The overhaul of Yamaha's MotoGP project has taken a further twist with the news that Yamaha Motor Racing president Kouichi Tsuji, no less, will be stepping down.

Tsuji was joint head of the factory's MotoGP activities, alongside Yamaha Racing managing director Lin Jarvis.

His exit follows that of MotoGP project leader Kouiji Tsuya - best known for his public apology to Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales after qualifying in Austria last season - over the winter. Tsuya was replaced by Takahiro Sumi.

Asked for his reaction to Tsuji's departure, Rossi implied that the Japanese was better suited to an engineering role than top-level management.

"I have a very good relationship with Tsuji-san because we’ve worked together for a long time, since 2004," Rossi said.

"For me, he is a very good engineer, but in the last years his role is not fantastic for him, for me.

"So I think this change is good to improve the development of the bike.

"Different people are arriving, that for me are very strong in Yamaha and we need them, because in the last years we are always struggling too much.

"But now we need time to improve, so we will see in the future if we are able to be strong enough to win."

Yamaha has taken just two MotoGP victories in the last two-and-a-half-seasons, but now seems to be building momentum with its riders second (Vinales), third (Rossi) and fourth (Fabio Quartararo) behind Honda's Marc Marquez during Friday practice at Aragon, on the back of a strong showing last weekend in Misano.

"In the last races, especially during the second half of the season but already in the first, we improved the electronics system of the bike in acceleration a lot," Rossi explained.

"For example, last year here the difference compared to the top bike was embarrassing exiting from the corner.

"Now it looks like - with nothing special, but just working in a better way - we exit from the corner better and are closer to the other manufacturers.

"This is the main difference and after we work with the [new parts such as the] exhaust and also with the carbon-fibre swingarm for mechanical grip. Also for for this reason we improve."

Rossi confessed to being worried after starting the day in a lowly 17th during Free Practice 1, but turned it around in style for second place behind team-mate Vinales in the afternoon session.

"The day started quite bad because in FP1 we were struggling very much, I had a bad tyre at the beginning and also I was not very strong because I didn’t feel good with the bike," Rossi revealed.

"I was quite worried because usually when you start bad, it's difficult to recover at this level, with a lot of very strong riders.

"But the team worked well during the afternoon, especially in the electronics. We improved the entry and exit of the corner and I had a better feeling. Also my pace with the race tyre is quite good, even if again there are a lot of riders that are similar.

"Afterwards we concentrated a bit more on the time attack because the weather forecast for tomorrow is very bad, so we wanted to try and stay in the top ten.

"At the end I did a good lap. I'm happy because I'm already a lot faster than last year and P3 overall is very positive if we have bad weather tomorrow."

Rossi will try to break a ten-race podium absence on Sunday and hope to bridge a five-point gap to Vinales to retake fifth in the world championship.

 

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