MotoGP

Pace setter Vinales ‘in a better place’

Maverick Viñales tops the first day of testing in Qatar; “I feel like I’m pushing much more the bike. I can ride in my own style.”

Maverick Viñales has stated he is “in a better place” compared to this time a year ago, as he continued to show toward the front of the MotoGP field on the first day of testing in Qatar.

The 24-year old was upbeat on Saturday night after posting the fastest time of the day, his 1m 55.051s 0.108s quicker than countryman Alex Rins. Viñales echoed his sentiments from Sepang, saying his current set-up allows him to be aggressive and “ride in my own style.”

“I feel in a better place,” he said. “Actually the lap time was pretty similar to last year but I feel much better on the bike. That’s the biggest point. I feel better. I feel like I’m pushing much more the bike. I can ride in my own style.

“I think we still have a lot of things to do. We can make some upgrades on the bike that will be good for the first races. Now I can make a good line and push the bike at the maximum.

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“Actually I’m really happy that at the four different tracks we’ve been I could ride quite good and very similar. That’s very important because last year I had to change a lot the riding style. This year it’s pretty similar and the bike is working.

“For sure we are more relaxed. We introduced Esteban [Garcia – Viñales’ new crew chief], who brought new ideas for me. I think I can ride more like myself. But still it’s not enough. I mean, our competitors are great. They showed it in the rhythm. I think Suzuki made a great step forward.

“It’s something we have to look for. I need to improve also on the bike. I’m really focussed on that, being a better rider and making the bike work better.”

Asked whether today confirmed Yamaha’s 2019 engine choice as the right one, Vinales continued, “I think I’m going to feel it more tomorrow and the day after. Today the grip was very low but actually it was really good that the grip was low.

“In Malaysia the grip was great. I exited and the bike was perfect. Here the bike was sliding a lot and I could work a little bit more. It’s going to be good. Still we are facing down, trying to work hard.

“We still have a bit of gap to the competitors. We need to close it and we have two days. We need to work really hard.”

On his testing programme for the three days, he added, “We are testing some new parts, but they are not really new. We already tested them last year, but they were not really clear when we tested them. There are things I tested last year that I didn’t like that here, it is working with the bike.

“We are not only testing new parts; we’re trying ones from last year that we missed through the season. For me it’s very important to keep concentrated to build a bike for the race, not only for all the season.

“I’ve been riding always with the same set-up. It’s great, but we need more. Tomorrow we’re going to explore more areas to make it work. But finally the feeling is like the changes we did in Buriram: more weight on the rear, trying to help the bike to stop. This is the biggest improvement.

“Also the engine brake. Last year I was struggling a lot with this. This year they brought something better so I can close the corner and also I can accelerate better. But still it’s not enough. So we are working really hard in that area.

“In Sepang we had two different chassis – very similar, but here I can feel a bit more difference because there is no grip. We are testing these things because they need to be clear for the first race. Let’s see."

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