The Marlboro Yamaha Team's challenge for the 2001 500 World Championship is to be further reinforced with the arrival of a new team director.
Hiroya Atsumi, who first worked in GP racing during the early eighties and currently heads YZR500 engine development, will strengthen the factory-owned outfit's technical resources, giving Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa a best-ever shot at winning bike racing's premier crown.
"After reviewing the Marlboro Yamaha Team's past two seasons, we decided we should simplify the way the team works and that's why we have appointed Atsumi-san to this new position," said Shuji Sakurada, Yamaha YZR500 project leader. "Atsumi is very experienced in machine development and as a senior member of staff he will be able to speed communications between team and factory, getting the riders what they want as quickly as possible. He has worked for Yamaha for a long time, 20 years in fact, and I really trust him."
Atsumi joined the factory's roadracing department in 1980 and worked his first GP season in 1981, as mechanic to factory Yamaha rider Barry Sheene. Over the following years he worked with several other Yamaha GP legends, including Kenny Roberts, Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey and Tadahiko Taira. In 1990 he returned to Japan to become development chief for the All-Japan Championship F3 engine and in '95 he switched back to two-strokes, working as YZR500 engine development chief.
"I am very honoured to take this new responsibility for Yamaha," said Atsumi. "And I am also very excited about returning to the Grand Prix world. The Marlboro Yamaha Team gets stronger all the time and we are determined to win next year's World Championship."
Next year will be a very special season. Yamaha will field more YZR500 riders than ever before, for what will be the final year of two-stroke dominated racing, with four-strokes joining the fun from 2002.
"It will be a very important and very exciting year," added Sakurada. "We will be extremely busy, trying to win the title with our 500 two-stroke, while also developing our new four-stroke GP bike."
The new appointment does not affect the responsibilities of Lin Jarvis, managing director of Yamaha Motor Racing B.V., who will continue to look after the team's strategic planning and contractual and financial affairs, or those of team manager Geoff Crust, who remains responsible for day-to-day running of the Amsterdam-based squad.