The chase for the 2017 title has started in Phillip Island with a duel that will fire up the 2017 season: Maverick Vinales versus Marc Marquez.
At the question if it will be a question between him and the Honda guy, the Yamaha new boy answered with some moderation: “Let’s hope to be able to fight for the title from the beginning.” But the answer on track was very clear. On the second day of testing, Vinales paid back Marquez who had set the fastest time on day one.
The 22-year-old Spaniard has fired another warning shot. “If I had used the soft tyre, I would be in front.” And the following day he accepted the challenge of the chronometer and set a superb 1’28.847, building a gap of almost half a second on Marquez: “I feel very comfortable with the bike. We finally used the tyre we didn’t use on day one and here we are. In the end there was too much wind to improve the lap time, but it’s ok. We focused on the race pace and I’m really satisfied”. Vinales continued to make a comparison test: “We used both chassis and I was competitive with both of them, so I still have some doubts.”
If this is only an appetizer of what the 2017 season will be, the show is on. From what we saw in Valencia, Sepang and Phillip Island, Vinales has shown an incredible talent in adapting immediately to a new circuit. What is the level of the adaptation to the bike? 90 per cent or is there a bigger margin of improvement? “I don’t know, but for sure race after race I will improve” said Vinales. “I’m still struggling a bit on a new track, we will see. But I’m really happy of the step forward in terms of race pace. I’m satisfied, but we need to continue working because Marquez is also strong.”
The Honda rider, in fact, impressed with two long runs of 15 laps, and each time he was able to ride under 1’30 for 12 laps. A superb demonstration that puts him in front of everyone in terms of setup for the race.
From his side, Marquez is not completely happy, although he remains the reference as the rider to beat: “We are still missing something, because I’m not 100 per cent comfortable, but we’re working in a good way. We have a small problem and we need to understand where it comes from. We are investigating in the areas of the engine and the electronics. it’s been a day of really hard work.
“Together with my engineers we decided to do many laps to try a few things, and we focused on riding as consistently as possible, trying to avoid any mistakes. I also did two long runs at the end of the day, to try different configurations of the electronics, and that allowed us to gather a lot of information. Hopefully these two long runs will allow us to find the areas where we can take a step forward. I also tried a new Michelin front tyre and on the final day we’ll try the rear one.”