Paris: MotoGP mania has truly descended upon Paris. Even though the 2011 MotoGP season ended some weeks back, the French capital has become the hottest destination for MotoGP fans thanks to the Le Salon de la Moto show which, among other things, is celebrating 50 years of Yamaha's MotoGP history with a display of some select championship winning bikes of the past and the present. These include the stunning machines of MotoGP legends like Giacorno Agostini, Kenny Roberts, Wayne Rainey and Valentino Rossi.
The first bike that welcomes visitors to the Yamaha MotoGP pavilion is the one with which multiple world champion Giacorno Augustini won the 1975 500 cc championship. Besides its historical significance, the bike is also interesting as it provides an insight in the manner in which MotoGP bikes have evolved over the decades.
Next is the 250 cc machine driven by British rider Phil Read who won the 1964 championship with it. Read holds the distinction of being the first rider to have won 125 cc, 250 cc and 500 cc championships.
The 500cc bike of Kenny Roberts stands apart because of its distinct yellow colour. Roberts, the three time world champion who also ran a team after retiring as a driver, won his third championship on this machine, YZR 500. Roberts' son Kenny Roberts Jr also won the world championship 20 years later, but on a Suzuki. They are the only father-son duo in the history of MotoGP to have won 500 cc championships.
Yamaha's ascent in the 1980s truly took off with the performance of Eddie's Lawson aboard a Yamaha. The American rider won three of his championships with Yamaha in 1984, 1986 and 1988.His last championship win was on a Hinda in 1989. Eddie's 1986 championship winning bike Yamaha YZR500 is on display.
Before Valentino Rossi's rise to stardom, Wayne Rainey was arguably the most popular rider in MotoGP. Besides his brilliance as a rider, the three-time world champion is also admired for his courage and determination. Rainey suffered permanent paralysis from chest down after an accident at the 1993 Italian Grand Prix that ended his riding career when still a defending world champion. Though he couldn't participate in MotoGP as a rider, he came back as a team manager from 1994 to 1998. During his riding career, Rainey's ability to tame the prevalent two stroke 500 cc beasts was legendary. He won the championship for three consecutive years in 1990, 1991 and 1992.
Rainey's 1992 win was Yamaha's last for a long time to come, 12 years to be precise. The next rider to win the championship with Yamaha was Valentino Rossi who revived the team's fortunes in 2004. It was an incredible performance by Rossi, considering that he had been the champion for the three previous years with Honda. Predictably, the number '46' bikes draw the maximum visitors. Rossi's 2009 championship winning bike too is on display. The Italian rider won four times with Yamaha.
Jorge Lorenzo won the 2010 championship on a Yamaha which is the last bike on display. Lorenzo continued the dream run of Yamaha which started in the second half of 2000s.
The exhibition ends with a pictorial tribute to all Yamaha legends during the last 50 years.