The long, dark winter is finally drawing to a close. In just ten days’ time the sounds of highly stressed engines, tuned to within an inch of their lives will echo back into life as pre-season testing returns. In preparation of this, two of the factory manufacturers (Yamaha and Ducati) publicly launched their challengers for this year’s championship…
Quite simply, the design team behind this year’s M1 challenger have constructed art on wheels.
The bike is certainly more evolution than revolution, with the chassis construction and the surrounding fairings being more or less a straight carry over from the 2016 model. However, on a closer inspection, Yamaha have brought back more ’rounded’ fairings around the nose and airbox of the bike. The only obvious alteration at first glance is the livery, which is now a solid shade of Movistar Blue, and a few extra title sponsor logos on the nose and the rear.
With Jorge Lorenzo now departed for Ducati, the Japanese outfit have elected to raise the seat height to better accommodate the taller Maverick Vinales, who replaces him. Additionally, to maximise the riders’ aerodynamic positioning, the fuel tank has been moved forward by 35mm and lowered into the chassis by 20mm.
In terms of performance, the engineering team have stressed that they have managed to coax an extra 10bhp out of the engine, whilst claiming that the extra power has not compromised the stability of the machine when cornering at speed. If the claims are to be believed, then we can expect to see the M1 return to its dominant days of the mid-late 2000s.
Hot on the heels of the Yamaha (well, in launch terms at least), is this year’s challenger from the premier Italian squad, from Bologna.
The obvious question on eveyone’s mind about this bike: how will it deliver without the use of those winglets? It was no secret that, whilst being a complete missile in a straight line, the Desmosdici-16 was more than a struggle for its riders in the corners, when the winglets were removed.
In contrast to Yamaha, this year’s Ducati is very much a Revolution.
The wheel base has been drastically reduced to almost nothing, to improve the pickup of the bike off the apex of corners. A shortened wheelbase such as this also brings down the overall weight of the bike, which is crucial for maximising straight line speed. This perhaps betrays the suspicion that, once again, the Ducati will be one of the more difficult bikes to handle.
To counter this, Ducati have produced a much lower chassis than in previous years. This assists the handling of the machine, as a lower centre of gravity generates more stability. Additionally, a lower machine aids the latest addition to the Italian outfit: 3x MotoGP champion, Jorge Lorenzo.
The Spaniard has moved across after nine seasons with the factory Yamaha team, and has so far been impressed with his new team. This was evident by discernibly more upbeat body language at the two post season tests at Valencia and Jerez in November. Whilst Lorenzo has downplayed initial expectations, by emphasising that, for now, “the obsession should be to improve.”
The first official MotoGP pre-season test begins on 30th January at the Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia.