Perhaps the most anticipated question to be answered from the first MotoGP test 2019 in Sepang, all eyes were on the factory Monster Energy Yamaha squad last week as they got a make or break season underway at the Malaysian circuit. Struggling for two years with an M1 machine that’s sore on tyres and slow on corner exit, radical changes within both bike and team have been promised to help alleviate those issues.
But, with Maverick Viñales far and away the most consistent rider on track (and teammate Valentino Rossi not far behind him) it seems like they may well have finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel.
Working with a new specification of engine (one that must be fixed for the season before the first round in Qatar) and with a slew of other chassis parts and electronics settings, Viñales was upbeat at the end of the test. Fifth overall on the time sheets, perhaps the most telling of all the numbers is just how consistent Viñales was, matched only by Suzuki rider Alex Rins over longer runs.
However, learning the lessons of previous fast performances in testing that didn’t translate into results in both 2017 and 2018, he’s cautious about just how much potential there is in the bike.
“I don’t know how much of an improvement the other manufacturers have made, and sometimes in testing there’s a little bit of confusion. But we know that our own potential is quite good. We have to improve some small details on the race simulations to have a little bit more constancy, but we have good ideas for the next test in Qatar.
“The tyre life is really good, especially the front. I had some warnings from it towards the end of the simulation, but I was doing 1:59 laps and at that point it’s normal. We still need to improve though – the power delivery on the bike can be improved more with the electronics. But for sure we are much readier than we were last year.”
We should get more of an understanding as to whether the Japanese manufacturer are finally on top of their difficulties tomorrow, when the second and final preseason test kicks off at Qatar's Losail circuit.