Work is never done for Yamaha’s Maverick Viñales, it seems, despite leading the fourth day of MotoGP testing at the Losail International Circuit.
Spending most of the available seven-hours fine-tuning his YZR-M1, concentrating on start procedures and analysing the three specs of available machinery on offer, Vińales left it to the dying minutes before putting in a time attack in the final stages. It was a time worth waiting for however, as he soared to the top of the standings with his 58th and final lap of the day.
His fastest effort of 1’53.244s, saw him 0.079s clear of second-place man and Petronas Yamaha rider Franky Morbidelli, with Monster teammate Fabio Quartararo making it an all-M1 top-three. Thursday’s time also moved the ‘Top Gun’ up to second in the combined rankings, just 0.061s behind Jack Miller’s thriller from Wednesday.
Despite the dominant position in the standings, Vińales remained cautious but optimistic as he assessed his pre-season progress so far. The understanding seeming to hint towards a return to the Jorge Lorenzo-style strategies of old - getting to the front and just getting gone, is where the Yamaha’s will shine this season. The bike is capable of winning but can it fight?
“Well, I think, still we have a lot of work to do” acknowledged the Spaniard. “We know we can be very fast at one lap and on the rhythm, but we know our weak point so we are working very hard on that. Still one day remains so I will be concentrating to improve my race start, and also the first laps of the tyre which is really important with the full tank.
“Tomorrow I should do a long run, especially like a race-long run. Today I did a few long runs but not really a race-long run, and we will see. What we need is to start super fast and try to be P1 on the first lap and pushing like hell. Our bike is working well on that area so this our main point.”
The starting procedure and opening laps is well documented as his prominent weak point in recent years, Vińales has already completed over 20 practice starts across the past two days, utilising the pitlane for repeated attempts as he adjusted and analysed his settings and strategy.
“Yeah, we are making a lot of progress and this keeps us really happy and also really motivated, because we know we have the speed, we know we have good rhythm for sure, to fight for the race but now we need to start well, so little by little we are improving and we need to make a step.
“At the moment we are working a lot on the setup, because we are not yet where we want to be. Then we want to work with the technique so we have three, four days still remaining to practice starts and then we will be ready.”
The tireless schedule also saw the Spaniard spend time assessing three different M1 machines throughout Thursday’s track time.
“Yeah, it was the 2020, 2021 and then something different. Anyway, you have to try everything and today I think we try a lot of things. For sure I could not concentrate a lot to be fast on the track, but at the end I made two, three laps that I really was on the point and the bike was working well and we could ride quite fast and this is always very positive. What makes me really happy is that I just ride the new bike and I felt quite good on it.”