There is no magic in racing. Behind surprising results there are always technical answers. This describes the reason for the surprising metamorphosis of the Movistar Yamaha Factory Racing M1s in a matter of two weeks. At Red Bull Ring, Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi finished a frustrated sixth and seventh, trailing 7.4 and to 8.9 seconds behind the race winner. Last Sunday, they finished second and third, 0.114 and 0.749 seconds behind the winner.
Repeatedly asked about the keys to this difference in performance—in practice at Silverstone they were also extremely competitive—both Rossi and Viñales repeated the mantra that it was the result of electronic adjustments found during private tests in Misano between the Austria and Great Britain GPs. But there was much more to it than that.
The extra element was the presence of two new bikes in the Yamaha factory team box that in a way could be labeled “2018 prototypes.” Of course, we are talking about the chassis (the engines cannot be different than the allotted six for the season). These chassis were brought to the test in Italy after the team’s exasperating race at Red Bull Ring. The new chassis quickly demonstrated that they were a clear step forward, so it was decided they would be taken to the British GP.
Throughout the Silverstone weekend, Rossi and Viñales each had a 2017 bike and one with the new chassis to compare. Both decided to race on the new chassis on Sunday.
As it turned out, the bikes’ performed very differently than they did two weeks earlier in Austria, where both riders and team members left in a state of worry. "I was very comfortable with the bike, especially in the last few laps of the race,” said Viñales after finishing close behind winner Andrea Dovizioso on Sunday at Silverstone. “My feelings are like the ones I had at the beginning of the season."
Rossi said he was still not in a position to fight for the title, because he was not competitive at the end of the race...although that’s not what an analysis of his race indicates. On lap 17, the last one in which the Italian rider lapped in front, he marked a 2'02.239. On the final two laps, 19 and 20, he was 2'02.291—quicker than Viñales—and 2'02.191, his fastest lap in the second half of the race.
Considering that the performance of these "prototypes" at Misano led engineers and riders to take them to England with obviously great results, the team is hopeful that the new M1s will be extremely competitive at the San Marino GP held at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli in two weeks. After a period in which they seemed to have lost their way, Yamaha has apparently rejoined the fight for the championship