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Consistency is starting to pay dividends for Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP’s Maverick Viñales after a third podium finish in four races saw him close to within four points of the man sat third in the MotoGP™ standings, Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins. In fact, Top Gun has found himself in Parc Ferme on a Sunday afternoon at five of the last eight rounds, a run of results only bettered by newly crowned World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team).
However, Viñales was unable to join Marquez and fellow Yamaha rider Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) in the fight for the win in Buriram after complaining of a lack of traction in the opening stages of the Thai Grand Prix. Once the fuel load lessened, Viñales was able to match and even better the lap times of the leaders but it was too little, too late for the Spaniard.
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"I’m happy, I’m positive and I accept the third place," said Viñales. "But it is not enough. We have to work harder and I think in the team, we still have to make a step. I felt difference with Fabio and Marc, especially on the traction area, where we miss a lot. I was still able to hit good lap times to close the gap at the end of the race, which means we have strong points at the end of the race. But we have to improve the weak ones.
"With a full tank, if you don’t have traction it can be difficult to hit the lap times. When the fuel tank goes down, I can carry corner speed and I am able to hit the lap times. Today in the warm up, I had a much better feeling than in the race, as in the race I was not able to push. So, we have to understand that and improve in Japan."
With now four rounds remaining, Viñales may well sit a handful of points adrift of a World Championship podium finish at this current moment but his biggest challenge for third in title chase looks likely to come from his independent counterpart Quartararo rather than the factory Suzuki of Rins ahead of him. The Frenchman is only twenty points away from the number 12, and more remarkably just two behind Top Gun’s factory teammate Valentino Rossi.
The former Moto3™ World Champion will be hoping to see the chequered flag ahead of the 20-year-old at the Japanse Grand Prix in two weeks, as he aims move further clear and avoid being beaten by the satellite rookie: "For sure, he is doing a very good job, he is understanding the bike very well and riding superb. We have to understand how he rides because we can improve a lot on the bike, and then we will see.
"I like Motegi a lot, it is a track that I can push and be fast so it will be good. Normally, I am really fast. Last year, it was a difficult race but we were at a point where we didn’t feel good with the bike. But now, I feel incredible with the bike and I can push so much with good lap times. We will see but I felt really good on the bike."
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