Entering the 21st century, big changes were taking place in the motorcycle road racing world. In 2000, The FIM (Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme) announced regulation changes for the 2002 500cc class. All 4-stroke machines would be allowed a maximum engine size of 990cc – nearly double the previous limit – and their maximum allowable weight was determined by the number of cylinders. Environmental concerns, that prompted the shift from 2-stroke to 4-stroke machinery, also affected the pinnacle class of the Grand Prix World Championship.
While working on developing new 4-stroke race machines, all manufacturers still had to compete with their current 2-stroke bikes. In 2000, five riders entered with Yamaha: Max Biaggi, Carlos Checa, Régis Laconi, Gary McCoy and Norifumi “Norick” Abe, all riding YZR500s (OWK6) with improved acceleration and higher top speed. Thanks to several race wins, including a 1-2 finish for McCoy and Checa in the South African GP, the riders brought Yamaha its ninth constructors’ title.