Yamaha Motor Racing Managing Director Lin Jarvis was among the key people responsible for signing Valentino Rossi from Honda at the end of 2003, and has helped oversee Yamaha's extraordinary MotoGP success since.

That includes winning all three MotoGP titles (Riders', Constructors' and Teams') for the past three years, thanks to Rossi and 2010 champion Jorge Lorenzo.

During an exclusive interview at Sepang, Jarvis spoke about the upcoming 2011 season - the first of the post-Rossi Yamaha era - and also briefly commented on the factory's 1000cc plans.

Yamaha has promoted Ben Spies from Tech 3 to take Rossi's place alongside Lorenzo...

Q:
The Hondas have been fastest during these two Sepang tests, but the Yamaha riders look consistently quick on race tyres. Are people underestimating the Yamahas?

Lin Jarvis:
I think the facts, as you see them, don't lie. The Hondas are very quick. Consistently. In the three days at this test and in the first test here they have been quickest. So I would say the opposite: Don't underestimate the Hondas.

I think we will be competitive. It depends on each track. At the twisty tracks we hope we will have an advantage, but tracks where acceleration is the key - this is the area we really have to work on.

This is where our riders are saying the Honda riders are stronger, in acceleration through the lower gears.

Q:
How much more performance do you need to find from the engine?

Lin Jarvis:
There are two things with the engine: The actual power you have and the delivery. Delivery can be influenced by many things. The amount of traction you have, the electronic settings etc.

The bottom line is we need more acceleration so that we will not have a disadvantage down the straights and then make use of our strong points in other areas of the track.

Ben and Jorge both have the same request. We're aware of the situation and we are working on it, but as you know we've only got six engines for the full season. Now we are testing, but very soon we have to select our initial two engines to begin the season with. Maybe we can get some upgrades for the later engines.

Also durability is an issue. You can't take any risks with only six engines. Anyway the Hondas are looking very strong and I think they are setting the benchmark at the moment.

Q:
In the last four years, the rider leading the championship by round seven has gone on to win the title. Do you think we will see that sort of championship this year, given that riders like Rossi, Stoner and Spies have changed teams this time?

Lin Jarvis:
I think every single race will be crucial. That's what helped Jorge last year. He was super consistent from day one. He was second in the first race and then started to take off from Mugello, when he was on a roll.

But we should remember that last year Jorge also suffered a broken thumb during the pre-season.

Q:
He missed a test...

Lin Jarvis
Yes, he missed Sepang II completely. Then he started Qatar in reasonable pace and found his fitness and consistency after that. So I think consistency yet again will be the key.

Casey has shown here - as in previous years - that he is blindingly fast. Every rider would probably say that the one with the most pure speed is Casey, but we know from Casey's history that he can be inconsistent.

Last year in Qatar, for example, it looked like he was going to have a runaway victory and he threw it away.

There are seven riders in my opinion that will be competitive this year. The three Hondas [Stoner, Pedrosa, Dovizioso] will be competitive and for sure Ben and Jorge will be competitive. Then you've got Vale, Nicky and Simoncelli in there as well. You can't afford to be struggling because you will easily and quickly be left behind.

But my personal opinion is that it will be a battle for the title between Casey, Jorge and Dani. That's my expectation. I think Vale may need a little bit more time to adjust and get the bike in order. Let's see. Never underestimate Vale, but with the first grand prix only four weeks away he may need a little bit more time.

Q:
How do you see Ben's role in the championship? Certainly by the end of the year he could be a real thorn in the side of the riders you mentioned as title favourites and play a pivotal role in the championship one way or another...

Lin Jarvis:
Yeah for me Ben is, in the nicest possible way, 'The Joker' this year. He has the potential to step up and surprise people. He is very methodical. Very consistent. His two tests here have been quite impressive for us. He's fast.

I think he needs more time to challenge for the championship - but maybe I'm wrong.
All I can say is he's impressing us and he'll be right there. Let's say.

Q:
Looking at the satellite team, how do you see things for Cal Crutchlow and Colin Edwards?

Lin Jarvis:
Colin is almost a kind of 'guarantee'. He's one of the most experienced guys in the paddock. Colin is pretty much predictable: He will be there or thereabouts. If he has an exceptional year like he did in 2009, he could be top five again. That's difficult these days because all the young guns have improved, but he'll definitely be there and he's a very useful reference rider for us.

Q:
Will you be using Colin more this year now Valentino has gone?

Lin Jarvis:
I don't think we'll be using him more, but we will value his input as much as ever. I think where Vale has moved away from Ducati, maybe we lose that input, but Jorge has improved with his feedback to us and Ben is good as well.

I expect that our engineers will focus primarily on a shared input from Ben and Jorge. I think that the team operating as a more close-knit unit will mean we see more shared conversations, input, discussions, debriefs - and that will hopefully benefit Yamaha.

But Colin is always a really good benchmark on anything, and he's especially good on tyres.

For Cal, let's see what he can do. The important thing is not to rush himself. I always think back to Jorge's first year in MotoGP - and I don't want to compare one rider with another - but I just want to say that it took Jorge some quite serious learning experiences before he improved and stepped up.

I don't know what Cal's future potential is, but it's very important that he gives himself enough time. He had a couple of incidents here. He needs to not put pressure on himself, enjoy the experience, learn, get up to speed and then he can make it into the top ten.

Q:
And he has a two-year deal...

Lin Jarvis:
So yeah there is no immediate pressure on him. And it's good to have a UK rider on board. I think it's very important for TV. He's also a young guy and a Yamaha guy. So let's see what he can do.

Q:
Ben is already saying he's looking forward to the 1000cc bikes in 2012. He thinks they will suit his style more. Where is Yamaha with its 1000cc project at the moment?

Lin Jarvis:
Yeah... To be honest I don't really want to say anything about where we are, because I think now is not really the time to talk about it. But we are on schedule. The first test, where the factory riders will test the bike on a grand prix track, will be after the Mugello grand prix [July 3]. It should be very interesting.

As far as riding style. Jorge put it quite nicely. He said 'At the end of the day it's a bike with an engine, a chassis, two wheels and handlebars. I think a rider that can ride a 250 well can ride a MotoGP. I think a rider that can ride an 800 can ride a 1000'.

So that's Jorge's opinion, but on the other hand Ben's opinion is 'I have more experience with a bigger bike'. So fair enough. Let's see.

I've no idea how the characteristics of the bike will be, but in theory there will be more brute power, so you will probably have to brake earlier and pick the bike up earlier. A little more like going back to the 990cc era, but not exactly the same because the electronics and tyres have changed completely since then.

Q:
Will you keep the same team format for next year, with one factory team and one satellite team run by Tech 3?

Lin Jarvis:
Our intention and target is to continue with four bikes on the grid and also to continue with Tech 3. We have a super-strong relationship with them. I see no reason why we should change that and I think Herve [Poncharal] has the intention to continue as well. So I could imagine we'll run into 2012 with a similar set-up.

Q:
Last question. It's the 50 anniversary of Yamaha's involvement in grand prix racing this year, and you'll be running the corporate blue livery without a title sponsor. Not having a title sponsor gives you quite a lot of opportunities to play around with the colours, so will be see things like different liveries throughout the season, and perhaps different sponsors for different events?

Lin Jarvis:
I could give you a very Japanese answer. Whenever you ask a difficult question to one of my Japanese colleagues, the answer you always get is 'hmmm.... maybe'. So it's an official 'maybe!'

Q:
Is that a 'maybe' for the colours or the sponsors?

Lin Jarvis:
Maybe [laughs]!

What I can tell you is that it is an important year for us and the unfortunate absence of a title sponsor, at the moment, in another way is an opportunity for us. It gives us the chance to run corporate colours in an important year. It gives us the flexibility to be creative, to change certain things - elements, colours - whenever we want. So you will definitely see some... occasions, when the bike will not be blue.

Q:
When might the first of those occasions be?

Lin Jarvis:
I can't tell you. I think when we are ready we will make some announcements. We're organising a series of various things. Among those things will be classic parades of our old riders and their championship bikes.

We will have different things in different zones of the world. Some things may be in America, some in Europe, some in Asia. We have a season of activities and as soon as we have something we can tell you, you'll be the first to know.

End of interview.

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