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“Really positive” Friday “confirms improvements” for Yamaha

Iwata factory enjoyed a successful opening day at the Motul Grand Prix of Japan

After Thailand, both Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) and teammate Maverick Viñales were hoping to confirm that Yamaha had made a step in the right direction with the setup of their bikes, instead of it being a one-off weekend. Well, after the opening day of action at the Motul Grand Prix of Japan, the answer seems to be that yes, they have.

“It’s been a good day. Honestly, really positive,” began Viñales, who ended the day P5 on the combined timesheets. “We confirmed the improvement in Thailand was about setup, rather than the tyre. That tyre works completely differently than in Thailand but still, we nearly made it on top, so I’m really happy and pleased about today. Still, there is a lot of room to improve, I think we have to continue with that setup and try to improve on the track.”

The Spaniard pipped Rossi to a podium in Thailand and it seemed the latter had a more difficult day at the office than his teammate. However, ‘The Doctor’ recognises the speed both Viñales and Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Johann Zarco showed in FP1 prove the Iwata factory have made progress:

“It’s a difficult day to have a clear idea. Fortunately, FP1 was dry, so we could work a bit. I was not fantastic, my pace was not fantastic,” admitted the nine-time World Champion. “But on the other side, Zarco and Viñales were quite strong, so this is good for Yamaha. We have to try something else like this. In the afternoon, unfortunately, the conditions were difficult because it was half and half, but I had something to try, so I stayed on the track with wet tyres to try to understand. From that information, tomorrow, we’ll try to make it better. A better setting, especially to keep a good pace with a used tyre, which is always difficult for us. We hope for good weather tomorrow to better understand our situation.”

The 39-year-old doesn’t want to get too carried away just yet, but what does Yamaha Team Director Massimo Meregalli think about Friday’s track action? “I had some doubts after Thailand because we used a harder rear tyre carcass there. We thought that the improvement was due to the tyre. Today we’ve done a good Free Practice session and we’ve confirmed the improvement we made.

Motul Grand Prix of Japan: MotoGP™ Free Practice 1

“Maverick has also been fast with the used tyre over a number of laps. We still have a lot of work to do, but it was important to understand we were working in the right direction. We have the path and we’ve understood where and how we need to work. It’s been difficult to find the problem: after we’ve gathered data on these races, the engineers know already how they need to keep working next year. It’s important that the bike works better.”

Things are certainly sounding positive then for Yamaha, but can they convert their Free Practice pace into qualifying? It’s not long before we find out…

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