Last week’s MotoGP test at the Bururam circuit in Thailand was difficult for the Movistar Yamaha team as riders Maverick Vinales, Valentino Rossi and team manager Massimo Meregalli all affirmed.
“In six months I haven’t felt good on the bike,” said Vinales after the conclusion of the test. “It’s many, many races in which we’ve had the same problem and we didn’t find out what it is yet…for sure it’s frustrating.”
The problems seemed to begin last season when both Movistar Yamaha riders struggled for grip at Jerez and Catalunya – incidentally, the same venues at which Rossi won the year before – and it continued at other venues and races, especially in the wet later in the season. That gave the factory some big question marks heading into the off season.
After testing 2016 vs 2017 chassis and heading down the 2016 route to develop, the first test of 2018 seemed to be much better when action opened at Sepang– but Day 3 was tougher and Thailand confirmed the issues aren’t all fixed. The team are working chiefly with the electronics to find a solution and, as team manager Massimo Meregalli explained, it’s all hands on deck for the Iwata marque as the start of the 2018 season draws closer.
“We were working to improve the electronics,” said Meregalli, “but every time we try something different it looks like we still have room to improve. For sure we put a lot of effort into improving this. As you can imagine, we’re really trying and working as much as we can.”
Rossi (pictured) was frank in his assessment of Buriram. “It was a difficult test, we struggled and we have to improve because we didn’t improve a lot compared to last year,” he said. “Especially with the electronics, so I think we have a lot of work to do.”
For Vinales, the issue is more general. He says the team has to improve “in all areas” and cites the step forward made by its competitors. Meanwhile, independent team rider Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) left Thailand as the fastest Yamaha. Only three riders set a lap in the 1m29s, and Zarco was one of them. The Frenchman also finished top Yamaha in 2017 in places like Sepang – in the wet – and Valencia, where Rossi and Vinales found it tough going.
“Our rivals made good steps,” said Vinales, “and we have Johann there in front so it’s something we can believe as riders, that as Yamaha factory we’re struggling so much and that it’s difficult to be in the top 10 when things don’t go in the right direction.”
Vinales is worried with the relative lack of track time now left, with only one three-day test left before the first race. “For sure I’m worried because the race days are coming fast and we only have three days in Qatar now. I don’t know – I’m not a technician so I don’t know the solution. But I’ll continue working and be 100% ready. When the bike is ready, I’ll push.”
Testing begins at Losail on March 1.