a different way. But it never locks the rear tyre and never starts vibrating. So, it is possible to enter the corner much faster.”

The man in charge of the development of the new R1 is project leader Toyishi Nishida, and during the launch of the new machine in Qatar, Insider caught up with him to find out why racing was the driving force behind the new R1’s design.

All the wide-ranging racetrack influences in the R1’s design are a result of a firm philosophy to continue the no-compromise design of the original R-series machines. As Project Leader Toyishi Nishida explains, “My priority was to get a much higher level of riding pleasure, particularly on the racetrack, and also make improvements to the power curve. So the technical mentality was to get much greater feedback from the road and much higher controllability on the exit of the corners. And, of course, to get much higher RPM performance.”

Of all the individual advances learned from the MotoGP experience, Nishida put special emphasis on two particular engineering initiatives. “The R1 was inspired by the M1 in the YCC-T system and also the rigidity balance of the new chassis,” said Nishida. Going into more specifics of what really makes the R1 the ultimate racetrack machine while maintaining the usability in every possible traffic situation, Nishida explains, “The three main areas were the engine, the chassis and the bodywork.”

It was not just about top end power with the engine, even though the original aims of more revs and a higher output were successfully achieved. “Regarding the engine, we focused our improvements on the mid-range torque and making a smoother power delivery right up to high RPM. In terms of the chassis package, rider feel was prioritised to make the riding experience more rewarding and we focused on improving feedback from the road,” said Nishida, before confirming that the new R1’s bodywork changes are a lot more than a makeover. “In terms of bodywork we focused on achieving much smoother airflow, and more efficient cooling effects,” he said, in summation.

Valentino Rossi

Born in Urbino, Italy on 16th February 1979, Rossi was riding bikes from an early age thanks to the influence of his father Graziano, himself a former Grand Prix winner. Following an early start in go-karts, Rossi junior progressed to minimotos and quickly showed a talent for two-wheels, becoming regional champion in 1992. The next few years saw him quickly rise up through ranks of junior road racing, claiming the Italian Sport Production Championship in 1994 and the Italian 125cc Championship in 1995. The latter, twinned with an impressive 3rd place in the 125cc European  championship, was enough to secure him a ride in the World Championship the following year.


Rossi`s World Championship debut came at the Malaysian Grand Prix in 1996 and he finished his first international season in 9th place with one race win. The following year he became the youngest ever rider to win the 125cc World Championship, winning eleven races along the way with Aprilia. The pattern continued when he moved into the 250cc class, taking second place in his first year before becoming World Champion in 1999, once again with Aprilia.

In 2000 he entered a new phase of his career when he joined forces with Honda in the 500cc class. He proved his worth once again by finishing second, before becoming the last ever 500cc World Champion in 2001. Rossi subsequently took the MotoGP World title in 2002 and 2003, before moving to Yamaha and winning it again in 2004 and 2005. Rossi made history by moving to Yamaha in 2004 and winning the season-opening Grand Prix in South Africa, becoming the first rider in the history of the sport to win back-to-back premier class races for different manufacturers. He went on to win nine out of 16 races, finally clinching the World Championship title, Yamaha`s first for 12 years, with victory at the penultimate Grand Prix in Phillip Island. A final win at the Valencia Grand Prix also ensured that the Yamaha Factory Team won the team title.

He dominated the 2005 season, winning eleven races in total, taking five pole positions and only finishing off the podium once. In doing he became one of only five riders in the history of the sport to win the premier-class title on five occasions. He also helped Yamaha to win the Manufacturers’ and Team titles, ensuring Yamaha celebrated its 50th Anniversary with one of its best ever years in Grand Prix.

2006 saw him finish World Champion runner-up for only the second time in his premierclass career, having lost the title to Honda’s Nicky Hayden by just five points following a final-race showdown in Valencia. Despite this, Rossi still took five race wins and five pole positions in 2006, more than any other rider, and stood on the podium ten times.
He turns 29 in February 2008 and remains the youngest rider to have won World Championships in all three classes. He continues to have the support of his long-standing Crew Chief, Jeremy Burgess, who moved from Honda to work with him at Yamaha Factory Racing in 2004.

One of the most popular members of the paddock, ‘The Doctor` has a wide fan base all over the world. A keen football fan and an accomplished rally driver, He is based in London between races.

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