MotoGP

Vinales: First test in 2 years we made steps each day

Maverick Viñales praises Yamaha’s working method throughout the three days at Sepang as he posts an eye catching race simulation late into day three.

Maverick Viñales was relieved to have made solid, consistent progress over the three days of MotoGP testing at Sepang, and went as far as to claim it was the first test in two years Yamaha had done so.

For the 24-year old, the speed was there; Viñales ended the test with the fifth fastest time, his 1m 58.644s effort two tenths of a second under Jorge Lorenzo’s previous outright circuit record.

Consistency was evident too; the Catalan posted more laps in the 1m 59s/2m 00s than anyone on day one, and his 19-lap race simulation was littered with quick times. 46% of his laps on day three were sub 2m 1s efforts.

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But perhaps even more pleasing for Viñales – and Yamaha management – was the working method through the test. There was continued progress, and the former Moto3 world champion found cures for the engine braking issues he encountered on day one.

What’s more, the potential of the sole engine Yamaha brought to the test is evident. Viñales may have been hesitant to get overly excited, but only Alex Rins and an injured Marc Marquez were showing similar consistency.

“Yes, it was not so bad. But also, the one lap time attack was not so bad, I mean, 1'58.6 around here is not easy. Yes, the others were amazing, but still 1m 58.6s was under the lap record!

“So it was not so bad," he said. "This morning, I did that and I said, wow! I went to the box and I saw I was fourth, and I said to myself, ‘Woah. OK, put another tyre on! I am going back out!’

“Well, here we only had one [engine] so I focused a lot in trying to improve the acceleration side, and we did it,” said Viñales. “So that's really important. I mean, in these two years, this is the first test where we made steps ahead day by day, and that's the most important thing.

“Day by day, the bike was pretty similar, and not like last year, where it was working good or working bad. But these three days it was working really good, like in the last test.

“[The race simulation] was good. The bike was very constant, and I could ride really on my own way, and that was the most important. I felt really good on the bike, and I always tried to push a little bit more and a little bit more, lap by lap.

“Especially the front tire was working pretty good. I had some warnings in some laps, but I was doing 1'59.7, it's normal, I was pushing.

“In the middle part of the race [run], I felt really good, in the 1'59s here which is not easy. Especially as we went out at the time of the day when it was more hot, and also physically I was quite tired. So honestly overall, it was a really positive test.

“But anyway, we still need to improve, that's why I say the power delivery can improve on the bike, but it's quite good. For sure we are much more ready than last year, so that's good.”

In terms of bike balance, it appears Yamaha continued with the set-up established at last season’s Thai Grand Prix, that propelled Viñales to a dominant victory at Phillip Island, and Valentino Rossi to victory challenges at Sepang and Valencia.

“Yes, [the balance is] the same, completely the same,” said the five-time MotoGP race winner. “That's why I said that we weren't really working on setup, we were working on the engine. That's why I think we still have margin to improve, and that's really good.

“And important to know that this is not the maximum, we can still improve. But anyway, that was really good for me. I have a lot of confidence in the bike. So maybe that's the setup we need to go, we didn't know.”

So what is the focus for Qatar? “Bike balance, everything,” he said. “We are just trying to make the bike better. So we tried to work a little bit to see. Also it was very important for me to see if I can overtake with a full tank or not, which I was struggling a lot with last year.

“So it was good that we solved that point quite a lot with a little bit harder springs. So it was good to know that for the Qatar test and the Qatar race.”

Does he feel a win will be possible at the first race? “It's too soon,” he warned. “It's too soon. It's just the first test. We need to keep our feet on the ground, our heads down, and work like hell, trying to find the best setup for Qatar, and to see.

“Qatar is a good track for us, better than here, so let's see. Last year, the first part of the race was so-so, but the second part we were the fastest. So it's important in Qatar to make a good setup from the race.”

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