Yamaha Speaks
by dean adams
Wednesday, November 30, 2005

On Tuesday I had an opportunity to talk with Yamaha Corporate Communications Manager Bob Starr and Yamaha's Racing Manager Keith McCarty regarding their 2006 roadracing plans, which do not include Superbike. Starr and McCarty gave a chronological review of Yamaha's experience over the last two years and I followed up with some questions regarding the 2007 season and the R1LE.

Bob Starr:
Let's start in August of 2003, because at that time we finalized our racing plans for the 2005 season. That's how we do things: generally we work two years in advance. We have to so that everything is in sync with our marketing and our model plans and our overall goals for Yamaha.

Keith McCarty:
Keep in mind that date may seem like a menial thing, but at that time we were on a fiscal year budget, meaning that our budget started April 1. So August is roughly six months from that budget season starting. So that's usually when we have discussions about roadracing budgets and what we're going to do and how we're going to do it. That may seem like a small point, but it's somewhat important. Essentially these decisions are made long before we need the money.

During that time in August in 2003, our number one goal for the 2005 season, we determined, was to win what was or is the number one road race in the US—the Daytona 200. From a marketing perspective, it happens really at the right time —in March—which is the beginning of the riding season.

At that time, we started development on our Superbike project, which you remember, would have been on the 2004 R1. The 2004 model had significant changes to the engine and chassis—it was essentially an all-new at that time.

Then, in August of 2004—a year after we made the plans for 2005—we learned that the AMA abruptly switched the Daytona 200 from 1000cc to 600cc for March of 2005. They went from Superbike rules to Formula Extreme rules.

At that time, the rules that were out there were ones that still allowed for quick-change parts and the 200 was a Superbike race. We were lobbying, a little bit, to get rid of quick change rules in the future and talking with them so we could feel that we were knowing what was going on in the next year.

It's difficult for any private team to make or acquire those quick change parts—the materials are hard to make and they're very expensive on top of it. We went ahead and did it, feeling that although we wanted the AMA to do away with quick change in the future, we had been talking to them and it seemed to us that it wasn't going to happen in the near future. So we went to a company that Yamaha uses in Europe to make these parts and we purchased all the quick change equipment for a 200 effort at Daytona. We spent upwards of three hundred thousand dollars on those parts alone for that upcoming season.

Then the AMA outlawed quick-change equipment.

That was a pretty big blow, because we had absolutely no inkling that it was going to happen. From anyone.

I know why it was done, why the rule was changed—there were some tires blowing up and they wanted to slow the bikes down. But, we had significant investment in the 200 remaining Superbike and for quick-change equipment to be legal.

Those two situations really influenced what we are doing today. They ruined what we planned to do.

So, we're still at August 2004. We looked at each other here and said, you know, there's no way that we can prepare a Formula Extreme bike for Daytona 2005. One thing that you have to remember is that the 2005 R6 received an updated engine and chassis and we didn't even get bikes here in America until the Fall of 2004—actually November. There was no way.

There was no plan either. Basically what happens at Yamaha is that if we're doing something in 2005, we need to be planning and getting things signed off well over a year in advance. At least.

"So we say, okay, we're going to race the 200 and we start racing the Formula Extreme class. That plan is set in motion. We put Superbike plans on hold."

There was no way to turn this big ship around at this point. We'd spent considerable funds on a new Superbike and a new quick change system. This was not funds that didn't get spent—they were spent. They were gone. Significant funds are gone from my roadrace budget (for races) that will never happen.

So, then we make plans for the 2006 season. This is in August of 2004. We still want to win the number one race in the country—which is the Daytona 200—a prestigious race with great timing. Plus, we know that we are going to have this really cool new R6 with a strict race focus on the new bike. So we say, okay, we're going to race the 200 and we start racing the Formula Extreme class. That plan is set in motion. We put Superbike plans on hold.

Then, in September 2005, we re-visit Superbike. We have decided to race the R6 in Formula Extreme and the R1 in Superstock, to stay out of Superbike. But one of our competitors (Kawasaki) introduces a new 1000 and decides to enter the Superbike class. Then another competitor (Honda) decides to withdraw their factory team from the Formula Extreme class as a factory effort-after the Daytona 200.

Also, later in 2005, we confirmed Jamie Hacking for 2006. He and Jason DiSalvo were the only riders we had signed in September 2005. It wasn't until just before our press release went out, in the last days of October, that we had Eric Bostrom signed to our team.

And, lets keep in mind that after the 2005 Daytona 200, all of the comments from readers and enthusiasts regarding the Daytona 200 were that they felt it was a boring race with just one factory racing the class. So, we had plans in motion to bring some life back to that race and to that class by having some top Yamaha riders race the class.

People seem to be concentrating on the negative aspects of what we're doing in 2006—or what they see as negative, but I prefer to concentrate on the positive. We're going about racing on our plan, what our plan has been for over a year, to race three classes and stay out of Superbike. After what Yamaha has experienced in terms of these changes to the (Superbike) class—can anyone blame us?

So, if you look at what we're doing for 2006, you can see that we're racing in three of the four AMA classes. All three classes provided some very, very good racing in the 2005 season and we look for more of that in 2006. You know, in Superstock and Supersport, one could easily argue that the racing in those two classes was better than the racing in Superbike.

Our future plans are to definitely be in Superbike.

Question: In 2007?

McCarty: We're not revealing that officially, but I think that if you look at our team, we have really built a pretty good team in terms of riders for the next few years. We have a multi-year agreement with Eric Bostrom and I think it safe to say that is the direction we are headed.

Question: It's hard to look at the R1LE and not feel that it is a purpose-built Superbike.

McCarty: Honestly, it was built as a 50 year collectible bike more than anything. It was built by the factory—it wasn't a bike that we asked for per se to go race any class. I think that Yamaha wanted to build a really cool R1 for their 50th anniversary. The R series of Yamaha bikes have been moving forward at a really fast pace in terms of evolution—on both the R6 and R1—and I think this is just the latest version of that plan. I'm sure that there is something even more amazing on the drawing board right now.


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