Rossi unable to overturn top speed deficit

“The bike is very good to ride … in braking, in the corner I’m good. But the others make another step and now the difference is very big on the straight” – Valentino Rossi
Rossi unable to overturn top speed deficit

Valentino Rossi was able to provide a frank assessment of the 2019 Yamaha M1’s capabilities after a race long tussle with three Ducati GP19s at the French Grand Prix at Le Mans, and believes his top speed disadvantage is now of some concern.

Fifth place, 3.053s back of race winner Marc Marquez, represented a solid return for the 40-year old, a result that keeps him within one race win (23 points) of the leader in the MotoGP world championship.

But what was really notable on Sunday was the Italian’s lack of speed on the front straight. In terms of top speed, Rossi was the slowest of the grid’s 22 riders, and was regularly losing 6mph to Andrea Dovizioso’s Ducati.

That and a lack of acceleration are the obvious limitations of the current M1. But it wasn’t all bad. Rossi was pushing the three Ducatis ahead until the very end, signalling a major improvement in the Yamaha’s ability to manage the rear tyre – an obvious defect in recent years.

The nine-time world champion also felt good in braking and corner entry, meaning better results may not be far away, with the flowing Mugello, Montmeló and Assen layouts coming up.

“It was a difficult race,” said Rossi. “Fortunately I started in front and the start was not so bad. I tried to give the maximum. But I wasn’t fast enough. I lost too much on the straight. I lost too much in acceleration in the low speed corners.

“All the race I tried to stay there, to not lose the slipstream to try and fight for the podium. The podium was my target, but unfortunately it was not enough to beat the Ducatis.

“The good thing is at the end I was good. I was able to come back. It looks like in the last laps this year we have less problems compared to last year. This is positive. But it’s not enough to try for the podium.

“We improve the tyre life with different things on the bike. The bike is very good to ride. I want to see the race, but it looks like in braking, in the corner I’m good.

“But it looks like the others make another step, especially Honda and now the difference is very big on the straight. Check the speed on the sheet. In all the race we suffer very much.

“Unfortunately what we can improve is that I’m the slower of the Yamahas for some reason. We need to make it better. I’m always last, second to last, sometimes third to last, but very far from the top.

“In the history, from 2004 the Yamaha is never fantastic on the straight. But it looks like this year we lose very much.”

Rossi used Yamaha’s aerodynamic fairing at Le Mans for its anti-wheelie capabilities on the exit of the track’s low-gear hairpins. Did he notice no significant acceleration improvements with the aero fitted?

“We speak about the wings and it’s a small improvement in acceleration and it’s good for the wheelie,” he said. “But in the top speed we lose a lot. It’s difficult, especially in the race.

“You have to fight with them and they are a lot faster in the straight so it’s difficult to manage the overtake. It looks like we suffer on the straight this year very much. It looks like the others are also better. For the rest the bike was good to ride and I was constant to the end, but it was not enough.

“The problem is the engine is [sealed]. I don’t think we can improve a lot this year. But this is the situation. We have to give the maximum. We can fight to stay on the podium.

“The bike is good to ride. We have some good things. We have to see from track to track but this is the reality now. We have to find something in acceleration because we lose there. But we’ll see.”