Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi kicked off the first Asian flyaway race weekend today, at the Chang International Circuit. They made the most of the morning 45-minute practice session with a perfect 1-2 and followed it up with a positive FP2 in the afternoon, ending the first day in second and ninth position respectively in the combined free practice times.
After the warm welcome Viñales received upon his arrival in Thailand, he was filled with motivation to start the weekend off right. He soon climbed up to provisional sixth place, clocking multiple 1’32s laps, and kept hold of it for most of the session. Having gotten a first feel for the Chang track, he took some time to tweak his bike’s set-up before heading out for one last try in the final minutes, and it paid off. He clocked a 1’31.220s, putting his YZR-M1 in first place, 0.270s ahead of the field.
The Spaniard duplicated his strong performance in FP2. He gradually got on the pace again, improving his feeling with the bike. However, just when the usual ‘mini time attacks’ were about to start, a crash halted the session. After the red flag interval, the youngster used the last 12 minutes of track time to push out some hot laps. He was in eighth position but put his head down once more and briefly took over at the top again. The 1’31.121s lap ultimately earned him second place, 0.031s from the top in the overall times.
Rossi needed a little time to warm to the Buriram track but was eager to get to work. He hopped to it, trying to find a good basis set-up for his bike and found one in the second half of FP1. With slightly more than a third of the session to go he dropped under the 1’33s-mark, and the personal best laps kept on coming, especially at the very end of the session. The Doctor stormed up the ranking order, ultimately securing second place, 0.270s behind his teammate, having set a 1’31.490s best lap.
The nine-time World Champion also had a positive session in the afternoon, as he tried a new fairing for the first time. After the red flag, when the Italian was fully acquainted with the new item, he didn’t wait another minute to put on some a soft rear tyre in order to get a hot lap in. He briefly moved up to second place with a 1’31.528s, but the session became more and more heated. He further improved his time to a 1’31.398s but was unable to hold his position. He completed the first day in ninth place, 0.308s from first.
Position: 2nd – Time: 1’31.121 – Laps: 39
“Being first and second in today’s sessions, shouldn’t mean these are my expectations for the race, it’s only Friday. However, it’s true that the feeling is much more positive than it was in Aragon, I feel better with the bike. We modified the settings in the way I needed it, and it seems to work – at least for me – especially on the hard tyre. It’s completely different from what we had during the pre-season Thai Test and previous races. We went in another direction and did a quite solid FP1 and FP2. Let’s see what more we can do tomorrow.”
Position: 9th – Time: 1’31.398 – Laps: 42
“For me it’s a bit better than what I expected on paper, because me and Maverick were quite strong during the day. In the morning we had a fantastic first and second, but that was also because a lot of riders didn’t use a new tyre at the end of the session. But in the afternoon Maverick again did a very good lap time and I’m still in the top-10 even though I didn’t do a fantastic lap, I made some mistakes. We have to work on some points, especially to understand which rear tyre we should use for the race, but it looks like we can be a bit more competitive.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP – Team Director
“Today we’ve made progress. We had to make a good start, because we knew that we had some ground to make up, which is what we managed to do. We took some counter-measures after Aragon that apparently work. We found a basis setting in FP1 that makes both our riders more comfortable, and we ended the session with a 1-2 result, which gave the team good confidence. In the afternoon we were able to try a new fairing and some tyre options, which is important as the specs are different from what we had during the pre-season test here. All in all, we had quite a positive first outing, but it’s still early days. We will work hard to try to continue the momentum we gained today in tomorrow’s sessions.”
Solid Opening for Zarco and Syahrin in Buriram
With a strong start this morning Monster Yamaha Tech3’s Johann Zarco laid down a first marker at the Chang International Circuit, concluding FP1 in sixth position, just 0.566 seconds behind the top. However, in FP2 the fast Frenchman was able to lower his lap time at the hot new venue in the MotoGP calendar to eventually secure a top 10 spot in the last seconds of the session, missing out on the fastest guy by just 0.331 seconds.
Hafizh Syahrin, who tested the Yamaha YZR-M1 for the very first time at the Thai track this February, was finding back his rhythm in FP1 and improved by 0.593 seconds in the course of the second session this afternoon in order to complete the first Thai Grand Prix day only 0.756 seconds behind his teammate in 18th position. The Malaysian rookie is set to further chase the fastest in FP3 tomorrow morning at 9.55 local time, which means 4.55 CET.
Position: 10th – Time: 1:31.421 – Laps: 46
“I’m so happy to be in Buriram. This Friday has been ok. The first session was great and in the second one I tried to work with the used tyres and that feeling was pretty difficult like in the last two races, when I was struggling a lot. But I tried to create these conditions in order to try to understand and to find some solution together with my team. In the end, we put in a new tyre and I improved my lap time from this morning. I’m on the limit in the top 10, but I’m there. It’s just a few tenths from the first position, everybody is so close, therefore it would be good to make further steps, as it’s really important here in the heat to have a good feeling on the bike.”
Position: 18th – Time: 1:32.177 – Laps: 42
“I felt good during this first day, my lap time was quite good, only my position is a bit far from the top. But I have better sensations with the bike, I just need to try to find some changes to help me turning and at the exit of the corners. I believe tomorrow we can discover something. We are working really hard inside the team, trying to improve our weak points. I had a good feeling today, but we know that we have to continue working hard, step by step and I hope that tomorrow we can already improve the time. It’s just one second, but I want to be closer.”