After a disappointing recent run of results, Maverick Viñales’ fortune appeared to shift from bad to good at Phillip Island, with the 22-year old admitting he was ‘lucky’ to walk away from a terrifying front-end fall at the Hayshed corner on Friday.

Viñales had been challenging at the front of the afternoon’s free practice session when he shifted from left to right, anticipating the fast swoop through turn eight. Without warning, the Catalan was soon skidding through the grass, his Yamaha M1 disintegrating up ahead in the gravel.

The fall, Viñales admitted, was due to him demanding too much of a Michelin front tyre too soon after exiting pit lane. “I think the crash was with the cold tyre,” he said. “I pushed too early because I saw Jorge [Lorenzo] and [Alex] Rins [ahead] and I wanted to follow them to try and get a good lap.

“I think it was that; I pushed too early. It means we need one lap to warm up good and then push. Luckily I’m OK. It was a fast crash but I was OK. I’m sorry for the team. They’re going to have a lot of work but I’m fortunately OK.”

Aside from the quick get-off, Viñales was looking more like his old self in FP1 and 2, pushing the class’ leading names, and posting a pace that wasn’t too far away from that of overall pace setter Marc Marquez.

Somewhat predictably, the former Moto3 world champ was struggling most through sector four, his Yamaha M1 spinning excessively on the exit of the last corner – an area that needs addressing ahead of Saturday’s qualifying session.

He would end the day fifth, behind surprise package Aleix Espargaro, Marquez, Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow. Still, his deficit to the front – 0.198s – wasn’t much, and Viñales believes he has the pace to, at least, challenge for the race win on Sunday.

“The tyres are very different from the test, especially the front,” he said, referencing his last visit here in February, when he topped the third official preseason test. “There are totally different feelings. So we tried to manage the best we can with the set-up we have.

“I’m happy with today. We’ve been working quite good. We have to improve sector four. We know it’s our weak point. We have to improve the traction area but we can work and we can solve that problem through the weekend. I’m quite happy. The bike was working good and I can work on the lines because the grip is quite stable through all the corners.”

Does that mean he is confident of a victory push? “We’re going to try,” he said. “On the race pace we’re on a good level, I think. We can keep 1m 29-mediums for a long time so it’s going to be important. In the last exit I didn’t have the same feeling in the exit after the crash. I didn’t want to push more.

“But anyway I did quite consistent laps, quite good laps, and I’m quite happy. The bike still needs to improve, like I said, a little bit in the traction area in sector four. There is some feeling in the front that I need to get back, but I’m quite happy how the bike was working today.

“We know sector four is going to be difficult all weekend but we can work with the electronics and try and find out a little bit the lap time. Seeing the sectors, sector four is where we are more far. And in sector two. Also in the test I was struggling there. We have to try and improve in that area.”

And those struggles through the final double lefts were not limited to when he had tyres with excessive wear fitted. “Also with the new tyre we have very low traction, especially in [turn] twelve,” he said. “It’s such an important corner so we have to keep attention and work on that.”


Loading Comments...