One year, four months, three days. That’s how long Yamaha have waited to taste a MotoGP™ victory but at long last, at the Michelin® Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) crossed the line in P1 to lift the curse.
“Well actually it’s an unbelievable day,” said a jubilant Viñales, but his start to the race was far less than unbelievable as he slipped back from P2 on the grid to P10 at one stage: “First of all I didn’t expect to start so bad, it was incredible. When I saw myself in tenth I said ‘Mav, you are stupid, what are you doing?’ And I just tried to keep my concentration and we worked so good this morning on the switch, the electronic. I knew that if I felt good I could be fast.”
And fast he was. All weekend in fact: The Spaniard didn’t finish a session outside the top three in Phillip Island and when he clawed his way to the lead of the race, there was simply no stopping Top Gun Mav from taking off at the front: “During all weekend I was in the top three so I just felt good and I say ok now I have to push. I didn’t have to think about the tyre I would just push and push and push. When I saw myself three or so seconds (ahead) I said ‘ok now you can relax a little bit and try to save the tyre’ but anyway it was close. It was close because both Andrea’s were coming really fast.”
With four laps to go the gap was hovering around four seconds but then Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) started to reel in the Yamaha at a high rate of knots, with Viñales’ lead being cut to 1.8 seconds with two laps to go. Viñales didn’t lose sight of his target though and took the victory at a track he really, really enjoys:
“Returning to the win at this track is something unbelievable. It’s the best track for me. Maybe the track made myself switch really good and that’s why I could make a little bit more and, really happy. Honestly during the weekend, the team were working really good and working in the way that I wanted and that’s unbelievably good.”
The last 490 days haven’t been easy for the Movistar Yamaha camp and this win lifts a huge weight off the Iwata factory’s shoulders ahead of 2019:
“Honestly, the season has been difficult. I needed that win, we needed that win, Yamaha needed that win,” explained the number 25 rider. “I said on Friday we need to be good and we need to be motivated to start next year really good and for sure that win is going to give us motivation and I’m really happy. All the guys worked so good over the weekend, just even yesterday we were dealing together, trying to be more confident between all the team and… the race just worked out how I imagined. Amazing, this morning I felt like I could do it and when I had the chance I just go and you know to show and prove my riding style was at the top today was amazing.”
Can Viñales or Yamaha get another win under their belts this season before they gear up for a title fight in 2019?