For Yamaha Factory Racing, the 2019 preseason has been about one thing so far; the YZR-M1 engine. Both Valentino Rossi and teammate Maverick Viñales have been vigorously testing two 2019 spec machines, but it seems there’s plenty of work to do before the season opener in Qatar.
For the nine-time World Champion, the choice of which engine to go forward with is an easy decision – but Yamaha need to find something extra if they are to challenge Honda, Ducati and Suzuki in 2019: “Yeah I think from the engines that we tried in these days, it’s quite easy to make a decision,” began Rossi.
“Today we worked and it was a little bit better, we improved the pace especially. For me, we have a lot of work to do, especially if we want to try and be competitive with Honda and Ducati, but also with Suzuki. So, I hope Yamaha continue to work and push to have something better in February.”
And what are the Italian’s thoughts on the engine? “Yeah, it’s ok. Maverick was good in the test, he had good pace so he worked well, so it’s not so bad.” ‘The Doctor’ continues: “We have to work in all the areas. We still suffer for me. These two tests are not so bad, especially this one, but we need to continue to work.”
Not an overly promising reflection then from Rossi, who ended the Jerez Test in P11 on the combined times – 0.651 off surprise pacesetter Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu). For Viñales, it was a better test if you look at the timesheets – P4 overall and just 0.121 from top spot. And the Spaniard was in good spirits when he spoke after Day 2 in Jerez.
“Well so far we’ve kept a really good rhythm. We’ve done a lot of work on used tyres and I’m actually really happy because when I tried to push for one lap, the bikes responded quite well,” commented the new number 12 rider. He continues: “I know we can improve the chassis quite a lot, but right now we are focusing a lot on the engine. For me it’s quite clear, let’s see now what we discuss, after the meeting we’ll decide what we’re going to do.”
Both riders look to be agreeing on what engine to go with and while Rossi wasn’t so upbeat about the bike in general, Viñales seemed to be pleased with how his Yamaha is performing. But despite the good pace, is it enough? The 23-year-old continued to debrief the Jerez Test:
“The important thing was to find the base and now for Malaysia, we have to improve the top speed a little bit, that will be very important for long tracks. We need more traction, this is still our weak point. But overall I think we have a really competitive bike. As I said we didn’t play with the chassis, we just wanted to try the engines, the lap time was there, very consistent. I was able to keep high 38s and low 39s on the pace, so this is really good I think. So let’s see, I was riding when the track conditions were worse to try to improve myself and I’m actually really happy.”
A winter of hard work seems to be on the cards for the Iwata factory and on Rossi’s side of the garage, there’s more change. Luca Cadalora has been Rossi’s rider coach since the start of the 2016 campaign, but due to personal reasons, Cadalora has decided to step away from his role. The 39-year-old is yet to make a decision on who will fill the void, with a likely option being Idalio Gavira, who currently serves as a rider coach to the SKY Racing Team VR46 project.