A long year of preparation, racing and 2015 testing was recently completed by Yamaha Factory Racing as the Michele Rinaldi-run operation started to wind down towards the Christmas break and with one eye on a busy January schedule on the island of Sardinia.
Italian Championships, Belgian series race wins, outstanding MXGP podium streaks and a stellar victory at the Grand Prix of Czech Republic as well as a runner-up position for Jeremy Van Horebeek in his first term on the YZ450FM were the standout moments of ’14…but it did not take long for the Italian crew to switch thoughts to the 18 round GP schedule next year once the Motocross of Nations wrapped.
‘JVH’ and new team-mate Frenchman Romain Febvre were visitors to southern Europe as work on the ’15 spec of the YZ450FM took place. For Febvre in particular the first shakedowns with the technology he’ll use in his rookie season in the premier MXGP class were important and a second test was unfortunately interrupted by a small right shoulder injury that means a few weeks respite from track action.
“Romain started off with – and liked – the production YZ450F and at the test we were building up with the race bike. He unluckily had a crash while doing some laps and a little problem. He is okay and is continuing to train in the gym but we had to stop riding for a while,” says Team Manager Massimo Raspanti.
“We’ll know more about our set-up and direction when we ride with him again and then spend a few weeks in Sardinia up until the first race of the Italian Championship [on February 1 at the Riola Sardo circuit]. I believe Romain went there last year for training for a couple of weeks so he knows all about it.”
Sardinia is now the goal for the first weeks of 2015 duties for the team. Raspanti: “It is a quiet place with a few tracks close together and the weather is usually good; around twenty degrees each day…although it can rain!”
Van Horebeek meanwhile assessed what was a successful 2014 Grand Prix campaign – the best of his career and most prolific for the team since 2011 – and together with Raspanti and the crew looked at the YZ450FM for what gains could be made for 2015.
“We’ve tried to improve on some points but if you look at the results and performances this year then I feel we were already at a high level,” Raspanti offers.
“Of course you want to get better and you know the competition will be working as well. We have tried a few things on the engine to make things easier for Jeremy but also give him a bit ‘more’ out of the gate. That was the goal from the tests and I’m pleased with what we achieved so far even if we did not make any radical changes. Suspension tests will be next but that won’t happen to the middle of January when we receive some new parts on the factory kit. The first Italian Championship race will be part of that test and then we’ll continue to work afterwards.”
The 24 year old is in the midst of his personal training plan in Belgium and is hitting the track at least once a week – when the weather is kind. Van Horebeek only has until the end of the month at home before he also decamps to Sardinia and for a repeat of the successful pre-season schedule that he negotiated last January.
Part of the refinement between JVH and the YZ450FM has involved an in-depth observation at the way he handles the Yamaha. “We were looking at his riding position a little bit and analysing the balance of the bike,” Raspanti says. “He rides it low but we suggested some work on the back compared to the front and made some gains when it comes to his feeling.”
‘YFR’ are focussing again on the premier class with just two riders for the first time since the 2009 season and with interesting circumstances around both athletes: Van Horebeek is looking to make the step into being an authentic title contender while Febvre will be trying to blaze a path and mimic his team-mate, Steven Frossard, David Philippaerts and Josh Coppins who all created a sizeable impact in their first campaigns as Yamaha riders with the YZ450F.