Sepang (Malaysia), 28th January 2018
After a long winter wait, the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team were back on track today for the first Official IRTA MotoGP Test of the 2018 season, held at the Sepang International Circuit. The first day of the three-day pre-season outing in Malaysia gave riders Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales a chance to get to know their new YZR-M1s and to start working through a number of test items. The teammates completed their first day back aboard their Yamahas in 6th and 13th place respectively.
The rain in the morning had Rossi venture out on track, keen on working on the wet setting of his bike and confirming the findings the team made in the Valencia and Sepang tests they held back in November. Heading out with a new 2018 pre-season helmet, he ended the morning stint in 12th place.
As his afternoon session got under way, a dry track was waiting for the Italian, who took this opportunity with both hands. With three hours remaining, he put his 2018 bike to the test and set a provisional fastest time of 2’00.799s. As his teammate and various competitors started to pick up their pace towards the end of the session, the pack got reshuffled. Rossi responded by reclaiming first place on lap 44/50, and retired to the pit early. A flurry of activity in the last 15 minutes saw him end up in sixth position with a 2‘00.233s, 0.806s from first.
Viñales was also eager to get going aboard his YZR-M1 this morning, to do a race simulation and start working on the electronics and engine specifications together with his teammate. The Spaniard came prepared with a special Sepang Test helmet too, with a design inspired by the famous artist Salvador Dali, and held fourth place at the end of his morning runs.
The 23-year-old looked comfortable out on track in the afternoon and he continued to put in lap after lap. As the pace of the field started to pick up in the drier conditions, he temporarily took over top billing from Rossi, clocking an impressive 2‘00.758s. The competition got more and more heated towards the end of the day, but Viñales stuck to his testing schedule. He dropped a 2‘00.714s on lap 55/72, which ultimately earned him 13th place, 1.287s from the front.
The first day is done, and we are pleased with the start we’ve made. The first test in Sepang is always important, because you want to set the tone right for the rest of the season. I knew Vale and Maverick were extremely curious to see how their 2018 YZR-M1s would perform, compared to what they tried during the tests in Valencia and Sepang at the end of last year. We were able to get in a lot of laps and had a positive day. The main focus today was to confirm our findings from November. Vale and Maverick mainly worked on the electronics and also tried two engine specifications with good feedback. Our first impression of the tyre wear has been positive too. It’s very encouraging to see both riders feel comfortable on the bike already. We are looking forward to keep on working over the next two days and make further steps, if the weather allows it.
I‘m happy, because in November we did a good job. We got a better understanding, after the confusion we had during the 2017 season. Today‘s chassis is a new chassis, it‘s an evolution that‘s based on the 2016 bike. When I ride with this chassis I feel better: my riding is more natural, I feel the front of the bike better, and when I push I have a good speed. After, we also concentrated on other areas. We tried two different engines to improve the acceleration and they are not so bad, also the top speed is quite good. We need to work on the electronics, especially to save the rear tyre, but the first impression is positive.
I‘ve been working really hard, especially when the temperature was higher, trying to reproduce a race day. I‘m quite happy, we‘ve improved a lot since this morning and I think we have a good package. Especially after tomorrow and the day after, I think we‘ll leave with a really good bike, so I‘m quite happy and enthusiastic about that. Anyway, we need to keep working and need to stay on the pace. I feel good on the bike and that‘s the most important thing. At the moment I didn‘t try any different chassis, I focused on electronics and many different settings, so let‘s see tomorrow. As I said, I think after the next few days we‘re going to leave with a good package and make the right steps. I want to make laps and understand everything.