Customarily, this is the time of year that MotoGP mechanics who work for Japanese teams travel to Japan and build the engines that the team will use in the current season.
2017 ended on a sour note for the factory Yamaha squad, with team principles admitting that they were lost. Both Rossi and Maverick seemed dumbfounded in the final third of the season that even with the resources of a $50 million dollar factory race effort they nor their top notch crewchiefs could find a solution that suited either rider.
The entire situation was exacerbated by the success of MotoGP rookie Johan Zarco on the “spare parts” satellite (Tech 3) Yamaha squad. The cast off bits were enough for Zarco and his crewchief–veteran Guy Coulon–to power through nearly the entire season with great results.
In the past Yamaha’s MotoGP management have pushed their factory riders to pick an engine style and engine direction long before the engines are finally sealed. The type of decisions that Yamaha pushes the crews and riders to decide on ASAP–crankshaft weight, flywheel and the like can have very dramatic results if the decision proves to be wrong or when a separate but very important factor in the balance of the motorcycle changes–like when Michelin pushed out new tires in mid-season 2017.
Rossi has assembled a small army of a crew of his choosing around him, from his riding coach, former 250 champion Luca Cadalora, to his crewchief Silvano Galbusera. What’s interesting is that neither were in any way relevant to MotoGP before Rossi picked them out of relative obscurity to work in his inner circle. Galbusera was known for some previous bungles in WSBK, and also is/was semi-infamous for having an anxiety-based temperament, along with some real health issues. Cadalora was collecting scooters.
Before Rossi broke ties with Burgess, if a person went into the MotoGP garages and suggested that nine-time world champion Rossi would one day replace Jeremy Burgess with Galbusera and also that VR would use Cadalora as his riding coach, they’d have been laughed out of the paddock.
When a rider is lost and can’t find his way, and becomes even more frustrated when he’s lost in the myriad of old and new parts, this is when the rider needs an experienced crewchief with a level head and the ability to read his rider and determine the direction to get them back to a competitive state. It’s an oversimplification to say that when the rider is brimming with confidence and the bike is a balanced package of whoop-ass that just about anybody can be their crewchief, but it’s almost true.
If they’re smart Yamaha will extend their usual crankshaft/engine nuance deadline this year so their riders can find one that truly suits the rider and the tires.
Also, might want to see if Burgess is up for some consultant work?