Maverick Vinales heads into this weekend's fourth round of the MotoGP World Championship at Jerez as the hot favourite to replace Ducati-bound Jorge Lorenzo at Yamaha next year.

The highly-rated young Spaniard could be poised to join Valentino Rossi in the factory team at the end of the season but for now, the Ecstar Suzuki rider is concentrating solely on doing the best job he can on the GSX-RR after an impressive start to 2016.

Vinales, fourth in Austin at the previous round, said: "After the long travelling with the opening races it is good to get back to Europe and especially to be in Spain.

"I'm very positive and confident, we are working hard and the results are very close to coming; in Argentina I missed the podium because of a single, little mistake and in Austin we were pretty competitive for the whole weekend, although the final result in the race showed that our distance from the winner is still too great."

Vinales expects the Spanish track to suit the Suzuki and also has two different chassis options available following a private test at Austin.

"We stayed in Austin for the test and we made steps forward in many directions; we now have different options for the chassis and set-ups, which we know are better, and also with the electronics we are getting more-and-more confident," he said.

"The Jerez circuit will be good for our machines, last year Aleix performed really well here, so I hope we will make some further steps."

His team-mate, Aleix Espargaro, qualified sixth at Jerez last year, finishing the race one position lower, and is now quietly optimistic of his prospects this weekend.

"Jerez is a nice track and I think it may suit our GSX-RR's characteristics," Espargaro said.

"After a very bad start to the season, we have made huge steps forward, we still have a lot of work to do but it is important that we have made progress. At Austin my confidence in the race was positive, and finally with the private test we could verify some ideas we had and finally got some very important information about the direction to take.

"We are building-up our own knowledge all the time and for sure this will become a very important issue for any of the next races," he added.

"I am aware that the technical package is performing, we just need to better-finalise the set-up and the machine's configuration, and then the results will come."



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