MotoGP: Rossi and Viñales get a grip

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Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi are at long last hopeful that they are making progress with the Yamaha’s ongoing grip issues after securing strong results at Jerez, a circuit where they’ve struggled in hot, low grip conditions. Viñales ended last Sunday’s race on the podium and Rossi was able to come through from 13th on the grid to sixth, but while it’s progress, it’s only a step towards being consistent front runners against Ducati, Honda and Suzuki.

Despite his strong race-long pace, Viñales was quick to warn that they need to be careful not to take their eye off the target now that form is slowly returning. Still suffering in the areas where they’ve struggled for the past two years at Jerez, just not as much, he’s keen not to repeat his old mistake of finding false hope.

He said: “The first few races of the year have been hard, but the potential we’ve had was more than the results we earned. Jerez wasn’t a track where I expected to go well because it’s somewhere where I’ve always struggled – my best result in the past was only sixth. But for sure we need to keep working. Yamaha are doing a great job, but there’s still a long way for us to improve. I have to improve too, because maybe my riding style isn’t perfect for the new bike.”

And while normally Viñales is the optimist in the team and it’s Rossi who brings expectations back down to earth, even the veteran Italian left Spain in a positive mood. Suffering in Sunday’s race after qualifying badly he says that the pace was there even if he had too much work to do in the opening laps.

Rossi said: “We are stronger than last year. The way is long, the challenge is high, but we are working now in a good direction. I’m not fully happy because even though Jerez is a difficult track I was hoping to be able to fight for the podium, and in the end, I was a bit too slow. But we can fight again, and I’m not so far away in the championship.

“The big problem is that Marquez is clearly the fastest and if he hadn’t crashed in Austin the difference would be big. But the gap now is only nine points and even though Rins and Dovi look fast, it seems like we can fight with them to make some podiums and to win some races again.”

And while both factory bikes would likely have finished behind satellite rider Fabio Quartararo in Sunday’s race had mechanical issues not hit the French rookie, Rossi and Viñales are adamant that having two fast satellite machines is aiding their development. Able to share data instead of essentially running as a two-rider factory when the previous Tech 3 team was running outdated machines, it’s contributing to the performance of the M1 as a whole this season.

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Simon Patterson

By Simon Patterson

MotoGP and road racing reporter, photographer, videographer