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It’s safe to say Yamaha are looking pretty formidable heading into the 2020 season. The only two riders to top the four preseason tests in Valencia, Jerez, Sepang and Qatar were Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT), with Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) finishing inside the top four on three occasions too.
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A big talking point has been the YZR-M1’s new engine that Viñales, Quartararo and Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) have been using. The top speed gap has closed a considerable amount to the likes of Honda and KTM, but Ducati have made another step to their rocket ship GP20s, so the Yamahas are still going to struggle in that department down the long straights in direct combat with the Bologna bullets.
Overall though, it seems Yamaha have a very strong package. Their core strength has always been turning, and it looks like they’ve kept this – with an updated chassis – while also increasing that top end power. Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team Director Massimo Meregalli rated Yamaha’s preseason 8/10 at the Qatar Test, and it sounds like pacesetter Viñales was also pleased with his work.
Maverick Viñales, Qatar Test King
“Today has been a really good day for us,” commented the Spaniard after the final day of testing in the desert. “We have been working with the used tyre, especially when the conditions were difficult. So yeah, trying to adapt ourselves to the conditions when the track isn’t good. I tried my best with used tyres because sometimes on the race we have that kind of feeling which is difficult, I have to try and understand what I have to do when the condition on the track isn’t good so I’m very happy, the team has been working in a very good way.
“Six days of tests and I feel good with the bike, the bike is there and now we need to keep working because it’s a good progression, but it’s not enough. Honestly I’ve enjoyed the last three days on the bike so much. I can’t wait to be on the race weekend.”
The difference a year makes: Quartararo set to impress
More to come from Viñales is potentially bad news for the likes of Honda and Ducati. Maybe it’s also bad news for Quartararo but judging by the 2019 Rookie of the Year’s race simulation run on Monday, the future factory rider looks like he’s in a good place heading into the opening round.
Speaking on Day 2 in Qatar, Quartararo said: “Today has been a really positive test. We worked on the pace and like yesterday we tried some electronics, settings, engine brake, power… and of course we tried some setting on the bike on the front and rear but I’m really happy because at the end of the day it was better than yesterday because I felt better on the bike.”
Petronas Yamaha SRT Team Manager Wilco Zeelenberg also spoke to motogp.com about the Frenchman, saying: “It’s true that we need to improve the areas that he is weak. Last year it was clear his hot lap is there and is not a problem, but to ride the bike fast during the whole race is important. We don’t focus on the hot lap and being top, instead we try to make the bike a bit better in the race.” Judging by the aforementioned race run, that’s exactly what team and rider have done.
Rossi: "It's like Moto2 - this is great for the fans"
Talking of race runs, Morbidelli also completed a very decent looking race simulation as the Italian also heads into the 2020 campaign in great condition. Morbidelli said he was “very happy” about his preseason, with he and the team improving “day by day” at Sepang and in Qatar. Remember, Morbidelli is on an ‘A-Spec’ 2020 YZR-M1, different to that of the other three but even so, it doesn’t look like it’s making too much difference so far.
And finally, we come to The Doctor. Rossi didn’t venture as far up the timesheets as his less experienced colleagues during winter testing but reflecting at the end of the Qatar Test, the nine-time World Champion did say he has “a very good feeling” with the Yamaha, the only slight worry is making the tyre last race distance. Rossi’s pace is good “in the first five or six laps” but, similar to last year, the number 46 starts suffering with the tyres.
An 8/10 preseason for Yamaha then. Good, but not perfect. Perfection in MotoGP™ rarely exists though, the only thing that matters is Sunday 8th March when the lights go out for the first time in 2020. Viñales and Quartararo will start as early race win contenders before Friday’s Free Practices take place at the Losail International Circuit, with Morbidelli and Rossi also in high spirits. Are Yamaha the team to beat heading into 2020? It’s hard to argue otherwise.
After the Flag - Day 3 at the Qatar Test
Yamaha's 2020 preseason test results:
3 years ago
5 years ago
6 years ago