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Rossi outlines potential benefits of seamless transmission

Rossi outlines potential benefits of seamless transmission

One of the main talking points on the Thursday ahead of the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix was Yamaha Factory Racing’s mid-summer test of a seamless transmission – a technology that its main rival Honda has been using to great effect since 2011.

Yet with its technology a tough one to get right, Yamaha has been slower off the mark than its main rivals and delayed the introduction of such a transmission as it develops its own version. But with the first official testing complete, the big question now remains when it will be seen, which is unfortunately not at the Indianapolis grand prix as its riders and team confirm.

Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi was quick to point out at the race’s preceding press conference that he is all for an introduction of the seamless transmission as soon as possible. He said: “We tried the new gearbox in Brno, and the feeling was very, very good. We like it a lot. But, you know, there is a lot of work to do. I think it's still not ready. I mean, I don't know when it’s possible to use it. I hope as soon as possible.”

This raised the natural questions of what improvement such a technology would bring, and what its basic principles are. A regular gearbox will disengage one gear before being able to select the next, therefore leaving a short gap when no drive is being transmitted to the wheels. This means that power is momentarily cut under acceleration, and engine braking is very briefly cut under deceleration.

The so-called seamless technology, using architecture no too dissimilar to a regular gearbox, switches between ratios without cutting drive from the engine. The technology is extremely complex, yet those milliseconds it saves appear to be a cost and effort worth putting in. Rossi spoke about the areas he felt such a transmission improves.  

“For me, in one lap it doesn't change a lot…I mean the lap time. A lot of people speak about two-tenths for a lap - I think it’s less than two-tenths. But the big improvement I think is in the 20 or 30 laps, because the bike becomes a lot easier to ride, is more stable, more stable in acceleration, but also more stable in braking, and in the next braking.”

He addresses the fact that a quicker shift saves time when added up over race distance, yet focussed heavily on the benefits on the feeling of the bike. Engaging a gear on a regular gearbox is something not only spectators can hear, but something riders feel reverberating through their bikes. By eliminating this movement of the bike, no matter how small, the whole package feels more stable in all parts of the track. A point the Italian noted in particular was that “…you can use the gears for riding the bike more than before. I mean that, if you need to change gear, also on the very edge [at full lean], you can do so!”

As Rossi pointed out, this added smoothness has a knock-on effect on tyre wear, and rider feeling and fatigue: “For me, it's better for the tyres, less stress for the tyres, and is also very good for the riders because the bike becomes easier to bring to the limit and it’s more difficult to make a mistake. So I think it's something very important for race distance – more so than for one lap.”

Not yet installed at Indianapolis, Yamaha is giving little away about when it may appear in their M1, saying that the technology needs to be perfect before making its way into the paddock. However with Honda in the lead, and Lorenzo and Rossi both capable of challenging for wins, the seamless transmission will undoubtedly be a very welcome addition in their arsenal.

MotoGP, 2013, RED BULL INDIANAPOLIS GRAND PRIX, Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing

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