Yamaha were once considered to be a powerhouse within the pits; it wasn’t too long ago that the Japanese manufacturer were celebrating successive world title and race wins in all corners of the globe. However, Yamaha have evidently struggled in recent years. I believe that the economic crisis has had a massive impact on their race program; the brand has not had much success to speak off for three years now. But, Yamaha now seems to be pushing forward with their race program, once again.
Clearly, a handful of the problems that Yamaha have experienced began to surface when the all-new YZ450f was introduced at the beginning of the 2010 season. Prior to that, most were eager to be a part of the Yamaha program. Previously, the brand has enjoyed success with Stefan Everts and Chad Reed. Even when Stefan hung up his boots they continued to collect wins with riders like Josh Coppins, David Philippaerts and Antonio Cairoli in the FIM World Motocross Championship.
Whenever a large change is made to a program, there is a high-risk level. In most cases, the change that is made turns out to be a success for all involved, however sometimes change is not widely appreciated and does not have the type of outcome that it is expected too. Sadly, the all-new YZ450f falls under the latter. But, it is not like the Yamaha 450f is the first bike that riders have struggled to gel with; the 450f that Honda released in 2009 was a bike that riders struggled to get accustomed to. With an all-new motorcycle, problems are common. The transition from the 2009 to 2010 season was certainly a difficult one for Yamaha, mainly in the USA.
At that time Yamaha also decided to stop running their factory team in the USA, instead they began to branch out their support to the satellite teams like JGR and Star Racing Yamaha. This was a new way of tackling their racing effort; to this day Yamaha USA is the only team to take this approach. At the same time, the controversial YZ450f was introduced, so those Yamaha teams certainly had a lot of change to get used to. Honestly, I believe that the 450 that Yamaha have produced is not as bad as everyone thinks it is, perhaps the perception is worse than the reality?
One of the reasons that the bike has such a bad reputation is because James Stewart visibly struggled on it for two and a half years. However, James has a unique style; just because the bike did not work for him does not mean that it will not work for anyone else. In the MXGP series you rarely hear anyone complaining about the YZ450f. However, not many riders are actually on the bike, and you rarely see it up on the podium. Admittedly, their star rider in the MXGP series (Steven Frossard) was out with injuries for almost all of the 2012 season.
It seems that universally everyone has agreed that the YZ450f is not a very good bike. Even those riders that have never touched the bike before are weary when they consider joining a Yamaha team. Yamaha clearly need to do something to salvage their race program, so that they can return to the forefront of professional motocross once again. They will be pushing forward with their program next year, specifically in the USA.
In 2013, there will be no less than seven Yamaha teams contesting the AMA Supercross and Motocross season; this will obviously be great publicity for the brand. Yamaha’s contingency program will be improved drastically next year, also. The riders on a Yamaha that qualify for the main event in supercross, and make the top forty in the motocross series will receive a financial reward for their efforts. It is hoped that this will prompt more privateers to climb onto a blue bike.
Yamaha will also have more of a presence at the front of the pack in the MXGP series. In the MX1 class they will have the Monster Energy Yamaha duo of Frossard and Roelants. But, riders like Sebastien Pourcel have also been signed to privateer Yamaha teams. Yamaha will have a strong lineup in the MX2 class also; their 250f has been criticised by many because it is not yet fuel injected. It is unknown whether or not Yamaha will return to the top step next year; but it is clear that they will be putting in a lot of effort to try and reclaim the titles that they have lost.
Words by Lewis Phillips