MotoGP 2017 preview: Movistar Yamaha

Originally I was going to go through the team previews alphabetically, but with Aprilia yet to announce a launch date, I’ve changed my mind and will be going through the teams as they unveil their 2017 bikes.

We begin with what potentially is the most exciting tandem this year, with the factory Yamaha outfit.

MYMm_2017_YZR-M1_46_25_07.jpg

Picture from yamahamotogp.com

The bike

Name Yamaha YZR-M1
Engine 1000cc inline four cylinder
Power 176KW/>240bhp
Chassis Aluminium twin tube with aluminium swing arm
Transmission Six-speed cassette-type
Brakes Brembo, 320mm or 340mm front, 2×4-piston callipers. Single disc rear with twin-piston calliper

Is it any good? We’re not going to find out until it hits the track, but it’s a Yamaha, and it’s going to have two very fast blokes on it, so I imagine it should be alright.

The riders

Out Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati)
In Maverick Viñales (Suzuki)

Jorge Lorenzo’s decision to head for pastures new, away from the often-tense situation of being Valentino Rossi’s team-mate, at Ducati left a very big gap to fill, especially considering the departing Lorenzo was world champion in 2015. Dani Pedrosa was heavily rumoured to be taking the spot, but Yamaha decided on a man who will be a world champion one day.

mav

25 – Maverick Viñales
Age 22 Born Figueres, Spain
Honours 2013 Moto3 World Champion
2016 4th, 202pts, Suzuki Ecstar
Race Record
Class Races Wins Podiums Points Best
125CC 17 4 9 248 3rd, 2011
Moto3 32 8 22 530 1st, 2013
Moto2 18 4 9 274 3rd, 2014
MotoGP 36 1 4 299 4th, 2016

It’s not hyperbole to suggest Mav will win a world title. He really is that good. Regularly outclassing team mate Aleix Espargaro on a Suzuki bike that both riders were outperforming last year, he fully deserves his chance to shine on one of the front-running bikes. Perhaps unfortunately, for him at least, he shares a garage with the greatest of all time.

vale

46 – Valentino Rossi
Age 37 Born Urbino, Italy
Honours 9x Champion over three classes
2016 2nd, 249pts, Movistar Yamaha
Race Record
Class Races Wins Podiums Points Best
125CC 30 12 15 432 1st, 1997
250CC 30 14 21 510 1st, 1999
MotoGP 288 88 185 4725 1st, x7

Insert every possible metaphor for how good Valentino Rossi is here. There’s no better man for Maverick to learn from than the seven-time top class world champion. Sure, he hasn’t won the world title since 2009, but he’s been second for the past three years, finished seventh in the worst of his two years at Ducati (which were terrible), and is Valentino God Damn Rossi. He will be in with a shout of the championship, because he’s Valentino Rossi. How much longer the old dog has left in him remains to be seen, but while he’s still on a bike, he’s a threat.

The team battle

Who will win the mini-league between team mates this year? Probably Vale. Maverick is coming in to a new team, with a new crew (although they’re not new to the team, as they’re the same guys Jorge Lorenzo had last year), having to learn a new bike. He’ll still be very competitive and will give Vale a run for his money, but Vale knows the bike, knows the team, and knows what it takes to be better than the next man. Mav’s time will come, but the master will keep the apprentice at bay this year.

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