Words: Jehan Adil Darukhanawala
After months of lull and boredom, finally we have some relief as Yamaha steps up to become the first manufacturer to showcase their challenger for the 2018 MotoGP season. At a gala event days prior to the first pre-season testing at Sepang, Yamaha hopes that their latest iteration of the YZR-M1 will eradicate the electronic woes that plagued their 2017 motorcycle.
Yamahas were extremely strong during the first half of the 2017 season racking up wins in Qatar, Argentina, France and Netherlands. The team’s progression took a massive hit thereon as they struggled to keep up with the Honda and Ducati. The major issue with the motorcycle being the electronics affecting the way the bike rode and causing an ill effect on tyre wear. They had a tough time during the latter half of the races and losing wins on the last couple of laps.
Valentino Rossi did come out and confirmed that the current bike was developed and built around the 2016 YZR-M1 which performed better than its successor. Yamaha has not divulged any technical changes brought on to the 2018 contender but the end of season tests in Valencia and Sepang have given them a sound direction for developing the bike for the forthcoming season and hope to keep those glitches at bay in 2018.
Visually there are minor changes on the bodywork of the M1 with the most distinct change being the livery. The Movistar logo underwent a change from green to light blue. But to suit the Yamaha’s traditional blue colour, it will appear in pure white. The white stripes spanning the lengths of the 2017 bike are now grey in colour.
Another big news coming from the event was that Maverick Vinales has signed a contract extension for a furthermore of two years with Movistar Yamaha, enabling him to ride with the factory outfit until 2020. Vinales was one of the twelve riders who were running out of their contracts this season and this will help him keep his mind at ease and focused on the track in 2018.
The testing begins in Sepang on January 28-30 and they will then head over to Buriram, as the track will host its first race in 2018. The final test will take place a week prior to the first race of the year in Qatar which is set to take place on March 18.