until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Mirage or revival? Yamaha's Mugello MotoGP burst explained

by Valentin Khorounzhiy, Simon Patterson
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Though Yamaha only got one of its riders into Q2 directly, Friday practice at Mugello was its most encouraging day of the 2024 MotoGP season so far - at least in terms of race weekends.

Alex Rins was a very strong second behind Ducati's Pecco Bagnaia, while team-mate Fabio Quartararo was denied the ever-important top 10 spot by just 0.02s, lamenting the lack of a tow in a session where many of the other riders managed to get one.

Quartararo also made a lap-ruining effort in a last-gasp attempt, though admitted the best of the tyre was already gone by then. In any case, both he and Rins were at the sharp end of the timesheets throughout the day - a situation more or less unheard of in MotoGP this year - and the Frenchman has to be a strong contender to get out of Q1 on Saturday.

It's a surprising turn of events, but not that surprising, certainly not to the Yamaha riders themselves - who have felt increasingly bullish about the state of the programme since a fruitful private test earlier this month at the very same Mugello track.

An aero upgrade was rubber-stamped for race weekend use in that test and, while its effect on its public debut at Barcelona last weekend was relatively dampened by the nature of the track layout, Quartararo made it clear it was a real, tangible positive.

"It helps to turn," he said then of the new aero, "to go a little bit faster into the corners.

"It’s difficult to say if it’s a massive step or not, because the aero isn’t something that [makes] you say, 'Woah'. It’s something that you have to get used to."

Turning has been a shortcoming for the 2024-spec Yamaha, with the manufacturer no longer producing the ultra-nimble M1s it had in the past but at least having a major top speed step to show this year as compensation.

For Quartararo, a big reason for his optimism at Barcelona was that he expected more developments in this area to compound the existing gains - with Yamaha, under its 'Rank D' concession status, allowed to homologate two aero upgrades in the area defined by the regulations, as opposed to one for those above its status.

"I think Yamaha has never worked like this in the past, has never had this many ideas, and we are not bringing things [just] to bring [them]," Quartararo said.

“We speak clearly with the team and I don’t want to test another chassis or another swingarm. We’ve tested already hundreds of them. We know where the problem is coming from, and now they’re really focused on that and really working in a clever way.

“Of course, when you are doing small steps you want to have a bigger one as soon as possible. But it’s one and a half years without making any progress, and to feel like we are seeing the light coming out of the tunnel is great."

At Mugello so far, that light has shone on Rins more than Quartararo - and he was not surprised that the new aero is suiting Mugello.

"For sure, here the bike works a little bit better on the aero side," said Rins. "This track is really high-speed corners, like Arrabbiata 1, Arrabbiata 2, the last corner [Bucine], Turn 12 [Correntaio].

"So I think this new fairing helps a little bit to carry a little bit more speed in that kind of corner."

Quartararo has had a clear edge in their head-to-head so far in 2024, but Rins has been markedly closer over one lap than in race pace. He outpaced Quartararo in the private test previously - so it came as little shock to Quartararo that Rins remained ahead come Friday. On race pace, Quartararo seemed to look extremely competitive.

The elephant-in-the-room, though, is whether Yamaha is being flattered a little bit by its Mugello running, having got a head start relative to most of its rivals.

Its two riders, for what it's worth, didn't believe that was the case.

"The test helped to make our bike faster [overall] - but not to be in this kind of position," insisted Quartararo.

"OK, for sure the test helps a little bit. But I think it helps in just the first 15 laps of the morning session. I think we are doing a good job," said Rins.

Both of them acknowledged there's still a lot of work to do, with Rins in particular feeling the bike was "very heavy" in changes of direction. And there's a blueprint here for Yamaha's weekend to fall apart: Quartararo could fall short in Q1, and Rins's race pace could let him down again, so the factory could yet be realistically deprived of a headline result.

But compare it to where Honda is, having tested at Mugello at the same time (albeit with the things it tested not yet race-ready), and it's clear there is considerably more evidence of a Yamaha revival to speak of than that of its fellow fallen MotoGP giant.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email
  • More Networks