January 19, 2008 Yamaha unveiled its 2008 YZR-M1 MotoGP machine this week in a large event held in conjunction with sponsors Fiat in Turin, Italy. Last year the M1 was one of the slowest machines on the grid and played a major role in Valentino Rossi’s worst season for a decade, prompting Rossi to roundly criticise the machine publicly and Yamaha to test a V4 configuration and pneumatic valves in the hope of closing the horsepower gap to Ducati’s desmodromic valve system. With Honda employing a pneumatic valve system in its 2008 machine, Yamaha will be the only contender relying on traditional valve springs to close its valves this year. Despite this, Yamaha’s frightfully expensive throttle control system (Rossi) shares favouritism for the title with Ducati’s Casey Stoner (both 6/4).
With Rossi attempting to remove one of the key variables in the championship-winning equation by moving from Michelin tyres to the same Bridgestone tyres as his principal rival (Stoner), he could well be playing into the hands of the Michelin-shod Honda RC212V of Dani Pedrosa who the bookies have as third favorite at 7/2.
Ducati’s new signing Marco Melandri (14/1) and Rossi’s new teammate Jorge Lorenzo (20/1), who will run Michelins, round out the betting leaderboard just prior to pre-season testing beginning again this week.
No details of the new M1 motor were released at the launch, but the bike appears to be entirely new in every respect.
The presentation was hosted by Italian TV star Simona Ventura and took place at the historic Lingotto building, which was Fiat’s car factory from 1923 until 1982. The building features a unique rooftop test track.
“I’m very happy that we’re so close to the start of racing,” said Rossi, who will contest this season on Bridgestone tyres for the first time. “This is a very important year for us and our only aim is to win, although it’s going to be hard work. My hand is much better, if not yet perfect, and I’m looking forward to getting back on the bike in Sepang next week. Everyone has been working very hard over the winter and I think our new bike is quite good, although of course we still have a lot of work to do. Everyone is very motivated and I know that we have the best team there is.”
Lorenzo, whose M1 will be Michelin-shod this season, enjoyed his first official day as a Yamaha rider. “I’m very happy to be here, with these people, this bike and in this team. I have a long way to go in my development but I have improved each time I’ve ridden the bike and the last test especially was very good. I’m very excited about this season and it’s a great honour to share the garage with Valentino, who is without doubt the most complete talent in our sport.”
Lin Jarvis, Managing Director of Yamaha Motor Racing, commented, “We’re very pleased to be continuing our strong partnership with our title sponsor Fiat. Meanwhile, the most important change to our team is the arrival of Jorge Lorenzo as Valentino Rossi’s new team-mate. Our aim is to recapture the title and, as our most experienced rider, this is Valentino’s clear mission. However we also expect Jorge to be fighting at the front as he gains experience. We have two multiple World Championship winning riders in our team and we believe we have optimum chance to realise our ambitions.
The first of four pre-season tests gets underway in Sepang, Malaysia next week with the 18-round MotoGP season commencing in Qatar on March 9.
Also present today were Lin Jarvis, Managing Director of Yamaha Motor Racing Srl, Masahiko Nakajima, Fiat Yamaha Team Director and YZR-M1 Project Leader, Davide Brivio and Daniele Romagnoli, Fiat Yamaha Team Managers, and Lorenzo Sistino, CEO of the Fiat brand.