Some small Vietnamese flags have been added to the Movistar Yamahas of Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales in MotoGP this season.
The move was announced by Kouichi Tsuji, general manager of Yamaha's Motorsports Division, at the end of a second pre-season promotional tour for the MotoGP stars, to Thailand and Vietnam. Their first PR appearances, prior to the Sepang test, had been to the Indonesia and the Philippines.
"For the riders, this is the first time visiting Vietnam and we are very pleased with the warm welcome that both riders received," Tsuji said. "It is a good message sent by Yamaha Motor Vietnam and the local fans, that they support Yamaha and the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team.
"For this reason we will adopt the flag of Vietnam on the bike this year, with the hope that this activity will further increase the popularity of MotoGP racing in Vietnam.
"We highly value the Asian market and the passion that they have for motorsports and Yamaha. The main goal of this tour was to further build on our relationship, both with the Yamaha dealers and the fans, so we can all look forward to sharing many more great moments during another exciting season of MotoGP."
New signing Vinales, fastest at the Sepang test, had made a short stop in Thailand before joining up with Rossi in Vietnam.
"It was incredible how many people attended the event in Bangkok," the Spaniard said. "I keep saying it, but I didn't expect to receive such a warm welcome every time we visit one of the countries during this tour... The people are so friendly and passionate about MotoGP and this gives me extra motivation to do them proud on the track.
"Today I also had a lot of fun in Vietnam, especially when I got to ride the Yamaha Exciter scooter on a short circuit with Valentino. I love to do these kinds of events, playing around on the bike and sharing the experience with the fans.
"I couldn't have asked for a better end to the promotional tour. I will now focus on the test in Australia, because I'm impatient to ride my M1 again."
During the visit to Vietnam, Rossi was surprised with an early birthday cake. The Italian superstar turns 38 on February 16th.
"It was my first time visiting Vietnam and it is a really beautiful place. I haven't had time to see a lot of Hồ Chí Minh, but during the car trips I always looked out the window: it's amazing how many people are on the move with scooters!" Rossi said.
"I'll gladly go back to Vietnam in the future. I also hope that in the future some Vietnamese riders will be able to become professional riders! Now we leave to go to Australia where we will have three days of important testing. I'll be very happy to be back aboard my M1 again, I can't wait to continue testing."
The Phillip Island test, the second of three pre-season outings, takes place from Wednesday to Friday.