By Dan Moakes
March 11 2007
Yamaha’s GP record is second to Honda’s, but is nevertheless a highly creditable one. With 34 rider titles, and now well over 400 victories, only MV Agusta - with less wins but more titles - has a comparable challenge to Honda in overall terms. Although the 500cc title did not go to a Yamaha rider in the last nine years of the category, Olivier Jacque was top 250cc man as recently as 2000. But of course the MotoGP title came Yamaha’s way with the 2004 recruitment of Valentino Rossi, as the Italian star helped revive the marque’s fortunes, and moved up a gear to make it two in a row. The World Superbike title didn’t come off for Noriyuki Haga in 2000, but not too long ago the British series went to Yamaha-mounted Niall Mackenzie in three consecutive years.
The latest Yamaha GP bike is the four cylinder YZR-M1 four-stroke which, as mentioned, has become a real threat to the Hondas with Rossi added to the works team’s strength. For 2006 the teams are the Camel (factory) and Tech 3 (customer) squads, fielding Rossi and Colin Edwards, Carlos Checa and James Ellison. The team of Luís d’Antín switched to Ducati in 2004, although the original Harris WCM racer’s engine was originally based on that of a Yamaha Superbike.
The 250cc series may see the Yamaha Kurz team run bikes again this year. Meanwhile, the Italian and French importer teams will lead the way for the YZF-R1 in World Superbikes, and many of the major championships will likely see Yamaha riders in selected races as wildcard entrants.
Yamaha did not have an official presence in World Superbikes between 2001 and 2004, but the British series saw the introduction of the 1000cc YZF-R1 four-cylinder in 2002. This bike won races in its first year, getting closest to the Ducati boys in the process. The R1’s riders for this year will be Tommy Hill, Kieran Clarke and Billy McConnell (Virgin Mobile), with Team Nvidia also likely to run the same machine.
Yamaha’s success tally