By Peter McLaren
Yamaha caught some by surprise when its 2008 YZR-M1 appeared with the option of a pneumatic-valve engine at Sepang - but at present that development is only available to the factory Fiat team of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo.
Nevertheless, that doesn't mean that satellite Tech 3 riders Colin Edwards and James Toseland have been left using last year's engine; a new version of the 'standard' spring-valve unit has also been developed for the '08 bike.
"The pneumatic engine is only, so far, available to the factory team," Tech 3 team principal Herve Poncharal told Crash.net
. "We have the '08 bike with what you might call a traditional engine, but our engine is not the same as last year; it is a much better engine.
"So, Yamaha has developed the traditional engine and are also working on the pneumatic engine, on the side. Once the pneumatic engine is a clear plus, in terms of performance and reliability, then it will be used in the race.
"If the pneumatic engine is a plus, which it looks like being - from what we have been told - then the factory is planning to support all four riders with it, but we don't know exactly when that will be. You also have some logistical problems such as spare parts.
"So at the moment we are fully focussed on getting the best out of our current '08 package, which is a real improvement - especially in the engine department - compared with what we had last year," Herve concluded.
Edwards left the Sepang test in fourth place - but with the second fastest race-tyre lap time, behind only Ducati's Casey Stoner - while MotoGP rookie Toseland was eighth quickest.
Colin confirmed to Crash.net
that he expects to start the new racing season with the 'standard' 2008 engine, but hopes to get hold of the pneumatic-valve unit soon after.
"Rumour has it we'll maybe get the [pneumatic-valve engine] a couple of races in," said the Texan. "Obviously I'd like it tomorrow, but they've got the factory team to supply first. Whenever we can get it, we'll get it."