The prototype emphasis of the FIM Motocross World Championship witnesses some trick and exciting new parts and ideas cropping up in Grand Prix. One of the standout features so far in 2014 that cannot hide behind any secrecy is the electric starter Yamaha Factory Racing are running on Jeremy Van Horebeek’s YZ450FM.
The Belgian is having a great season to-date with four podiums from the five rounds run so far and showed the competency of the system (the only one used on Japanese technology in MXGP) twice in Italy and then again after his small crash in the first moto at Sevlievo in Bulgaria where he recovered to fourth place behind Kevin Strijbos.
“This is a project from YRRD [Yamaha Rinaldi Research and Development]; the company that works for our team and also some satellite teams,” explained Yamaha Factory Racing Team Manager Massimo Raspanti. “It is a project we started last winter, around October, and we made tests in December. We had a very good feeling with the prototype system and it worked well. We used it for the first time at Montevarchi for the last round of the Italian Championship and were happy with it so we rolled it out in Qatar and have kept it since.”
“We saw the benefits in Italy [Arco di Trento] when Jeremy made two small mistakes, stopped the bike but then hit the switch and lost maybe one or two seconds. It carries a big advantage so YRRD have really done well,” the Italian added.
There are rumours that the factory Hondas might also be rolling out their own electric provision before the end of the season. “Every team must be thinking about this,” says Raspanti. “I can remember Yamaha in 1997 experimented with [Peter] Johansson and [Andrea] Bartolini on the 400 four-stroke for some tests and international races. So it is not new to Yamaha.”
How soon the starter could make production machines is the next big question. “It depends on whether they make the decision in Japan but I think at least next season here more teams will have the electric system,” he opines.
The advantages of being able to rapidly and easily re-fire the motorcycle are obvious but are there any ‘cons’? “I haven’t checked the weight but I think just a little bit more,” Raspanti continues. “It is a bit similar to a few years ago when we moved from carburetion to fuel injection. It meant the bike was a little heavier but the advantage was less bogging and was worth the change.”