Valentino Rossi has had a busy few weeks of hopping back and forth between two wheels and four. In between having another go in a Ferrari F1 car (just for fun, he insisted) and driving a Ford Focus in Rally GB, the motor sport all-rounder set the fastest times at the final MotoGP test of 2008.
Last season Rossi had the best bike in MotoGP, after two years during which his YZR-M1 was cursed with all kinds of ills. Now he is working hard to ensure Yamaha keeps its advantage over Ducati and Honda, who are keen to avenge recent defeats.
Key to Yamaha’s resurgence was more top-end power (thanks to a pneumatic valve system developed by ex-F1 engineer Osamu Goto) and an improved traction control system which used Magneti’s Marvel 4 ECU, two gyroscopes and radical vehicle dynamics software to calculate lean angle and tyre contact patch, delivering the right amount of torque regardless of how much throttle was used.
Rossi’s ’09 priority is more low-rpm power for better corner exits and faster starts. “It takes us 2.7 or 2.8sec to do 0-100km/h; Ducati and Honda are more like 2.5sec,” reveals his engineer Jeremy Burgess.