MotoGP » 19 August 2010
Masao Furusawa feature - Part 1.
Furusawa studied at the Kyushu Institute of Technology, where he graduated in 1973 and then immediately joined Yamaha. Soon after, Furusawa began research into what would become some of his technical specialities.
"After I graduated from university I immediately jumped into Yamaha Motors in order to design new bike engines," he said. "But since I faced on a lot of problems about the engine I started to study about vibration and noise. Then I expanded my career to signal analysis, dynamic analysis, and computer software.
"Meanwhile I did a lot of trouble shooting and consulting for many products for Yamaha Motors and also outside of the company. Then I designed a new motorcycle, snowmobile and ATV."
Furusawa's eventual move to head of the struggling Yamaha MotoGP project seemed to come as something of a surprise.
"In 2003 I was suddenly in charge of the MotoGP project because of no-one to solve the problem of no titles in the premier class of road racing for Yamaha in over 10 years," he said.
At the time of Furusawa's arrival in 2003, Yamaha had not won the 500cc/MotoGP World Championship since Wayne Rainey in 1992 and had just lost its star rider Max Biaggi, who had taken the early (disappointing) version of the M1 to two race wins in 2002.
Yamaha didn't win a single race during 2003, and claimed only one podium finish, but big changes - both in public and behind the scenes - were being put in place by Furusawa for 2004.
"When I started MotoGP in 2003, I came up with the cross plane crankshaft and new electronic control to catch up the competitors," said Furusawa. "After that I organised the people, trained engineers, invited the best rider to the team, prepared the budget, negotiated with a strong sponsor and flighted with an enemy inside of Yamaha Motors."
Furusawa's best known innovation in the MotoGP world is the cross plane crankshaft (big bang) engine, which even the causal fan could hear was significantly different to the even-firing 'screamer' engines used by rival manufacturers in 2004.
In brief, the design provides a much clearer connection between rider, engine and rear wheel. Furusawa is proud of both making the concept successful and being able to explain how and why it works.
”The 90° crank engine is my baby," he said. "The cross plane crankshaft was already a known idea, but no one knew its true value. I am the first person who showed people how and why it works well and described its theoretical background on paper. The YZR-M1 is the first actual vehicle with this crankshaft and the YZF-R1 is the first production bike with it in the world."
And what are his personal strengths as an engineer?
Click on relevant pic to enlarge
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