After a four-year hiatus from the World Superbike paddock, Yamaha returned last season with the all new Yamaha YZF-R1. However, it wasn’t quite the spectacle we all expected it to be, with a lot of midfield results, injuries and crashes for both riders. Now, having had a year under their belt, the Crescent Yamaha squad will look to fight for the top positions in the championship and take their first win on their return to the series.
The bike came into the 2016 season with much promise and potential. Carmelo Morales made it look like a real weapon in the Spanish CEV Superbike Championship and Josh Brookes stormed off with the British Superbike championship in 2015. The MotoAmerica pairing of Beaubier and Hayes showcased the Yamaha’s talents but sadly that couldn’t be transformed on to the world stage. A third place in the penultimate race of the year in Qatar for the BSB bound Sylvain Guintoli was all that could be considered good for the team in 2016. Eight DNFs in 2016 mean that Alex Lowes’ 4th year with the Crescent team is a vital one in which he must take wins and podiums and challenge for a top four placing.
Michael Van Der Mark made the dramatic switch from rivals Honda and joined Yamaha as he spearheads the 2017 team. Three podiums from the first four races and strong races at Assen led to Van Der Mark becoming hot property in 2016. Yet to take that elusive first victory, he is hoping that he can bring the glory days back to Yamaha. Magic Michael took a pole position last season as well as six podiums throughout his 2016 campaign and could be a title threat if he gels initially with the bike. The star of World Superbikes is definitely one to watch as he and the Yamaha get quicker lap by lap.
Alex Lowes joins the Dutchman in a champion line up at Yamaha. Despite a poor season in 2016, where he languished in 12th in the standings, Lowes retained his position at Paul Denning’s squad. The 2013 BSB champion had a year of acclimatisation with the Yamaha last season, and stronger results towards the end of the season suggest that the Lincolnshireman could start off the upcoming season as he means to go on. A title threat may be a little too far, but nothing is in the way of podiums and wins for Lowes, who will set out to silence his critics and prove his worth.
Circuits for the Yamaha are all fairly good, although Losail seems to be a happy hunting ground for the team. Yamaha haven’t won at the first meeting of the season since Ben Spies won race two in 2009 and that is a record that quite simply needs to be put right. A track where luck will hopefully be on the team’s side is Imola, after Sylvain Guintoli’s complex foot injury of last season. Sepang was a good meeting for the team over the course of one lap, but with the learning year done, all could be set to change in 2017.
You can keep up to date with the goings on of World Superbike here at The Pit Crew Online. Give us a follow on Twitter @PitCrew_Online, and keep up with the live text commentary of all the big meetings!
Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko