It is now looks certain that Yamaha will boost its MotoGP development programme by setting up a European test team - and rider - for 2019, mirroring Honda's move in signing Stefan Bradl this year.

"I'm very happy and it was one of the things that I was asking and pushing to Honda, to have a real test team," said Honda's title leader Marc Marquez

"I mean with a very good rider. Stefan is a champion in Moto2, has a big talent and is close to our level. He gives very similar comments to what I feel. So this is positive and I'm very happy about this."

Bradl, who is competing as a wild-card this weekend at Brno, was eighth and then 18th in Friday's sessions.

Yamaha Racing managing director Lin Jarvis said on Thursday that strengthening their test team is likely for 2019.

"We have our test team, but that's been based in Japan primarily, with Nakasuga. Probably we need to put even more energy behind testing and to keep making progress. So [a European test team] is something we are definitely looking at," he said.

On Friday, Movistar Yamaha team manager Massimo Meregalli confirmed that such a test team was in pipeline. 

The identity of the rider remains a mystery although, as Jarvis pointed out, "I don't think we will have a big problem to find candidates."

Among those linked to the testing role are current MotoGP riders Bradley Smith and Alvaro Bautista, both unsigned for 2019, with the Englishman also having prior Yamaha experience. 

But another rider, who took a satellite M1 to a podium finish as a rookie last year, is also being mentioned; Jonas Folger. 

The young German withdrew from MotoGP after severe fatigue issues at the end of last season, but has been back on track recently testing a Kalex Moto2 machine.

"Jonas would be good," said Movistar Yamaha's Maverick Vinales. "He is fast. He already rode the bike, so he knows how the bike works. So for sure it would be good to have Jonas in the test team. 

"But I think Jonas should be in the MotoGP class, not a test team! Anyway, for sure the development will be better because they [the new Yamaha test team] are riding on the European tracks. So I'm happy for that."

Asked about his preference for Yamaha test rider, team-mate Valentino Rossi said:

"I push a lot for the [European test] team. I think it's a great idea, because to work with the test team in Japan is a bit difficult because, first of all, the tracks in Japan are very different compared to Europe. So I think it will be very important for Yamaha.

"And also the rider is very important, because to understand something you need a rider that is fast like me and Maverick or maybe just a little bit less. I think we have some different names on the list. Smith is one, Folger is another, that already knows the bike. It's important to a have a rider that is not too old and can go quite fast."

Questioned about the test team expansion, Kouji Tsuya, Yamaha's MotoGP Group Leader, said: "Regarding the [identity of the] test rider I can say nothing now, but it should be a better situation to develop with a faster rider."

The Japanese also confirmed that all its focus is on improving the M1's acceleration.

"We have had some problems for both riders. Sometimes the situation is different - sometimes braking, sometimes acceleration, sometimes turning. But now we think we have to concentrate on improving the acceleration, by electronics and also chassis-wise. Unfortunately we cannot change the engine configuration [during the season] so this is work for next year."

A 'small step' is expected for Vinales and Rossi at Monday's post-race test, with further developments possible later this month.



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