Yamaha is now entering the 2003 season with its latest generation YZR-M1, which will make its competitive debut at the opening round of the 2003 championship in Suzuka, Japan, April 6.

Although the newest incarnation uses a similar 990cc inline-four four-stroke five valve powerplant to that of last season it now features electronically controlled fuel injection, to improve the linearity of the power delivery, throttle connection to the rear wheel, and fuel consumption.

This improved throttle connection will prove advantageous in Suzuka where the rider is constantly attempting to get the power down while exploring the limits of the rear tyre's side grip. Drive is important, but so is control on a circuit where one corner influences the rider's exit speed on the next.

The correct combination of rear spring weight, damping and rear shock suspension linkage ratios are a crucial factor in providing good drive and times at Suzuka, while also ensuring the ability to hold a tight line in preparation for the next series of linked turn.

This will be supported by the M1's new cylinder/crankcase layout, which, combined with the re-positioning within the chassis, has provided not only improved rear wheel traction under power but also front-end traction. The front-end traction will be provided by the dynamic weight transfer characteristics of the new chassis design - offering increased braking stability along with a neutral turning characteristic.

Due to the flowing nature of the Suzuka circuit this improved front-end performance will be a crucial advantage, and something Yamaha will aim to exploit with a set-up to suit. Since there is minimal hard braking taking place - only twice per lap - riders are likely to opt for a slightly plusher front-end for improved front-end feel and reduced understeer while trailing the throttle through the first series of linked bends.

This may be adjusted slightly for the new circuit modifications, which have taken place entering the final chicane, but the overall effect are expected to be minimal on chassis set-up. Meanwhile lap times likely to be reduced by around one second.

The inline four-cylinder engine itself is all-new, when compared to that used in the final race of 2002. In addition to the modified crankcase it features an altered cylinder head angle and crankshaft, while boasting a more compact design and a 1kg weight saving. All this is achieved with the added advantage of a top end power increase and more linear torque/power curve.

But the power race is ongoing, and since the initial pre-season tests Yamaha's M1 powerplant will feature a further midrange and top-end power increase with the introduction of new engine internal components and a freer breathing exhaust system for riders Carlos Checa, of the Fortuna Yamaha Team, and Alex Barros, of Gauloises Yamaha Team.

These two riders will also benefit from Yamaha's YZR-M1's improved aerodynamic package, developed in both wind tunnel and simulation tests. In addition to a noticeable gain on the higher speed straights this new fairing package also offers a stronger link to the company's R series production line-up.

The result is a much narrower fairing design, which still offers similar rider protection, while reducing overall drag. The remaining three Yamaha riders - Marco Melandri (Fortuna Yamaha), Olivier Jacque (Gauloises Yamaha) and Shinya Nakano (d'Antin Yamaha Team) - will have access to these latest components as soon as the production lead time allows.

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