24 November 2014
Yamaha: We have two riders that can beat MotoGP champion Marquez
“We are not in shortage of riders that can beat Marc Marquez” - Yamaha.
Yamaha does not need to scour the Moto2 and Moto3 classes for a future star to defeat Honda's 21-year-old double MotoGP champion Marc Marquez.
Instead, Yamaha Racing managing director Lin Jarvis explained, the focus remains on its 'proven' Marquez-beating line-up of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, with Pol Espargaro 'waiting in the wings'.
Honda recently penned a long-term deal with Moto3 runner-up Jack Miller (19) while also promoting Scott Redding (21) to a Factory class bike. Suzuki has snapped up rookie Moto2 race winner Maverick Vinales (19) on a multi-year contract, but Yamaha elected not to change any riders for 2015.
Rossi (35) and Lorenzo (27) are confirmed at the official Movistar Yamaha team for at least the next two seasons, with Espargaro (23) and Bradley Smith (23) staying together at the satellite Tech 3 team for 2015.
“We already have two, so we are not in shortage of riders that can beat Marc. I think that has been proven in some of the last few races," Jarvis said, when asked about Yamaha's strategy for future riders to beat Marquez. "Marc has dominated the first half of the season, but it is been proven that Marc is not unbeatable.
“Jorge has now been with us for seven years and Valentino goes even further back with us, but we still believe that the two riders we have now are the riders that we need to be competitive and challenge for the championship in the next two years.”
Seven time champion Rossi and double title winner Lorenzo finished second and third to Marquez in this year's world championship. Each won two races, but the Repsol Honda star's run of ten straight victories ended any title opposition from the Yamahas.
“The beginning of the year was difficult for us for various reasons, but it is better to finish strong, than start strong and finish weak,” Jarvis added. “The second half of the year has been very good indeed. Jorge has been phenomenal, back in the zone. Valentino has been exceptional all year long and to be second and third is not ideal, but it's not bad. We still see the season in its entirety as positive for us.”
Looking to 2015, Jarvis said that a strong start from the opening official test at Sepang in February will be essential.
“We are really happy that for the next two years we have Jorge and Vale signed up. That's really exciting. We need to maintain the momentum into next season because you cannot afford to let up, especially when you have someone as strong as Marc at the moment,” he explained.
“You have got to hit the ground running at the very first test and then the very first grand prix. It's going to be an incredible season next year in my opinion and hopefully there will be a blue bike on the top step at the end.”
Yamaha's post-Rossi/Lorenzo succession plans are so far limited to Espargaro, who replaced Marquez as Moto2 champion before stepping up to MotoGP this season. While Marquez shot straight to title glory at the factory Honda team in his rookie campaign, Espargaro took the satellite M1 to a solid, if unspectacular, sixth in the standings.
“Pol has not been as quick in his rookie year as shall we say Marc Marquez, but I think Marc is a phenomenon,” Jarvis said. “Pol has had a good season, sixth in the championship and the best satellite rider. So we have Pol waiting in the wings [to join the Factory team].
“Pol has a contract directly with the factory, as do Jorge and Valentino. So he is a factory rider but we place him in the Tech 3 team. The level of technology and support next year will be the same as we always give to Tech 3, which is a very high level but slightly different to the factory team.
“We have seen in the past in Pol's career that it took him time to learn and make the transition. So he is quick but he needs to improve his consistency and race performance. So this is our current [rider] plan and we will see in the future what happens.
“Suzuki have taken Vinales - he's a really good young candidate as well. We will always be looking at young riders, but we are quite happy with our strategy so far.”
The main question mark in Yamaha's strategy is whether Espargaro, whose contract expires at the end of next year, will re-sign or be tempted to move elsewhere. No Factory Yamaha ride is available until at least 2017 and even then Rossi and Lorenzo are likely to have first call.
Unlike Rossi and Lorenzo, Espargaro is a product of the Moto2 class - which replaced the two-stroke 250GP championship in 2010. The intermediate four-stroke category has spawned a new kind of riding style, with movement at the rear of the bike being used to help corner entry.
“It is something interesting for us to look at, Pol coming up through Moto2 more recently, with Jorge and Val coming up through the more classic  route some years ago,” commented Jarvis. “It is interesting for our engineers to understand. I also think it will be interesting to see how [the Moto2 riding style] works with Michelin tyres.
“But at this moment in time we still have to prepare the main thrust of what we are developing for Jorge and Valentino. When we have a rider that is challenging for the championship and needs those different [riding style] characteristics then we need to be ready.”
While the Factory class Yamaha line-up remains unchanged, there will be two new occupants of the Open class M1s run by the Forward team - Stefan Bradl moving across from Honda and Loris Baz arriving from WSBK.
“I think the bike characteristics of the Yamaha should suit Bradl's riding style, so I think this is something fortuitous for him,” Jarvis said. “I think it could be good. We have to see what these guys do with their Open class bike.
“Obviously our bike has been the most competitive option this year and next year I believe Honda will be a lot closer and probably Ducati. So I think it is going to be more competitive in the Open class, but Stefan is a good rider and he has many years of experience and I think he can be a good team leader.”
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