I had prepared lots of combinations for him to try: Four-valve system, five-valve system, crossplane, single plane. And he pointed to the crossplane crankshaft bike with four-valve.
Before, everybody was so scared to look at a new engine, because for a long time Yamaha had been successful with the five-valve. People said 'How can you throw away the five-valve system?'
I said 'It is a very interesting system. It's lots of fun for a production bike, but the purpose of racing is not fun. Fun is ok, but the first thing we have to do is win. The problem we have had is Yamaha is losing the game for over ten years. So we have to change.'
So the four-valve system and crossplane crankshaft was the best, but it was also a brand new engine design, which is why the power was so slow. But despite that, Valentino still pointed to that engine and said 'this is it'.
Is that a lesson you want people at Yamaha to remember, that something might not necessarily produce the best numbers on a design simulation, but the most important thing to remember is the human connection with the machine?
Right. And you need to remember that Valentino was kind of like a King. We all huddled around him when he came in after riding to listen to what he had to say - would he give 'thumbs up' or 'thumbs down' to our ideas?
So when Valentino gave the 'thumbs up' for four-valve and crossplane crankshaft everybody knew it was the way forward and worked in the same direction. We didn't have much time. Only two months to the race in South Africa. So I really owe a big thanks to Valentino for making a clear and correct choice.
I had showed some results and evidence [to support the engine change] with the prototype running on the test track, but maybe only 50 percent of people thought 'ok I will follow you'. The other 50 percent still thought 'that is not the reality on the race track'.
But after Valentino said 'yes', everybody knew it was the right thing and we were able to get a lot of power from people all working as a team. That is one reason why we have had such good results.
Maybe if Valentino hadn't come to Yamaha, I would have been [jokes about a noose around his neck!].
On that note, Valentino is not at Yamaha any more. He has gone to Ducati. It looks like they are also making a lot of changes for his first year.