Many expect to one day see Maverick Vinales exchanging the top spot of the MotoGP timesheets with double world champion Marc Marquez.

But few tipped him to do so at the start of only his second year in the premier-class. Or, being frank, while still at Suzuki, which returned to MotoGP last year with a best result of sixth.

The 21-year-old showed why Suzuki is sure to face competition from the likes of Honda, Yamaha and Ducati for his 2017 services by setting the overall pace at this week's penultimate pre-season test, at Phillip Island.

After dry-wet conditions on day one, Vinales delivered what proved the fastest lap of the test with a 1m 29.131s flyer on day two. He then backed it up with a 1m 29.299s for second to Honda star Marquez on day three.

Of the top 50 laps this week, 15 were set by Marquez and 11 by Vinales. Yamaha's Valentino Rossi was next best with 6, proving the form shown by the Suzuki rider.

And speaking in the paddock afterwards, the former Moto3 champion revealed he was forced to use the less-favoured new GSX-RR chassis after damaging the older version. Otherwise, Vinales feels a 1m 28s was 'easily' within reach.

"I was waiting until the afternoon to make the fast lap and push 100%, but we had a small crash and the old chassis was destroyed," said Vinales, whose best Friday time was set early in the day, on lap 11 of 39.

"Until midday I was using the new chassis. It was not so bad and I was also consistent in the '29s. So for sure I think it means with the old chassis if I push 100% we could have got down to '28 something.

"Anyway the lap time was really good in the morning and was easy to make the middle-'29s.

"I think we did a big step on the electronic, also in the afternoon we were working really hard with the electronics. I think we have a lot of information to bring something better for Qatar."

Vinales explained that he still prefers the older chassis since, "I can keep much better the line. It is the same feeling as yesterday. The new chassis looks more heavy and is shaking all the time. On a track like this, if the bike is shaking and is heavy, I mean you cannot make good the line. For sure with the old one was more easy to keep the good line and the speed in the corners."

Vinales' accident occurred while braking for the Turn 4 Honda hairpin, caused by a harder front tyre.

"We were trying a little bit more hard [front] tyre, different compound, for the first time and I crashed completely straight. Then I went back to the normal tyre and was good again. So I crashed because of that."

Although he preferred the older chassis at Phillip Island, the latest Suzuki engine (now paired with the first version of a seamless gearbox) got a definite thumbs up.

"We found some KPH that I think are quite good. Yesterday I ride behind Valentino and was exactly the same speed and we are more close to the Ducati. We still need to work but I'm quite happy about this."

Team-mate Aleix Espargaro suffered two falls on Friday and was left one-second slower than Vinales in terms of combined laps times.

The final pre-season test takes place at Losail from March 2-4, when Vinales and Espargaro hope to receive the full seamless gearbox (downshifts as well as upshifts).



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