Yamaha’s announcement yesterday that it had chosen an in-line, four-cylinder layout for its 2002 four-stroke GP engine was surprising, in some ways, and not so surprising in others. Surprising, because both Honda and Ducati have stated that computer modeling reveals a v-five engine to be superior under the rules as currently proposed concerning weight limits for 2002 GP four strokes.
The decision to go with an in-line, four-cylinder is not so surprising, however, considering Yamaha’s undoubted intention to re-take the top spot in the production, open-class sportbike category. Next year, expect a new Yamaha R1 with a new motor based largely on the GP prototype engine, which Yamaha describes as substantially more compact and lighter than even the R7, 750cc engine.
With Yamaha test riders indicating that the new four-stroke, even in its early stages of development, is faster (both in top speed and lap times) than the current Yamaha 500cc two-stroke GP machine, the competitiveness of four-strokes in 2002 is assured.