EXCLUSIVE Edwards: New Yamaha 'like a 990'
1 January 1901
Colin Edwards claims he hardly needed to touch the 'awesome' new Yamaha YZR-M1 on his way to fourth position at the Sepang test - during his debut on a bike that feels like a 990 - and has cracked the 'secret' of using Bridgestone tyres.
The Tech 3 star was seventh fastest out of the 19 riders during the first two days in Malaysia, when he lowered his best lap from 2min 3.254sec to 2min 2.241sec, then jumped forward to fourth on the final day with a 2min 1.413secs.
That placed the Texan just 0.370sec behind Ducati's Casey Stoner and only 0.276sec from the lead Yamaha of Valentino Rossi.
“Yamaha knew how to make the bike better, especially with the Bridgestones - because of Valentino using them last year - and that was the key thing,” explained Edwards, during an exclusive interview with Crash.net. “The bike is a little bit different from what I ended on last year but it's working awesome.
“We just showed up here, and sh*t, the first day we never even touched it; not a click, not a spring! Then on day two we tinkered around a little, but even after three days we're still more or less on the same setting. Just fine tuning - and it's working.”
Edwards believes that reigning six time MotoGP world champion Rossi deserves the credit for such an instantly effective machine.
“I think Valentino had, and has had, full lead development with this bike and whatever he asks for from Yamaha, he gets,” said the #5. “The most important thing for me is that, what he asked for is what I would have asked for.”
The double World Superbike champion then revealed that the biggest progress has been in terms of power delivery, with Yamaha 'plugging the holes' in the 800cc M1s powerband so that it now acts more like a 990.
“We needed some more grunt off the corners,” stated Colin. “We were pretty much at the limit as far as trying to carry maximum amount of corner speed to keep the RPMs where you want it, so you could have some power exiting the corner.
“It was really hard to dice with somebody last year because if they screwed your line up you dropped out of the powerband. So Yamaha have really worked a lot on that - bottom and mid-range - and now you can almost make a little mistake, square it off and you have power.”
Like the 990s were?
“That's exactly what I'm talking about,” he replied. “It's like instead of worrying so much about top speed, top speed, top speed - now we have the top speed - so they've worked on filling in some of the holes [in the powerband].”
Success in MotoGP 2009 will be dependent on extracting the maximum performance from the new limited range of Bridgestone rubber, available to all under the new single tyre rule.
Tech 3 was the only two-rider team still using Michelin tyres by the end of 2008 and, having missed the Valencia post race test, Edwards and Toseland arrived at Sepang with less Bridgestone experience than even the three class rookies - having only two days at Jerez in late November under their belts.
Edwards had left Jerez eighth fastest, 1.2sec from the top, and knew that the 'Michelin style' had to go. After some careful analysis and a little experimentation at Sepang, the 34-year-old says he was able to identify the 'secret' Bridgestone technique.
“Hell I'd been on Michelin for ten or eleven years, so when I went to Jerez I was still riding it like I was on Michelins, and it didn't work,” confirmed Colin. “There's a definite trick, a little secret, to riding the Bridgestones, to pull all the potential out of them. There's a technique to doing it - and I want to keep that to myself!”
So how did you find it?
“I found it on my own,” he replied. “Basically from watching the Bridgestones on track; I know what they can get away with and what they can do. Then, having found out at Jerez that the Michelin technique wouldn't work, I started putting all the information together and experimenting a little.
“Once you get it, you get it. You're done,” he revealed. “But I'd still say there is another 3-4% I can pull out of the Bridgestones, but finding the trick was the main thing.”
Then one last hint: “I'm a front end guy. I've always been a front end guy and the front plays an important role with the Bridgestones. You really need to figure it out.”
Edwards also agreed that the Bridgestone front is very good “which is playing into my hands, absolutely, I'm liking that!”
Edwards certainly seemed to find something at Sepang, where he finished the test as the fastest of the new Bridgestone riders. Fiat Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo was the next best ex-Michelin rider, half a second slower than Edwards on the same machine, while Toseland's test was effectively written off after a huge opening day fall.
A former Aprilia, Honda Gresini and factory Yamaha rider, Edwards will be starting his seventh MotoGP season in 2009.
Since joining the premier-class Edwards has taken ten podiums finishes - two of them with Tech 3 last season - but, in contrast to his 31 WSBK victories, is still searching for a debut win.
Having made way for Lorenzo at the factory team, 2008 began strongly for Edwards, with both podiums and five front row starts from the first ten rounds. Those results put Edwards fifth in the championship, but the remaining eight races were far harsher and Colin slipped to seventh by the end of the year.
“We got lost a little bit on our settings during the second half of last year. We were trying different things to... well... make the tyres better,” he explained. “If the tyres had been great we probably never would have touched the thing, but we knew we were f***** so we thought we'd at least try and make it work somehow.
“So we got a little lost, but this year we won't,” he insisted. “We'll stay the course; stay with the baseline and just tinker. That's all we should need to do.”