Yamaha's MotoGP group leader Kouichi Tsuji was bullish in his prediction that either Jorge Lorenzo or Valentino Rossi will finish the 2015 season as world champion.

Having overseen the factory's development programme throughout the winter months, Tsuji revealed Yamaha's team of technicians have been working on small details to close the finite margins that separate the front-runners at so many MotoGP races.

The factory pinpointed weaknesses in braking and 'downshifting' during 2014, areas which rival Honda was quick to exploit, and ahead of the season opener in Qatar on March 21st the Japanese engineer is confident these issues will have been adequately addressed.

"Last year when we finished second the difference to the race winner was within two seconds, eight times. The race is about 120 kilometres so we try to get [these] two seconds as much as possible. With the [2015] bike we did a lot of things. We are trying to find just small things and we try to have two, three seconds more. For sure we're going to have a champion this year. We have a good team with riders, engineers and we'll see."

While main rivals Honda have seamless shifting capability both up and down the gearbox, Rossi and Lorenzo's 2014 gearbox was seamless for upshifts only. Over the winter Yamaha has been hard at work at closing the gap on Honda's superior component.

"We have issues with how to stop the bike as quick as possible. We are working hard and we now concentrate on the downshifting. The programme is getting well. I hope at the start of season we can have some better feeling [going down the gearbox] than last year.
"Last season a weak point was braking and [it needs to change] if we want to beat our competitors. Sometimes if we have good braking we lose some corner speed. Now we try to find good ones to get good braking that doesn't affect speed. We have been programming this so you can see completely different behaviour of the bike."

Tsuji's confidence was at once backed up by team director Massimo Meregalli. The Italian affirmed the Japanese's claims that the belief within the team is stronger when compared with twelve months ago.

"For me I've been in touch with project leader almost daily, the feeling and the spirit now is really good, much stronger than last year. They are really determined. Now we are here they are in Malaysia where tomorrow they start the day to test. This is the right way to start. They will try many different things [and] hopefully they will work.

"I'm really curious to see the feelings of both riders. This will be the first time they ride the completely '15 bike. In Valencia they test but as you can imagine after the last race is very difficult. At the end of the season you are tired and sometimes the party on Sunday night is heavy. They suggest some direction to our engineers and we'll see how they put this suggestion on the bike."

Although unable to talk at length on the subject due to contractual reasons, Meregalli also gave a brief insight into Yamaha's testing progress with test rider Colin Edwards and Michelin rubber ahead of the French firm's return to the series as the sole tyre supplier in 2016.

"It has been a very interesting test. So far everything went very well. The feeling of the rider has been very good."



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