“In six months I haven’t felt good on the bike,” says Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) after the conclusion of the #ThaiTest. “It’s many, many races in which we’ve had the same problem and we didn’t find out what it is yet…for sure it’s frustrating.”
So what’s the issue? The problems seemed to begin last season when both Movistar Yamaha riders struggled for grip at Jerez and Catalunya – incidentally, the same venues at which Rossi won the year before – and it continued at other venues and races, especially in the wet later in the season. That gave the factory some big question marks heading into the off season.
After testing 2016 vs 2017 chassis and heading down the 2016 route to develop, the first test of 2018 seemed to be much better when action opened at Sepang - but Day 3 was tougher and Thailand confirmed the issues aren’t all fixed. The team are working chiefly with the electronics to find a solution and, as Team Manager Massimo Meregalli explains, it’s all hands on deck for the Iwata marque as the start of the 2018 season draws closer.
“We were working to improve the electronics,” begins Meregalli, “but every time we try something different it looks like we still have room to improve. For sure we put a lot of effort into improving this. As you can imagine, we’re really trying and working as much as we can.”
The electronics are, for Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), also the key thing pointed out. The ‘Doctor’ was frank in his assessment of Buriram. “It was a difficult test, we struggled and we have to improve because we didn’t improve a lot compared to last year. Especially with the electronics, so I think we have a lot of work to do.”
Back to Viñales, and the issue is more general. He says they have to improve “in all areas” and cites the step forward made by their competitors. Meanwhile, Independent Team rider Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) left Thailand as the fastest Yamaha. Only three riders set a lap in the 1:29s, and Zarco was one of them. The Frenchman also finished top Yamaha in 2017 in places like Sepang – in the wet – and Valencia, where Rossi and Viñales found it tough going. That’s something else pointed out by Viñales.
“Our rivals made good steps,” says the Spaniard, “and we have Johann there in front so it’s something we can believe as riders, that as Yamaha factory we’re struggling so much and that it’s difficult to be in the top ten when things don’t go in the right direction.”
And looking ahead, the 2013 Moto3™ World Champion is worried with the relative lack of track time now left before lights out – with only one three-day test left before the first 25 points are in play. “For sure I’m worried because the race days are coming fast and we only have three days in Qatar now. I don’t know, I’m not a technician so I don’t know the solution. But I’ll continue working and be 100% ready. When the bike is ready, I’ll push.”
On the other side of the garage, Rossi is looking towards Qatar, too – but the master of Saturday struggles to Sunday miracles is seemingly more upbeat.
“At the moment we’re struggling,” says the ‘Doctor’, “but this is today. Maybe in Qatar it will be better.”
Testing begins at Losail on the 1st March.