The collaboration between Yamaha Motor Europe and the Rinaldi Group has yielded an unprecedented eight world championships in the past ten years and once again in 2009 the Yamaha Factory squad - now with the slightly different name of Yamaha Monster Energy Motocross Team - enter the MX1 GP series as reigning champions.

Leading up to the Italian crew's home grand prix and the first round of fifteen on the 2009 schedule at Faenza, scene of emotional title-winning scenes with David Philippaerts on the YZ450FM six months ago, team owner Michele Rinaldi gives his views on the rapidly approaching new campaign and Yamaha's motocross perspective.

In 1984 Rinaldi became the first Italian to win a Motocross World Championship and has accumulated many more crowns after unbuckling his race boots in team management. He has also exerted a sizeable influence over the sport as director of YRRD (Yamaha Rinaldi Research and Development); the work of his technical department helping many riders to podium success.

Q:
Michele, Faenza hosts the first grand prix and it seems like only a few months ago since the victory celebrations were going on there. How has the winter period been for the team?

MR:
The winter period has gone very well and we are totally on schedule in terms of preparations for both the team and the riders. We had the problem with Josh and his foot in 2008 but thankfully, so far, everything has been good.

Q:
Looking back at Faenza 2008, would you say that it ranks as a special memory in your lengthy career simply because of the place, the people and because it was David's first year with the team?

MR:
Yes, it was special. Honestly I thought it would have been more likely that we would have won the championship with Josh in 2008 but David rode incredibly well and fully deserved every piece of success and credit. The fact that he was new to the team made the result even more exceptional and this was a great gift to me.

Q:
2008 was a tense championship because David held a small lead for almost the whole year. It was a hard title to win wasn't it?

MR:
The championship was tight and the lead was never big enough to relax or give a little bit of safety. What is positive about that is the final result feels more valuable and brings more glory to both the rider and the team.

Q:
2008 was a hard season for Josh. Do you think we will see him return to the level of 2007 this year?

MR:
I am a big fan of Josh and I believe he can do very well in 2009 but it is only natural that some of the other riders have learned and become stronger since two years ago and this will present both Josh and us a challenge for reaching the title.

Q:
The MX1 class offered some great entertainment in 2008, do you think it will be a similar story in 2009 or will there be only 3-4 true title contenders?

MR:
I think we will see even more competitors going for the championship, certainly for GP wins each week. I expect a great competition in the MX1-GP class this season.

Q:
Are there any changes to the team structure and set-up for 2009?
MR: No, we have kept the same team and riders for 2009 as we were happy with how everything worked last year. We have a new race truck, which is a big change for us. I was a bit sad to see the old one go because it had been there for eight world championships and been a big part of our success with Yamaha.

Q:
How is the YZ450FM different in 2009?

MR:
Mainly we have worked on the engine to find more power at the middle and the top of the band while keeping the same level of control. So far we are very happy with the result but we still don't know what progress the competition has made for 2009. We have also updated the front and rear suspension with new 2009 parts from KYB.

Q:
As with other manufacturers do you think it will be long before Yamaha start to introduce fuel-injection on the YZ450F?

MR:
I can just say that our YZ450FM carburettor works extremely efficiently and when Yamaha bring a new model onto the market I am completely sure it will perform even better.

Q:
The World Championship now has 15 rounds including 1 race overseas. Do you think this is a fair calendar for the current difficult times affecting motorsport and motocross?

MR:
As you can imagine our sport, like many other activities, is likely to suffer a lot financially in 2009 and in my opinion it might be another two years before things get better. The fact that we pay all the overseas costs and the promoter has introduced a new rider's entry fee will not help the teams.

Q:
After many years, races and victories, do you still get excited before the start of a new season?

MR:
Yes, absolutely, because I have great riders, staff and machinery and all of it makes me proud that I am the man responsible for this effort.

 

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