This year each rider gets five engines for the 14 races, which at about 340 miles per weekend works out at around 950 miles per engine. That’s pretty much the same mileage as in a non-Covid season, when riders get seven engines for 20 races.
Laborious examination of MotoGP’s engine usage documents offers an approximate picture of how many miles each engine has done. This reveals that Mir hasn’t only got the advantage on points over his closest rivals.
The valve problems that struck Yamaha during July’s season-opening Spanish and Andalusian GPs are taking all three YZR-M1 riders into the danger zone with their engines. One can only imagine the sense of dread that overtook Yamaha engineers at Jerez when they realised they had a very serious problem that would haunt them for the rest of the season. And one can only imagine the communications between Yamaha and the outside supplier that manufactured the valves.
“When I’m riding with a used engine this is something you can feel”
Viñales is in the worst situation. Since September’s San Marino GP he’s been down to his last two engines. With three races to go both have already done about 150 per cent of their usual mileage, so by the end of the Portimao weekend both will have doubled their usual shelf life.
Quartararo and Morbidelli aren’t in great shape either.
Morbidelli is also down to his last two engines – one with almost double the routine mileage, the other on 1300 miles.
Quartararo is in slightly better shape, because he was the only Yamaha rider who didn’t break an engine during the season-opening Jerez double-header. The former championship leader has three engines left, one on 1480 miles, another on 1270 and the third on 530.
Mir is in the best situation. He has three engines on the go, all of them currently below the normal mileage limit – one on 950 miles, another on 850 and the last with just 210 miles.
Most riders and engineers won’t talk about engine mileage. But even Mir has noticed that his older GSX-RR engines are losing performance.
“When I’m riding with a used engine this is something you can feel,” he said during the recent Teruel GP.
Yamaha riders have been running reduced rpm for a while, trying to coax the maximum mileage from their remaining engines.
However, Quartararo, Viñales and Morbidelli do have one thing on their side – latest top-speed figures show that a GSX-RR isn’t any faster than an M1 in a straight line, despite its younger engines. During the last race at Aragon the three Yamahas and two Suzuki inline-fours filled the bottom five places in the top-speed chart, behind 13 Ducati, Honda and KTM V4s.