Repsol Honda Team’s Marc Marquez may have picked up victory number seven of his season on Sunday, but there was one manufacturer who stood out among the rest at the GP Octo di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini: Yamaha.
Both Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) were the pacesetters in Free Practice and the Spaniard would eventually take pole position on Saturday afternoon by nearly three tenths. Both home hero and Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and fellow Italian Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) - ahead of his 100th GP start - were also having good weekends at the office, with all four YZR-M1s never finishing outside the 10 in a session throughout the weekend.
On race day, Quartararo was oh so close to claiming his maiden MotoGP™ victory. Grip issues saw Viñales finish just 1.6 off the win while Rossi and Morbidelli scrapped it out for P4 throughout the latter two-thirds of the 27-lap dash. In the end, P2, P3, P4 and P5 went to the Yamaha riders as the Iwata factory shone on the Riviera di Rimini.
Both factory riders – Viñales and Rossi – were left slightly disappointed after Sunday’s action though. A good sign, perhaps, after their recent struggles, but the duo will be aiming for more after, in Viñales’ case, a race victory was there for the taking after starting from pole.
“I found the track very slippery, I lost the front two or three times so this disturbed me a lot, and I didn’t get to the pace where I was able to ride,” said the number 12, who led for the first couple of laps before losing touch on Quartararo and Marquez in the opening exchanges. “Then we came back strong, we recovered a lot from 2.5 to 1.4 but you know I am quite happy, we are working hard,” continued Viñales.
“It’s something to build on, step by step. But anyway I’m quite happy, we need to work and we’re doing our best. At the moment that was our best with my bike. We need to be happy, try to understand what we need to be competitive and what we need to improve.
“We are making good progress. I try to ride the bike very good, every time better. But somehow I have to improve, we have to improve. We have to remember we are making steps forward, we’re consistently on the podium, and somehow I can create good grip on the bike but there is room to improve.”
On the other side of the garage, no dream home GP podium came the way of ‘The Doctor’, but a P4 is what he expected as no one had any answers for the leading trio’s pace. “I wanted to try to fight for the podium but I didn’t have the pace,” confessed Rossi.
“To get on the podium here in Misano is always great in front of all the fans but the race was what we expected because all weekend the top three guys were faster than us. We tried to work, we tried to improve in areas, but we couldn’t make the step so in the end we finished fourth.”
If you discount Marquez, all we heard was radio Iwata at the San Marino GP, while the other manufacturers found it was a hard life. Last year’s winner Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) could only manage P6 just behind Rossi and Morbidelli, and the nine-time World Champion is hoping the M1s can continue to be strong for the rest of the season.
“This weekend the bike worked very well and other manufacturers looked like they had more problems than us. So, we hope this isn’t just here in Misano but we hope we can be competitive for the rest of the season.
“The good thing for us is that during the weekend Yamaha were competitive. Maverick and Quartararo are faster and me and Franco are a little bit more in trouble. Why? It looks like in the exit of the corner we have a little bit less grip, so we suffer. Maybe because we are taller. I don’t know.”
MotorLand Aragon – not a track that tends to favour the Yamaha in recent years – is coming up. Will the Iwata factory carry their Misano form into the rest of the season? We don’t have long to find out.