The Yamaha factory team were back in action at the first IRTA MotoGP Test of the year at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia.
Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales both took to the track aboard their 2020 YZR-M1 machines. Viñales was working on various setting options on the first day. The Spaniard suffered a small crash just before lunch but didn’t cause too much damage. In the afternoon he completed his stint without any trouble. He ran 49 laps in total, securing sixth place with a 1’59.367s, 0.422s from first, and ended the day with positive feelings.
Eager to be back aboard his YZR-M1 again after the winter break, Rossi also had a good day at the office. He rode 48 laps over eight hours in changeable conditions, and set his best lap of 1’59.569s, taking tenth place, 0.624s from the top.
On the second day of the test, Rossi and Viñales continued to work on various settings with both riders improving their lap times. The Spaniard posted a best lap of 1’58.893s, on lap 41 out of 69 in total, and concluded the eight-hour session in sixth place, 0.321s from the front. Rossi improved 0.4s on his best time of the day before, setting a 1’59.116s on lap 38 out of 60.
The last day of the Sepang test saw a return to track action for Jorge Lorenzo who has joined the factory Yamaha squad as its test rider. Lorenzo used the session to re-familiarise himself with the YZF-M1.
Rossi was a man on a mission, working hard to give all the testing items a try before leaving the Sepang track. The decision to focus on the 2020 parts evaluation meant he wouldn’t be able to put in a race simulation, but it resulted in the gain of valuable data and feedback. Rossi finished the day in fifth place in the Day-3 and combined standings with a fastest time of 1’58.541s, 0.192s from first.
Rossi said, “We are happy with these three days. Today was a good day because I did a very good lap time in the time attack. It’s the first time for me to be in the 1’58s, so this is positive, also because we are in P5 and very close to the top. We worked a lot, also on the pace, and we tried different things. Some were good; others weren’t. We have to work hard because everybody is so fast, but the test was positive.
Viñales completed a race simulation in the typically hot Malaysian temperatures, to get a clear understanding of the 2020 model’s race pace. He was positive about the YZR-M1’s development, having been able to keep up a good rhythm throughout the 20 laps. The began just as he was to put in a time attack lap, and it left him 18th in the day’s results and 0.820s from first, with a 1’59.169 best lap set on lap 30 of 83. However, his best lap from Day 2, a 1’58.893s, put him in 16th position in the combined timesheets, 0.544 from first.
Viñales said, I’m feeling very positive, because today we improved the bike quite a lot, especially the race set-up. I didn’t have enough time left to do one hot lap but, doing things like this, I kept a bit calmer. We concentrated on working on the feeling, and it seems to be good. On race tyres with a race set-up, we had a good pace, and I felt quite competitive. But we also noticed points that we are going to try to improve in Qatar. I didn’t set up for one lap just yet. For me, it was essential to concentrate on the feeling and understand what I need to improve on. We are now going to work very hard to accomplish those improvements, and we will see if the bike works the same way in Qatar as it did here.
The team now head back to Europe before they head out to Qatar for the second test ahead of the first race of the season at Losail.