MotoGP: Rossi impressed with new bike potential

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Valentino Rossi says he’s now much more upbeat about the potential of the 2017 Yamaha M1 for the coming season, finally coming to terms with the bike’s abilities in a private test in Sepang after the end of last season.

Rossi left the Valencia test only two days after the final round of the year highly critical of the new machine and the firm’s Japanese engineers, slating the bike for not being different enough to the bike that he’d ridden on all season.

But, finally getting the chance to understand the package (and to carry out-back-to-back tests with the 2016 model) in seclusion at the private outing at the home of the Malaysian Grand Prix, he admitted that he’s looking forward to unlocking some of that potential when MotoGP returns there for the first official test in two weeks’ time.

“We didn’t know anything about the 2017 bike before the Valencia, but form the rumours from Japan inside the team, we expected a bigger change than we got. So I think that everyone in the team, and me for sure, was curious. But in the end it was more the normal development of the Yamaha. From the outside, the bike looks the same.

“For me, our bike is very good and very strong. We’re fast with the new tyres, fast from the first lap, and where we need to improve is the second half of the race. It looks like in the second half of the season we suffered there, especially to the Honda after they made a step forwards, and that’s where we need to work. We have to try to save the tyres, be more constant to the end. We need to work with the electronics a lot too, and to understand if it’s better with the new chassis.”

The upbeat news from the nine-time world champion comes as team boss Massimo Meregalli admitted that 2016 had been a difficult season for the team, partly after the disastrous engine failure for Rossi at Mugello and partly because the updates delivered throughout the season simply weren’t up to scratch.

“The reasons were more than one, because unfortunately after Mugello when we had the problem with the engine we had to adjust the RPM and we lost some performance of the engine, for safety. That was one reason.

“But all the updates we received weren’t as good as we expected, and at the other end our competitors made an improvement while we stayed the same. That’s what Valentino complained about at the end of the season. He started with the new bike in Valencia, but it was the end of the season and maybe he didn’t understand the bike, and the first impressions of the bike weren’t as good as in Sepang.

“One of our stronger points is always the stability in the faster corners, and to have that maybe we have to lose some turning. But now with the new chassis, it looks like they can gain some of that back, and it is better – but still an area that we’d like to improve. But the first impressions of the new bike is now very good from both riders.”

Simon Patterson

By Simon Patterson

MotoGP and road racing reporter, photographer, videographer