I'm not sure how it happened, but there we were, two people, filing into the Yamaha factory garage just after a large press group had filed out. But I'll take it. As the door closed behind us, I felt warmth on this chill, lately drying rainy day. And it was quiet. Unlike Friday, no one had just finished an engine change, now checking brr, brr, brr for six speeds. There were no busy mechanics subtly letting us know we were in their way. Two journalists, two minders, and four multi-million-dollar Yamaha YZR-M1 MotoGP bikes.

Here are the rubber tank pads riders talked about the previous day, descendants of something invented by George Dance in the 1920s to make riders feel more confidently in control. How do you implement fork stops when every team’s upper fork tubes are ultra-stiff but crushable carbon fiber? By fitting them with 3-D-milled aluminum pads to distribute the force of hitting the lock stops over a wide area.

One bike has its thin carbon brake-caliper cooling scoops fitted. Because of Saturday morning’s rain, there’s no use pretending anyone knows which brake setup will be needed—for wet, steel discs and compatible pads or discs and pads of carbon-carbon. On a table, an array of Brembo calipers is ready, wet and dry.

Valentino Rossi interview Circuit of the Americas 2019
Valentino Rossi celebrated his 40th birthday in February, but age does not appear to have slowed the nine-time world champion. The Italian finished fifth in Qatar, second in Argentina, and qualified second-quickest at Circuit of The Americas.Andrew Wheeler/automotophoto.com

Projecting forward from the front of the fairing’s belly pan is the timing transponder. The circle of teeth behind the engine crankcase on the left fit those of the starter unit we saw just inside the back door. Gleam of titanium. What does it mean? Until recently, Yamaha started its bikes from the rear wheel by backing the bike onto a flatbed starter. Why the switch? Maybe because the present slipper clutch works in a different way, making it unable to transmit the force of starting? Nothing here—seen or unseen—is without purpose.

Under the swingarm is a deflector Yamaha has used for rain since last year. It guides rain aside before it can pass under the back tire. On the way down Route 130 this morning, seeing lightning flash through fog ahead, three times our rental car lost direction from hydroplaning. I told myself, “Now imagine that at 213 mph.”

Look straight down on the swingarm beams to estimate their thickness. Not so long ago, the usual was 32mm. Now it is 25, just 1 inch. Each beam is deep top to bottom to prevent twist, but this thinness is visible proof of built-in lateral flexibility, a second suspension with only millimeters of travel that can work at 60 degrees of lean.

Maverick Vinales COTA 2019
Maverick Viñales has shown tremendous single-lap speed this season, having qualified first in Qatar, second in Argentina, and sixth in Texas. But he arrived at Circuit of The Americas 11th in points, eight places behind Yamaha teammate Rossi.Andrew Wheeler/automotophoto.com

Yesterday we learned that MotoGP bikes now carry more than 200 sensors to report their functions. Connectors and wire harness can be seen peeking out here and there. The best possible connectors, with lots of rust-proof gold on pins and sockets.

Enough now, time to go. In the moment, I felt we’d been in a kind of church, time frozen, minds relaxed, alone with our thoughts.