Keith Huewen: 'Should Yamaha change to a V4 engine?'

Yamaha’s Portimao test performance and speculation over whether the factory should join its rivals with a V4 engine were among the topics on this week’s MotoGP podcast featuring Keith Huewen.
Fabio Quartararo, Portimao MotoGP test, 12 March
Fabio Quartararo, Portimao MotoGP test, 12 March

Suzuki’s exit leaves Yamaha as the only manufacturer with an Inline4 engine configuration and a question from a listener asked if they should change to a V4?

“The Inline4 has done them well over a lot of years,” replied former grand prix rider and British champion Keith Huewen.

“They're the only ones left with it now, after Suzuki bailed. But Suzuki were getting the kind of power they wanted out of their bike and now that Yamaha have got a few changes in their structure behind the scenes, perhaps Yamaha will do some catching up.

“I still go back to the fact there is not enough testing time in the winter for these factories to make major changes and get things right in time to go racing. But very soon the rules will need to be agreed for the next five-year cycle between the manufacturers and Dorna, which starts in 2027.

“If Yamaha is going to change its tradition, if you like, with the engine, that would be the time to do it.”’s MotoGP editor Pete McLaren added: “Yamaha have got so much knowledge of the Inline engine and it's not just as simple as building a V4 and everything will be fine.

“It would be a huge decision to change and Yamaha would probably have to develop a parallel project, a new V4 alongside the Inline4, and then switch over to the V4 if and when it performed better. But that's a massive amount of investment.

“So I think it makes sense for various reasons for them to probably stick with the engine configuration that they know best. They’ve brought in outside help in the form of Luca Marmorini to produce more power this year and it seems to have worked.

“They're not going to be blasting past the Ducatis but they’re certainly a lot closer. Quartararo wanted enough top speed to fight and it looks like he’s got that. We’ll only find out for sure at the first race. But as Keith said, the Suzuki Inline engine had decent top speed, and there's no reason why the Yamaha can’t as well.”

Fabio Quartararo, Portimao MotoGP test, 12 March
Fabio Quartararo, Portimao MotoGP test, 12 March

Quartararo felt ‘at one’ with the Yamaha in Portimao

After a disappointing end to the Valencia and Sepang tests, Fabio Quartararo and Yamaha looked to have made a breakthrough as the former champion surged up the timesheets to third on the final day of the pre-season.

“Quartararo said he felt ‘at one’ with the bike again, which will be words that worry his rivals,” McLaren said. “But he got that step by going backwards and taking off some of the 2023 modifications. It sounds like he basically mixed last year’s aero and chassis, with some old settings, and the new engine.

“He explained that because Yamaha really didn't change much over the previous three years, it’s almost like they’ve tried to introduce all of the developments that should have come along incrementally during that time, in one go this winter. It was just a bit much at once and upset things a little. He was fighting with the bike and had problems with new rear tyres.

“So by stepping back a bit and combining some of what they know works with the new more powerful engine, in Quartararo’s words, he made a ‘massive step’.

“On the other hand, Franco Morbidelli was still at the bottom of the timesheets, and still trying new aero parts. There’s a big decision there now because he's got to homologate a fairing at round one, so does he go with Quartararo on the old fairing, which he didn’t seem to try, or with one of the new fairings?”

Huewen said: “It looks to me like there’s a contrast in temperament at Yamaha at the moment. Quartararo is quite excitable, you see all the emotion, up and down. While Morbidelli hasn't really been 100% ‘Franco Morbidelli’ for some time.

“It's good to hear Quartararo say he's happy and comfortable on it, but if it doesn't quite work that way at the next round, then maybe we'll see a slightly different Quartararo.

“I think Portimao on an Inline4 should be quite good fun, but I’d still be extremely worried to hear Pecco Bagnaia say he’s 100% ready for this season after he fought back from 91 points down last year…”

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