Sylvaiin Guintoli says his run to fifth and sixth on Yamaha's much anticipated return to the World Superbike Championship at Phillip Island was better than he expected as he hinted at the potential of the R1 by battling amongst the lead group.
Six years after it last competed in World Superbikes, Yamaha – under the guidance of Crescent Racing – returned to action with its brand-new R1 and showed impressive single-lap pace, with Guintoli pacing the way in Friday practice and qualifying fourth.
Getting away with the lead group in both races, albeit pegged towards the back of a seven-strong group, the 2014 champion struggled to progress much beyond that, but found himself capitalising on late dramas each time to score sixth in race one and fifth in race two.
Only three seconds down on the leader in both races, Guintoli says Yamaha can take a lot of satisfaction from the positive opening result, emphasising that the performance was more rounded that he would have anticipated at this stage in the bike's young development.
“A really solid weekend for us and a strong start to the season here at Phillip Island,” he said. “Obviously after the hype of the return of Yamaha and the new YZF-R1 in the Superbike World Championship there was a lot of expectation, but the reality is that we are still at the very beginning of the project.
“Like we said at the team launch a month ago, it is going to take some time to be able to win races but saying that, we've been a lot more competitive here that I thought we would be! We've been able to show some really good strengths, and also highlight where we need to keep improving, so this is very valuable data and experience for us as riders, for the team and for Yamaha.
Looking ahead, Guintoli is confident the R1 will go even better in round two at Thailand's Chang International Circuit now a good base has been established.
“Because we have been so close to the podium and to the victory - with three seconds in race one and two seconds in race two - we are going to take this on board and continue to improve the whole package without taking away from the DNA of the bike.
“It is clearly a very good base for our first race, and the start of our championship campaign, so we will just continue to work from here and move on to Thailand in two weeks."