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Yamaha MotoGP Effort Penalized by FIM for Unapproved Engine Changes

Way back in July, after the first two rounds of this unusual MotoGP series, we reported that Yamaha was quickly running short of engines (each rider is permitted 5 engines per year) due to mysterious engine failures. The mystery was solved when Yamaha discovered a problem with valves. It turns out that Yamaha should have requested permission of all the other manufacturers involved in the series before replacing those valves with a similar spec manufactured by a new vendor. As a result, the FIM has just punished Yamaha.

Yamaha will lose 50 constructors’ points, and the factory team will lose 37 team points. The satellite Petronas Yamaha team will lose 20 points. Surprisingly, perhaps, the individual riders are being allowed to keep their point totals … leaving 3 Yamaha riders within 25 points of the championship lead (Quartararo, Viñales and Morbidelli).

Viñales, quite possibly, has lost any chance at this year’s title as he already needed to “open” a new engine for this weekend’s race at Valencia (beyond the 5 allowed). This means Viñales must start Sunday’s race from pit lane – much worse than starting from the last row. Will Quartararo and Morbidelli face the same fate before this series is over? We wouldn’t be surprised.

Here is a press release from Yamaha on the subject:

Following the FIM statement regarding the sanction for failing to respect the protocol requiring prior unanimous approval of the MSMA when using valves from two different manufacturers in the engines of the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP and Petronas Yamaha Sepang Racing Team bikes in the 2020 season, Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. shares its position.
Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. acknowledges, respects, and accepts the decision of the FIM about the incorrect protocols that were followed. It will not appeal against the FIM‘s sanctions.

Due to an internal oversight and an incorrect understanding of the current regulation, Yamaha omitted to give prior notification to and gain approval from the MSMA for the use of valves by two manufacturers.

Yamaha would like to clarify that there was no malintent in using the valves of two different suppliers that were manufactured according to one common design specification.

Following the sanction given by FIM on Thursday 5th November, Yamaha remains fully committed to supporting its MotoGP riders and the two teams in their title quest. It will make extraordinary efforts to still compete for the 2020 MotoGP Constructor and Rider World Championship trophies.

28 Comments

  1. mickey says:

    Another source is reporting the suspect valves in the Jerez motors that blew up had only 50% of the hardness of the homolgated valves used in subsequent motors and were cut on a 5 degree different angle. The modified valves were only used at Jerez then Yamaha went back to the homolgated valves

  2. RichBinAZ says:

    Wonder if the race engine valve problem is linked to the valve problem in the FZ/MT-09???
    On that bike the exhaust valve clearance closes up over a short amount of time and burned valves are the result. Hmmm

  3. mickey says:

    Yamahas reliability woes continue. In today’s race Rossi’s fuel pump quit (if that’s what really happened)

  4. Evan says:

    The engineer in me wants to know what the technical failure was. Heat treating? Nitriding? Tolerances? Material?

  5. fred says:

    It’s a bad precedent, regardless. Either the factory, the teams, and the riders should have been penalized, or none of them should have. Either the rules mean something or they don’t. Unequal applications of guidelines as done regularly in MGP makes the sport a bit of a laughingstock.

  6. joe b says:

    “There’s a big misunderstanding because people talk about ‘switching valves’,” Yamaha’s Lin Jarvis told BT Sport.

    “We planned to run this season with a certain spec of valves from a certain supplier. During last year when we were ordering parts we understood that the supplier was going to stop producing that valve.

    “Yamaha then searched for another supplier with the same spec valve. No performance advantage. That was done and we then [had a mix] of valves from both suppliers for the 2020 season.

    “Yamaha considered these valves to be identical. The regulations don’t say you can’t use two different suppliers, it says the parts must be identical in every respect. This was the misunderstanding in Japan.

    “The sample engine for this season was then fitted with used [old] valves, let’s call it valve ‘type A’. But we began the season with eight engines with valve ‘type B’. It was an innocent misjudgement of the regulations.

    “Then we had a technical failure [at Jerez] and when we investigated we found that not only the ‘B’ valves were different from the sample engine, but had a technical failure. Some weakness. The batch produced followed a different procedure. That’s why we requested to the MSMA to change the valves. We were unable to get the evidence from the valve supplier so we withdrew that application and we looked for another solution.

    “But we were transparent from the beginning that we wanted to use the other [‘A’] valves, that are identical, and it was [during that discussion] that a red light alerted us that those valves could be considered different. So we suspended use of the [Jerez] engines, apart from practice and qualifying in Austria for two riders. All our engines, apart from the initial eight, have now been fitted with type [‘A’].

    “So it was an error in the protocol because there was no advantage gained. We should have asked permission… But we did not ‘switch the valves’.” and so, at this top shelf of racing, that only Yamaha was penalized, but the riders kept their points, is this not how it should be? jb

    • Jeremy says:

      There have been a number of such “oversights” on the grid over the years. In every case, the rider was disqualified from the race where the transgression occurred. That’s how it works in all motorsports. If something about the machine is found to be off, disqualification. It has never mattered whether there was intention, or advantage gained, or whether the rider knew or not.

      If a Yamaha rider wins the championship, then Yamaha wins the championship. I can assure you that Yamaha wouldn’t be crying in their champagne glasses during Fabio’s celebration party that they lost out on the Teams and Constructors championships. The Riders Championship is by far the most important from a marketing standpoint. That’s why riders get paid so much.

      This was a political call to keep the championship close for the show. While I get the motivation for that, everyone knows this isn’t legit which cheapens the championship, particularly if a Yamaha rider wins it.

      I find it interesting that none of the OEMs protested. I wonder if they all regard this as an interesting loophole that they might want to exploit themselves in the future. The only penalty set by this precedent, if they were to even get caught, would be that they lose some points in the Constructors and Teams championships, something any OEM would sacrifice for the grand prize.

      • joe b says:

        Everyone knew Yamaha had an engine problem, when they were dropping out of races. I’m not sure just when Dorna became knowledgeable of when Yamaha had used valves of 2 suppliers, and only got one legal. I can only guess, it will eventually come out, who what when, but for now the story is vague. to criticize the other manufacturers, for this or that, when they are now just finding all this out, saying they should have known, or “they knew”, is misleading. Maybe at the end of the year, we will all find out. I get it, how it can be a small thing, and Yamaha got little advantage between valve manufacturers, but if they were leading the championship, things might be different, i dont know.

        • mickey says:

          Joe from what I understand Dorna became suspicious when Yamaha quit using the engines from Jerez that didnt blow up and put twice as many miles as normal on subsequent engines without using the Jerez engines.

          At first tech inspection all the valves looked similar, but they were sent to a lab for analyzing and found to be made from different, non homologated material.

        • Jeremy says:

          From a podcast I was listening to, it would seem that some eyebrows were raised on the grid when Yamaha apparently went from not being able to keep engines together to going double the normal hours on the last remaining engines. This apparently triggered further investigation.

          I’m not sure what you mean by “to criticize the other manufacturers.”

  7. mickey says:

    who knows WHY Yamaha went to another supplier of valves, but once you submit your engine for the year, you are not allowed to change them, and Yamaha did. In order to change them they have to get permission from all the other mfg that are racing and Yamaha failed to do that. They just tried to hide it, and got busted, hence the penalty. Everyone must play by the same rules.If you don’t and get caught, there are repercussions.

    Not only did it cost them team & Mfg points, but they ran out of engines with the correct valves and as a consequence Vinales had to use a 6th engine in practice and now must start from pit lane. None of the other factory riders qualified well today either. Bad week for Yamaha.

    With only 3 races left this does not bode well for their championship efforts, in a year when M Marquez has been sitting out all year. Really a blown opportunity for the tuning fork company.

  8. Mick says:

    It’s a tough situation for Yamaha. But that’s racing. Personally I think that the manufacturer organization should have been more understanding and let the swap out the bad valves. But, that’s racing.

    If you were to believe the guys commenting on the last article. None of these bikes can possibly exist anyway. Maybe one of those guys works at Yamaha. So Yamaha is doomed to face “reality” just because of some guy’s opinion. They should find him and fire him immediately.

    • Motoman says:

      “If you were to believe the guys commenting on the last article. None of these bikes can possibly exist anyway. Maybe one of those guys works at Yamaha.”

      What’s the point Mick?

      • mickey says:

        did I miss something? Are they running 80 hp 250 pound P Twins in MotoGP?

        • Mick says:

          You missed a great deal. Like the part where I never mentioned 250 pound anything.

          This article talks about a 346 pound bike that makes north of 250hp. The commenters on the last article were on about how impossible an 85hp 325 pound bike is to build.

          There is a huge difference between can’t and won’t. It’s not that the industry can’t make a bike like that. It’s that they won’t.

          • Motoman says:

            Hmmmm… might want to go check the thread Mick. A.G.E. disease?

          • mickey says:

            Mick says:
            November 5, 2020 at 3:56 am
            “Hmmm. You know that you don’t live in the future when the motorcycle press puts the word “just” in front of a lie weight figure of over 450 pounds.

            Call me when I can get an 85hp parallel twin version that weighs 200 pounds less. Until then, don’t bother. No amount of horsepower will ever sell me on a heavy bike.”

            450 pounds minus 200 pounds is 250 pounds.
            That’s exactly what you said.

          • todd says:

            I interpret “lie weight… 450 lb” to be somewhere around 500 lb. therefore, 500 – 200 = 300.

          • Motoman says:

            Pretty clear to me Mick meant 250 lbs.

          • VLJ says:

            “This article talks about a 346 pound bike that makes north of 250hp. The commenters on the last article were on about how impossible an 85hp 325 pound bike is to build.

            There is a huge difference between can’t and won’t. It’s not that the industry can’t make a bike like that. It’s that they won’t.”

            No, it’s 100% that they can’t. See, even with the one-off materials and tech involved in the production of an unobtanium, prototype-build MotoGP bike, we’re still nowhere close to your original 250-lbs target, or even your 325-lbs attempt at backpedaling.

            Moreover, MotoGP bikes don’t have to comply with any emissions regulations. They don’t have any weight-adding lighting, electronics, or safety requirements. They don’t offer one-to-three-year warranties. They don’t have to be long-term reliable, lest the banks will not provide loans to consumers for them. Their motors are not required to manage 100,000 miles or more without replacement. They don’t need to be mass produced for public sale. They don’t need to hit anything resembling a realistic price point. They don’t need to be comfortable, the way your mythical 250-lbs, 85-hp, multi-cylinder ADV does. They don’t need to be able to run on standard pump gas. They don’t need their brakes to work well in the first ten feet of rolling, whether it’s a deathly cold rain or a Death Valley summer. They don’t need to be rideable doing five mph in a stop-and-go conga line of cars inching their way down Lombard St. They don’t have any mpg requirements enabling them to cross the Loneliest Road in America on a single tank of dinosaurs. They don’t need to have a short enough turning radius to allow for many basic parking-lot/driveway/garage maneuvers. Their wheels don’t need to be forgiving enough to deal with American potholes, fat American riders, and their even fatter spouses. They don’t need to have seating accommodations for two, which any ADV must offer. They don’t need alternators and charging systems strong enough to handle auxiliary lighting and electronic equipment, which ADVs must be able to accept. They don’t need to be able to handle bolt-on luggage. They don’t need…

            Light coming on yet?

          • Dave says:

            “Won’t”? “Won’t” what, exactly?

            Won’t make a $50k+ motorcycle that nobody will buy? You wouldn’t do that either, not as a business model, anyway.

            If it is possible, and you want it, why haven’t you done it for yourself?

          • Mick says:

            Wow. You guys really excel at creative misunderstanding.

            Direct copy and paste from the other thread.

            “A 475# lie weight is probably about 525# ready to ride. Minus 200 would be 325.”

            Questions?

          • VLJ says:

            No questions at all. I already addressed your bump to 325 lbs with this…

            “No, it’s 100% that they can’t. See, even with the one-off materials and tech involved in the production of an unobtanium, prototype-build MotoGP bike, we’re still nowhere close to your original 250-lbs target, or even your 325-lbs attempt at backpedaling.”

            It still can’t be done, even at 325 lbs.

            Not “won’t.”

            Can’t.

  9. Random says:

    If I understood it well it was a bit different than that (not easy to get since nobody is openly disclosing it including FIM/Dorna).
    Yamaha sent engine designs for successful homologation. Then after Qatar someone had too much unspent time and decided to change the valves for some which was supposed to be better but also within the design’s parameters (but wasn’t). Then this change has blown up in their faces literally in Jerez (twice). Some time after, probably after having the plea for changing the valves back to the original ones denied by the manufacturer association, the change was discovered.

    The fact is they almost lost their year effort due to it given: 1) there’s even fewer engines than normal this season and it made them lose a few; and 2)the change didn’t help their performance (and in fact hindered it by making them run fewer max RPMs) is probably why they got away with it with just a slap in the wrist.

  10. todd says:

    I guess it was considered unfair of Yamaha because they might have saved $100 or a day by going to a different supplier for the same part. Picky.
    Either that or it was acceptable for the original manufacturer to supply a valve out of spec and Yamaha went somewhere else to get it made correctly.

    • Curly says:

      Lin Jarvis is stating that it was a matter of the original valve supplier not being able to produce more valves and that there was no performance benefit. Half of the engines got the remaining good valves. The design and material spec of the new valves was the same and had no performance advantage, For some reason due to the production of the valves they failed. Yamaha asked for relief from the other manufacturers but they declined to allow the valves to be changed. They accept the penalty and are adamant that the riders were not at fault.

    • mickey says:

      The valves in question are the same size and shape, but of a different material than the original spec’d valves.

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