Maverick Viñales sounded off a warning to the MotoGP elite by lapping faster than the entire field at Phillip Island on Thursday while using Suzuki's 2016 chassis.
The 21-year old produced his finest performance in the premier class to date in Australia, 2015, when he finished sixth and just 6.8 seconds behind the race winner around a track he rates as his favourite.
Starting with his old frame in the morning, Viñales switched to the '16 version, which Aleix Espargaro believed was half a second slower than its predecessor in Malaysia, for the afternoon.
The result was spectacular as Viñales lapped the Australian track in 1m 29.131s, half a second faster than his best race lap five months before.
While recognising he excels around Phillip Island's glorious high-speed sweeps, the young Catalan also felt substantial improvements in the GSX-RR's electronics – with engine braking and traction control in particular – aided his push for the top spot.
“It was really good,” said Viñales, already the subject of speculation regarding his plans for 2017. “I was feeling good all of the day. In the middle of the day I was working with the new chassis and then with the used tyre I was coming back to the old chassis. At the end I was using the new one.
“Then I was in the [1m] 29s medium and I said, 'OK, now I put in the new tyre and try one lap.' We did a good job. We were working a lot on the electronics. From Malaysia we made a big step in the electronics; in the engine brake, in the traction control. In every exit we try one thing. It's difficult always to be stable but today we did it well.”
Reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo praised his countryman's form on Thursday evening and Viñales was quick to speak of Suzuki's new frame, which he feels offers more grip but is still some way off its full potential.
“I like it. There are positive things. The worst thing is that with the old one we have already done one year of work and with the new one half an hour. We need to work more. For me the new chassis can be better for me.
“It's better in the fast corners without gas it turns much more. Also in the slow corners it's better for me. It looks like it is a bit more favouring this track. The bike is heavy and you cannot make the change of direction fast.
“This make the lap time go slow. We need to work to have a bit more light chassis and try to have a bit more grip. Anyway, with the new chassis I think the grip is better.”
Suzuki's test rider Takuya Tsuda has been testing the reliability of the factory's new seamless gearbox, which has both seamless upshifts and downshifts.
Full-time riders Viñales and Aleix Espargaro are continuing with the transmission that operates only with seamless upshifts, with the former stating he is hopeful of sampling the fully seamless version in the final pre-season test in Qatar.