Yamaha’s increased commitment to the MotoGP World Championship was revealed at the 2003 Jerez IRTA test, held on February 21, when the factory’s new MotoGP test and development team made a public debut with its YZR-M1 prototype. Visually different to the 2003 spec YZR-M1s used by the Factory Fortuna Yamaha Team and the Gauloises Yamaha Team; this Research and Development prototype features a unique Öhlins twin shock rear suspension system, a four-into-one under seat exhaust system, an inverted rear swingarm and an experimental Deltabox chassis.

Technical Test Team Manager Shuji Sakurada feels that the addition of a dedicated full time test team will form the perfect platform to evaluate the potential of new ideas, and doing so alongside the Factory teams provides the ideal environment to compare data. This is why the testing team is also based in Italy, at the Factory Team’s main workshop, and why Yamaha has employed the services of top rider and former MotoGP Championship challenger Norick Abe.

We are always evaluating new concepts in an effort to ensure the YZR-M1’s continues to be competitive. Our main focus, at the moment with the test team, is chassis development,” explains Sakurada. “The twin shock rear suspension system is just one example of a fresh approach. The belief is that it could improve traction and tyre life, something we can evaluate accurately thanks to the support we have from Michelin.”

Although the under seat exhaust offers little benefit in outright power the main advantage of the reshaped system allows the chassis engineers more room to develop the rear swingarm unit, in turn complimenting the modifications made to the YZR-M1’s chassis. Featuring two main damping units across the top of the main chassis this concept explores the flex characteristics of the alloy frame and is targeted at improving rider feel.