Mid-season Review with Masao Furusawa - Executive Officer, Engineering Operations for Yamaha Motor Company.
1 - What's been the biggest change to the M1 this year?
"We have made many changes to the 2008 M1 compared to the 2007 version and we have improved it a lot; Valentino is satisfied with our work so far. Of course the biggest change for us has affected Valentino's side only - the change of tyre manufacturer. After the switch we had a hard time learning how to get the best performance from the new tyres and of course we had no data. Last however year Valentino predicted that changing would be the right thing for him and he was right, although of course we weren't able to predict how differently the tyre would behave."
2 - What else have you changed on Valentino's bike?
"We have had to work a lot on the chassis setting and we have also changed the geometry of the bike in order to get a good balance with the tyre character. Since we moved from 990cc to 800cc higher corner speed is needed in order to get faster lap times and to win. Therefore we have tried many different chassis settings in order to find out the best of bike geometry, centre of gravity, rider position, wheel-base length, chassis stiffness and so on."
3 - Do you think that your development since the start of the season has been a success?
"MotoGP bikes are not production bikes and that's why I always say that Valentino, Jorge and all MotoGP riders are not human beings! Valentino has become more and more satisfied race by race and we have been able to find an ideal set-up for him that enabled him to win three races in a row. Since then, Casey Stoner and his team have found new solutions that have allowed them to make a big step forward and now of course we know that the remaining races will be tough, although we are still leading by 25 points after the excellent win in Laguna Seca."
4 - What is the aim for the rest of the season regarding bike development?
"Our competitor's great performances is a big push to all of us to improve our M1 further, maybe even more than we did during last winter. I would especially like to progress the electronic control system and the engine power. At the moment there is no need to work more on the chassis, although this is something we will have to consider for next season. Lately we have been experiencing some problems with acceleration on the exit of the corner, so we need to work to find better bike geometry and chassis setting alongside the development of the engine control system."
5 - What is your opinion about the electronics in MotoGP now? Do you think the rules need to be changed?
"This is a popular discussion at the moment and we are looking at the overall situation; do we need to change the rules? It's true that many riders have crashed this year, including Jorge, who had a very bad series of crashes, and also Dani Pedrosa. The question is if these crashes have something to do with the current bike technology. We moved from 990cc to 800cc to have safer bikes, but the new bikes have a higher cornering speed and this might present a danger for some riders. I think that we need to do something and the biggest issue is the electronic control system. In any case, it is clear that we at Yamaha will have to develop a better and better ECS, in order to beat our rivals. I still think that the M1 is best bike out there, although Casey has had a string of very impressive results."
6 - Valentino has re-signed for two more years and has cited his relationship with you as one of the main reasons he will continue with Yamaha. How do you feel about you relationship with him?
"The reason I always continue to be confident is because I trust Valentino so much! I like his way of thinking, he is always positive and this rubs off on everyone else. He never complains or criticizes; on the contrary, he is always looking forward and searching for new solutions! He has exactly the same approach to problems as I have. Valentino always has a positive and logical way of thinking, like me. He has a very good sense of humour, and I like this a lot; I like him as a person very much. The biggest shame is that my age is almost the double his, but the level of thinking is the same! The only difference is that he is just 29. When I was 29, I never thought about tactics and strategies! I have a huge respect for him. He is the genius behind the bike."
7 - What are your mid-season impressions of Jorge?
"I like Jorge very much; he is a good guy and a very good rider. Honestly, he is very different than I had expected before he joined Yamaha; I was impressed by his mature attitude and his fluent English. He is a very smart guy, smarter than I expected! He has a big talent as a rider; he is very smooth and very effective. I am sure that in the future he will dominate in MotoGP. At the beginning of the season we started with no ambitions, we thought it was too early for him to win a race because he was a rookie. He was just supposed to be here to learn about his M1. But then he surprised us with his incredible three pole positions in a row and then with his victory. Everything happened much earlier than we had expected. Generally speaking he is a very good entertainer for Yamaha and for the spectators. His season surpassed expectations early on but of course he has had some problems since then which we are working hard to address."
8 - How has Jorge reacted since the crashes?
"After the bad crashes he has suffered, he has changed his riding style somewhat, aiming to improve his confidence in the electronics, which can help him. Before the crash in Laguna he was recovering and beginning to find a different way to treat a MotoGP bike. Laguna was a great pity, very unlucky and another set-back but I am still confident for the rest of the season, although we will continue not to put any pressure on him and there is no need to hurry his learning process."
9 - What is your feeling about the current team?
"I am very satisfied with Jorge's new crew chief, who joined us this year, Ramon Forcada. He is a very good crew chief, as is Jeremy Burgess. JB is an easy and sophisticated guy, he hates to worry about political correctness, like me! Now both he and Ramon are combining their wealth of experience with the new technology very successfully. Regarding Jorge's bike specifically, I understand very well what Ramon is doing with Jorge and with Jorge's bike. I speak with him regularly and I am satisfied that we have the same recognition about Jorge."
Our entire team is made up of good people and good workers! As far as our riders are concerned, we have a very strong weapon; Valentino is the present and Jorge is the future