MotoGP: Viñales fastest on 2016 Yamaha, Zarco second on 2017 bike…

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Maverick Viñales has topped the first day of the 2018 MotoGP season’s winter testing schedule at Valencia, riding to the top of the time sheets – but doing little to allay Yamaha’s woes by setting the time on a 2016-specification machine similar to what he and teammate Valentino Rossi rode in Sunday’s race.

And to make matters even more confusing for the Japanese firm, satellite racer Johann Zarco took the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 machine to second place – riding one of the 2017 bikes that Viñales and Rossi have spent much of the season deriding.

World champion Marc Marquez was third, riding a new prototype version of Honda’s 2018 bike that was also on offer for teammate Dani Pedrosa and new Honda devilment rider Cal Crutchlow on the LCR machine.

Rossi came home in fourth after surviving a huge cold-tyre crash early in the day, but losing out on the chance to try a 2018 engine after damaging the machine that it was in.

Jack Miller was the first of the swapping riders in a very impressive fifth, gelling instantly with the Pramac Ducati machine to best his best time of the race weekend by a whopping 0.6 seconds. Aleix Espargaró was sixth, ahead of Ducati pair Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo, with the Red Bull KTM of Pol Espargaró and Crutchlow rounding out the top ten.

Takaaki Nakagami was the best of the rookies in 17th place, ahead of fellow Honda rider Franco Morbidelli, while new Avintia Ducati signing Xavier Simeon came home last, some four seconds off Viñales’ pace and 1.5 slower than Morbidelli.

The Suzuki duo of Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins set out the day after contracting a stomach virus, while Alvaro Bautista completed no flying laps after a gearbox issue highsided him early in the day and left him with back injuries. 

Simon Patterson

By Simon Patterson

MotoGP and road racing reporter, photographer, videographer