Can Yamaha conquer Le Mans in 2019?

Viñales discussed his liking for the circuit, as well as gaining “quite a lot” of improvements at the Jerez test – is a repeat of 2017 on?

During the Shark Helmets Grand Prix de France pre-event Press Conference, Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP’s Maverick Viñales spoke about his expectations for Le Mans – a circuit he and Yamaha won at in 2017.

But is a repeat on the cards? Jerez was a much-needed confidence booster for the Spaniard and his team, with Viñales also explaining how they found some good improvements during the post-GP test in Andalucia.

“Honestly for us, it was really important to go into the weekend and make the most of our potential,” said Viñales on Thursday. “Especially the first laps, going well that was the most important for us because we lose many seconds in Qatar, Austin and Argentina so we couldn’t show our potential. So, I think, for sure, the result in Jerez was very important. We bring a lot of confidence into the team and that’s what we needed.

“We need to keep working, we need to try to understand the way to go. We improve quite a lot on the test, so I’m really pleased. Let’s see here in Le Mans - a track I really like. We can give our best and be, at least, on the podium. I think the main objective is to be on the podium and fighting for the top places. We need to try to be on the front row as I think in Jerez that was really important because the other two Yamahas were really fast on Saturday.”

But what were the areas Viñales improved on in Jerez? The question was put to him during the French GP Press Conference: “The idea was to improve a little in every area because we need a little bit more in acceleration, in braking, in corner speed so the main idea was to improve everything a little bit. Also, the riding style with the bike. For me it was good, to get even more confidence heading to Le Mans with a lot of motivation. The main improvement was a little bit everywhere.”

So will Viñales be able to use those improvements this weekend? Le Mans has historically been a track Yamaha have done well at. Aforementioned, Viñales claimed a 25-point haul on French soil in 2017 as he and teammate Valentino Rossi went toe-to-toe in of the most famous last laps Le Mans has witnessed. Jorge Lorenzo won in 2009, 2010, 2012, 2015 and 2016 on board an M1 in Le Mans, with Rossi winning in 2005 - as well as earning seven other podiums - on a Yamaha. But why does it seem to suit the Yamaha so well? Viñales isn’t sure, but there is one thing he’s sure of: he can’t wait to get going.

“I don’t really know if it masks the weakness of the bike, but I know I always feel really good at this track. I can always give a little bit more so I can’t wait to get started and enjoy riding here.”

We’ll wait and see if Viñales, Rossi or the Petronas Yamaha SRT bikes of Franco Morbidelli and home hero Fabio Quartararo can do the business for Yamaha in Le Mans. Don’t miss the action kicking off on Friday morning as FP1 begins at 09:55 local time (GMT+2).

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