A place behind rival-in-chief Marc Marquez he may be, but Maverick Viñales was pleasantly surprised by his speed in MotoGP qualifying at Phillip Island, the Catalan claiming his second place was “better than expected.”

Viñales had left the Australian circuit on Friday evening fully expecting a victory charge after a largely positive first day of free practice. But the cold, windy conditions threw up a host of challenges, with sufficient front grip chief among them.

While team-mate Valentino Rossi struggled throughout, 22-year old Viñales battled a lack of rear traction, and could only manage the eighth fastest time in FP4, suggesting Yamaha’s current struggles would extend beyond its home grand prix in Japan.

But much to his own surprise, Viñales was able to produce a lap time when it really mattered, his final qualifying lap of 1m 28.719s enough to secure second, and a place in the middle of the front row.

"Honestly, this was a better result than I expected,” said Viñales. “Especially in FP4 I didn't feel so good on the bike. I didn't feel as great as I did in the winter tests, because the tyres are different, especially the front.

“During qualifying, in the second run, I felt good and felt I could push, so I'm happy about that. We have been struggling a little bit this weekend, but I think we found a way now and we will try to give our best tomorrow.

“For sure we will be hoping for dry conditions, but we are finding ways of improvement in the wet, so I'm happy that today's practice sessions helped us learn a lot.”

On how he would approach the race, Viñales said, “We want to push from the beginning of the race so it’s the place to be. We were struggling during all of the weekend, especially in the mixed conditions, when the track was not perfect, like in the qualifying.

“We were struggling a lot to get the grip on the rear. But anyway in the qualifying we found a good set-up so I’m convinced that tomorrow we can do a good job and for sure we can follow a good pace.

“We were trying soft, medium front. With both, we are quite happy. If the temperature drops I’m ready to use to soft front. I think this is a good point. Anyway, we hope for the dry race. In the wet we are not on the level of the others.

“We hope for a dry race and I think we are quite ready to go. Tomorrow I'm going to ride my own race. For sure I will push and apply pressure to my main rivals if I can, and do my best."


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