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Forget Fabio versus Marc, there’s a bigger rivalry raging under the fairings and it’s vee configuration versus inline-four

Making a lap time

A V4 MotoGP bike makes its lap time using its superior horsepower accelerating out of corners and in straight lines, then by braking very late into acute V-type lines through corners. An inline-four makes its lap time by using its superior corner speed, carving sweeping U-type lines through corners.

Obviously not all V4 MotoGP bikes (Honda’s RC213V, Ducati’s Desmosedici, KTM’s RC16 and Aprilia’s RS-GP) are exactly the same and neither are the inline-fours (Suzuki’s GSX-RR and Yamaha’s YZR-M1) exactly the same. The aim of this story is to compare the baseline positives and negatives of each configuration.

Making horsepower

If you want to make tons of horsepower there’s only one way to go – V4 – and there are three main reasons for this. A V4 has a stronger crankshaft, less vibration and fewer pumping losses. That’s why Ducati and Honda can claim the best top-speeds at 97 of the last 100 MotoGP races.

Getting through corners

It’s pretty obvious that inline-four MotoGP bikes handle better than V4 MotoGP bikes. Just look at how Jorge Lorenzo, Johann Zarco, Bradley Smith and many others struggled when they moved from inline-fours to V4s. And notice how V4s get more out shape, making their riders work that much harder to do the lap time. Once again, the heart of this matter is the crankshaft.

V4 rider input

The fact that V4s have won 44 of the last 50 MotoGP races doesn’t mean that V4s are easy to ride. In fact the opposite is true – you wrestle with a V4 and dance with an inline-four.

Should Yamaha and Suzuki switch?

Valentino Rossi has been asking Yamaha to build a V4 on and off since 2007, when his YZR-M1 was destroyed by Ducati’s Desmosedici V4.

But would Rossi or any other Yamaha rider be more successful if Yamaha built a V4? History suggests not, because pretty much every Yamaha rider who has tried a V4 has had a nightmare.

Also consider Suzuki, which has enjoyed considerably more success with its inline-four GSX-RR than with its earlier GSV-R V4.

For more on MotoGP’s biggest battle, check out Mat Oxley’s full story in Vol 70 No 01 on sale now