Q&A with Lin Jarvis, Managing Director of Yamaha Motor Racing B.V.
1. Having announced the news about signing Valentino Rossi, there must have been a lot of excitement in the past couple of weeks, not only from the media but also within Yamaha?
Since we made the announcement there has obviously been a great amount of media interest, and many staff within the international Yamaha network, as well as our co-sponsors and team staff, have expressed how pleased they are at our news. It seems that most people welcome the drama that this will bring to the MotoGP championship as a whole, and also the anticipation of the challenge of us achieving our goal with Valentino.
2. Is it true that Yamaha had a contract with Valentino for some time before the announcement?
We had only worked on the basis for a contract before the Valencia GP. It was only after Valentino's and Honda's joint announcement in Valencia that we could really tie down all the details to conclude an Agreement.
3. Can you tell us how much Yamaha is paying Valentino?
We never release details of our riders' salaries. His salary is based upon his worth as a rider.
4. What changes have been made within Yamaha's structure to accommodate Valentino's arrival?
The only specific changes we have made for Valentino's arrival are those made to his own technical support staff within our team. We are at the same time, very busy to restructure and improve every section of our MotoGP operations and further details will be made known when our plans are complete.
5. Valentino has stated that he wanted a new challenge, are you worried that if he wins the World Championship with Yamaha within the two years of his contract he will leave to find another new challenge?
Our goal is for him to win the World Championship with Yamaha. If that happens we shall, of course, be extremely happy! Of course we would love Valentino to remain a Yamaha rider for a while to come, but at the moment we'll take one step at a time. It seems inappropriate to talk about when he'll leave when he hasn't even arrived yet!
6. What will the sponsor set-up be for 2004?
Both Yamaha teams in the MotoGP world championship will continue to have Altadis as the principal sponsor, with the Fortuna and Gauloises brands. The colours of the two teams might change to satisfy their marketing needs. At this stage we can't say more than that.
7. Will Alex Barros stay in the Tech 3 team?
Alex Barros has an existing contract with Altadis for 2004 and is expected to stay in the Tech 3 squad. As far as we know he will be in the line-up for 2004.
8. Will Marco Melandri receive the same support that he had in the factory team?
The Tech 3 team has a good record of working with young riders and we feel that Marco will be well looked after in the Tech 3 team. He certainly will not suffer from a lack of support from Yamaha either. Marco had a difficult first year in the championship through injury but proved at times that he will be very good in MotoGP. Marco has a big future ahead of him and Yamaha will give him all the support he needs.
Q&A with Davide Brivio, Team Director of Yamaha's factory team
1. With Valentino joining your team, you will obviously need to make changes. Who from his Honda team will Valentino bring with him?
Jeremy Burgess will come to Yamaha as Valentino's crew chief, accompanied by Alex Briggs, Bernard Ansiau, and Gary Coleman, three of his existing mechanics. They will work with Brent Stephens, one of our own mechanics, and Matteo Flamigni our data acquisition technician.
2. Is it true that you `let some of your team members go' before the Valencia GP to make way for the new crew?
It is true that we have not renewed a number of staff agreements that expired at the end of 2003. We informed a number of our team staff even before Valencia that we could not guarantee their positions for next year due to the likelihood that we could sign Valentino and may need to make changes to the technical support staff. We have now informed those concerned that we will not be able to renew their contracts. It is always difficult to lose staff, especially when as in this case they have all been extremely good at their jobs. Unfortunately that is very much the nature of working in this sport that major changes can take place on a yearly basis.
3. Was it Valentino's request that members of his crew come with him?
It was a mutual decision between Valentino and Yamaha - in order to create the best possible working environment for Valentino when he comes to Yamaha, we have made some adjustments to the existing team. Valentino has an excellent working relationship with some of his present crew, and in order for him to feel as comfortable as possible and to integrate him as smoothly as possible into the all-new Yamaha set-up we have built a team around him that includes some of his 2003 staff. The final support crew will be a mix of existing Yamaha technical staff with some members of Valentino's 2003 crew.
4. Is it true that Team Manager Geoff Crust will not work for the team next year?
Geoff has been a very valuable part of our set up for a number of years in his role as team manager for the Yamaha factory team. It is true that he will not continue that role within the team for 2004. The basic reason is that we shall change our working system and we need the team management staff to be based permanently in Italy at the team headquarters. Geoff has always been based in the UK and it would not have been practical for him to make the move. Geoff and Yamaha are discussing future options.
5. Is it now Yamaha's aim to win the World Championship with Valentino in 2004?
Of course when you start any new season the dream is to be able to challenge to win the championship but I think that 2004 will be a year for Valentino to establish a good working relationship, to clarify where we need to go with the M1 development, and hopefully in that process we will be able to challenge for individual race wins and to prepare the base for the future. Our 2005 target is certainly to go for the World Championship with Valentino. Carlos is of course more used to the M1 and can be at his maximum from the beginning of the season.
6. Does it worry you that if Valentino wins with this bike, people will say it's just because of the rider, not the bike?
I think that if we win races next year people will recognise that it is because we have made a huge effort and that the package we have put together is working.
7. If Valentino cannot win with the M1, are you worried that it will be negative for Yamaha?
It is true that in some senses we are taking a risk. With Valentino riding our bike we can make no excuses if we are off the pace. However, we are ready to accept that challenge and we have every confidence that we can deliver a good package next year.
8. In the past Yamaha has had a policy of not having a clear number one rider. Is this still the case?
It is fair to say that our focus next year will be on Valentino but we do not think that this will disadvantage the other Yamaha riders. We are expecting to work closely with Valentino and Carlos to adapt the bike to their individual needs. All in all Yamaha has a very strong line up next year and I think having Valentino as the lead rider will be good for everyone.
9. Have there been any developments on when Valentino will be able to test the M1 for the first time?
Valentino's contract with Honda will cease on 31st December 2003. We have approached Honda to see whether they would be willing to free Valentino early in order for him to take place in our test in Malaysia on the 28/29/30 November. I thought they would accept since it's fairly normal for factories to release riders from their contracts early to test with a new manufacturer. Unfortunately they refused us permission but that's just the way it goes. We will go ahead with our November test with Carlos Checa and our Japanese test riders. And as it stands Valentino will test on the 20th January, also at Sepang in Malaysia.
Q&A with Masao Furusawa, General Manager of Yamaha Motor Company's Technology Development Division, relating to YMC engineering & technical issues
1. You have been in charge of Motorsports in Japan since June. How are you finding it?
Firstly, very busy! Especially since recent negotiations began with Valentino Rossi! I am very much enjoying being involved in MotoGP and am feeling very enthusiastic about the year ahead. We have a number of new staff in Japan and everyone is highly motivated.
2. What technical developments have you already put in place ahead of Valentino's arrival?
Our engineers are busy to improve and upgrade every part of the M1 to be ready for the 2004 season. We have already tested new prototype chassis in Valencia and a revised engine is currently being completed in Japan (based upon Yamaha's chosen inline-four concept). We will use an extensive winter test program to further develop the bike and to adapt it to match Valentino's and our other riders' needs.
3. When do you hope Valentino might be able to win for the first time on the M1?
We've recently made a lot of changes in our motorsport organisation and we feel confident that we will be able to produce the right package. We can't make any guarantees and we know it's not going to be easy but we're working as hard as possible to make sure the package is fully capable to get the results we desire. It is certainly our aim to put him in a position to challenge for race wins from the first race of the championship in April.
4. Valentino cannot test with the M1 until the testing ban ends in January. What process will you have to go through to adapt the bike to suit his needs, and do you feel you have enough time to do this before the first race?
During this season we've learned a lot about what is good and what is not so good for the current M1 bike, verifying with engineering analysis from our measured data. Some of that data will be put into a computer simulation to further develop the bike until Valentino becomes available in January. Of course more time would be welcome but I believe the M1 can easily be adapted to suit his needs, even with a limited time frame during a race weekend. The M1 is a bike that can be adjusted to each rider's preference with its adjustable steering position, adjustable pivot location for the rear arm, etc.
5. How has the news of Valentino's arrival been received in Japan and within Yamaha?
Everyone in Japan is very interested in Valentino Rossi and in MotoGP. Many newspapers are writing about how good the MotoGP championship will be in 2004. In Yamaha head office the staff are really excited and looking forward to the new challenge. It seems they can't wait for the season to start!