Yamaha: Japan race key for confirmation of improvements

Thailand signalled an upturn in form for Rossi and Viñales but the question remains as to whether they’ve made a step forward with the M1

The PTT Thailand Grand Prix signalled a turning point for Movistar Yamaha MotoGP after both Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales were able to challenge for the podium.

Viñales didn’t finish a session outside the top four all weekend and took his first podium since the German GP in third, just 0.270 from the race win. On the other side of the garage, Rossi was able to stick his YZR-M1 on the front row of the grid for the first time since Brno, 0.011 off pole, eventually taking the chequered flag in fourth on Sunday.

So, was it a combination of the tyres, the Chang International Circuit and the Yamaha that saw an upturn in fortunes for the Iwata factory, or was it the intricate changes made on the bike that allowed them to challenge at the front?

“I don’t know, honestly. It should be like this every race but it seems somehow, this year, it’s been really difficult,” said Viñales after the race. “I hope it will be the change we did on the bike because for me it was really positive. I had really good confidence on the front, especially under braking so let’s see if we can manage well for the next races.”

On Saturday, Rossi confirmed Yamaha have been putting more resources into trying to fix their electronics, with Yamaha WorldSBK engineer Michele Gadda one of those helping the MotoGP™ setup since Silverstone: “It's true that recently, Yamaha have hired new engineers. Michele Gadda is one of them. The others are in Japan. This is indeed something that comes from the new working group. Yamaha seems to be putting more effort in the electronics field and that's what we need to fight against Ducati and Honda.”

But before confirming they’d made a step forward, the nine-time World Champion was eager to find out what their pace is like in Japan: “I’m going to Japan quite optimistic to be strong, also there. Usually, Motegi is a good track for me, I like it. I hope that it will be dry because last year it was a nightmare, always wet. But we’ll see. We’ll see in the next three, not just in Japan because if it’s the reality that we improved the bike, we have to be competitive in the next three because now Honda and Ducati are stronger every race.”

Teammate Viñales backed this up post-race: “In the winter I know where we need to work. For now, it’s going to be difficult, but we’ll be back in good shape. I think if we do it (a good result) in Japan, it will mean that we’ve improved.”

All eyes will be on Yamaha when they head out for FP1 at Motegi…

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