Vinales tops the Phillip Island test as birthday boy Rossi struggles towards the end

Although it has not necessarily been in a competitive setting, new Movistar Yamaha signing Maverick Vinales is making quite an impression on his new YZR-M1. While his teammate, Valentino Rossi appeared to struggle at the last recent IRTA MotoGP test that took place at Phillip Island, Australia over three days, it was Vinales who finished the test on top of the timesheets.

Great opening day for the Movistar Yamaha team

On day one of testing, it was the Italian nine times world champion that appeared to be able to settle in down under quickly as he finished the timesheets in second. The weather conditions at the coastal track always bring their own complications and the riders have to deal with changing winds. He spent day one working initially on the bike’s settings, before turning his focus to the new frames and fairings before finishing his day with a time attack; he completed 77 laps overall.

Rossi spoke of how it “was a good day” and that he was left feeling “quite satisfied” despite the fact he felt they “started in a difficult way” in the morning; he found that before the break he “wasn’t strong enough” and that he “couldn’t push at the maximum” due to the fact he “didn’t have a lot of feeling”.

However, after the break he found that the “situation changed” and that he was “a bit better”. He confirmed that with the new Michelin Power Slick that he was “able to do a good lap” and was satisfied with his result at the end of the day saying, “second position is positive for the first day”. He still however felt they still had “a lot to do”, with their focus being “the long distance” and he hoped that the good weather would continue for the duration of the test.

Happy Birthday, Valentino!

Day two was extra special for the Italian as he turned 38 and the team took time during the break to celebrate with him, presenting him with a birthday cake. The conditions were again great, compared to those experienced during practice when they met there in 2016. After spending the morning working on his feeling with the bike and testing the new tyres, he returned after the celebrations to test more bike modifications but was unable to improve on his time set in the morning and finished day two in eighth.

Rossi explained how he found the second day “difficult”, referring mainly to the afternoon, however was content with his performance in the morning; he discusses how he “tried some different tyres” but his main focuses was the pace which he found to be “quite good”.

Rossi ended up in the wrong direction

During the afternoon he listed how their tasks included, “some important tests to do, try a long run and modify something on the bike,” however he said, “Unfortunately it didn’t work well and I wasn’t fast enough”. He felt that they “followed the wrong direction” and after hours planned to return to the garage where he hoped they would work to get a better understanding ahead of the final day.

Reflecting on his birthday he said, “Being in Phillip Island with the good weather and riding the M1 all day is always difficult, because it’s hard work, but it’s also a great pleasure, so I think this is a good birthday gift.

Rossi twelfth overall in Australia

It was a disappointed end to the three days of testing down under for the Italian however as he struggled to find a fast race pace. Completing 52 laps throughout the day however, he was able to collect a lot of data, make a lot of decisions on the different settings of the YZR-M1 and decide which way to go in the future, all whilst attempting to reduce the tyre degradation of the Michelins.

His highest position on the final day was sixth, but he was pushed down to 12th as he found himself unable to match the pace of the others. When combining all of the results from the weekend, Rossi ended up 12th overall; his struggle was proven by the fact he was left making a fantastic save with a near miss on a left handed turn.

Summarising the final day he confirmed that they “worked a lot on the pace for the second half of the race” as he felt that during the 2016 Australian round they “suffered in that area”. He explained how they “tried something quite different” but found that in the end they “didn’t improve a lot” and so now know they will “have to try something else”.

Discussing the YZR-M1 he confirmed that it “has good aspects, especially the engine” however he felt that overall the three day test in Phillip Island “was more difficult” for him than in Sepang. He finished up “not very happy” and thinking that they “need to try to do better”.

Vinales on form from the get go

Vinales once again proved he was settled on his new machinery and was able to set the pace for others to follow at the Australian circuit. Completing 64 laps throughout the first day he was one of the first to break through the 1:30 minute barrier. He dropped to second after seven hours in the lead but then after a surge from several riders saw him end up fourth overall.

By the end of the day Vinales confirmed he was “happy in one area”. He was left feeling “comfortable” where the race pace and basic set-up was concerned. Aware he was not top by the end of day one he spoke of how during the last 10 minutes they “went back in the box” and so they “didn’t set a fast lap time at the end of the session”.

He was aware and reassured by the fact that they “still have time until Qatar to be fast and try to improve their bike”, and he confirmed that their “objective” in Phillip Island was to “be consistent and really fast”.

Early morning time attack for Vinales leaves him on top after day two

Vinales quickly got back into the swing of things within no time as he was able to break through the 1:29 minutes barrier, and then spent the rest of the day completing 80 laps in total which allowed him to work on the M1’s race pace. His 1:28 minute lap in the morning was not the only time he lapped at that speed, as he was able to clock several consistent lap times under the boundary.

It was a highly successful second day for the young Spaniard as his morning time attack meant he was untouchable throughout the remainder of the day. He finished up as the fastest man in Phillip Island on day two and his time of 1:28.847 seconds on lap 2 was just under half a second than anyone else there.

Vinales feeling comfortable on track

Vinales finished the day feeling like they had “made a big step” compared to day one and he felt that they did “a great job”. He was left feeling “more comfortable on the track” and that he was “getting more grip from the tyres”. Despite his success he still felt that there was “some work to do”.

He confirmed that they still need to “choose which chassis” they like as he feels he has “been fast with both”, and they also have to “decide on a few other things”; he said, “We still have a lot of laps ahead of us”. He explained how he was trying to “go faster at the end of the session” but he found that in the final two sectors (three and four) that there was “a lot of wind” so he “couldn’t beat the lap time” he set in the morning; but he was still happy.

Vinales finishes day three and the Phillip Island test on top

The Spaniard’s domination continued on the final day of testing in Phillip Island however as he once again topped the timesheets, ending his third test in a row, his first three sessions as a Yamaha rider, on top as the fastest man to beat as no-one was able to come near his time. There was even a point where the current MotoGP champion, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) decided to follow him for a lap.

He again began his day with a time-attack setting his fastest time so far, and what remained to be of the whole test at 1:28.549 on his 13th lap. He then worked on final details concerning his bike settings before completing two full race simulations; overall he completed 101 laps on his final day.

Finishing up in Phillip Island again as the fastest man, he felt it was a “very positive test”. He spoke of how their objectives were to “try many items” and they now have “got things clear” and are already aware of which set-up they will “start using in Qatar”.

He knew that they “did a lot of work” which he was happy about completing. Despite spending the full day “concentrating mainly on the race pace”, although he was satisfied, he still felt they are “still able to improve”. He confirmed that they have not yet managed to “decide on the fairing yet”, he said, “it’s still totally open, you never know”.