Maverick Viñales admitted his surprise at showing such a competitive turn of pace on both Friday morning and afternoon at the inaugural MotoGP outing in Thailand after holding “zero expectations” coming to the event.

The 23-year old was fast throughout Friday’s sessions at the Chang International Circuit, topping FP1 and finishing second to Andrea Dovizioso in the blazing afternoon heat. “Today was good … really good,” he enthused.

The reason for this upturn in speed? A fairly radical change regarding his Yamaha M1’s weight balance, he said. With this set-up, his feeling under braking and acceleration was much improved.

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And there was a slight of frustration to his words when he stated this change should have been sampled “months ago.” On several occasions this year, the Catalan has claimed set-up and bike development hasn’t always gone in the direction he has wished.

“Well, actually it's a surprise,” he began soon after posting his fastest lap time of the 2.8-mile Chang International Circuit, a 1m 31.121s, just 0.031s slower that overall pace setter Dovizioso.

“But we tried some things that we should have tried many months ago,” he said. “But I think overall, as I said, I don't want to make any expectations. I just want to go riding, enjoy. And today it was quite positive, solid FP1 and FP2, so the work has been done, and it's being done well.

“I'm actually happy. As I said, sometimes the work wasn't good, today it was good, it was really good. We did really good work from FP1 to FP2, good changes, and I could ride very precisely.”

Pressed on the set-up changes, Viñales expanded: “Yes, especially on the weight balance. It was very important today to improve a little bit the braking and a little bit the acceleration, and finally we did it.

“So it's important this test, also for 2019. I'm actually happy, pleased with the result of today, and let's see tomorrow.”

On Thursday Viñales said he was sure the weekend was going to be “really hard” due to Michelin’s tyre allocation, which features rears with a harder casing than the test. That added to the tyre temperatures led the former Moto3 world champion to predictions that were not favourable to his package.

“The tyres are the same as Aragon,” he said. “They have much more grip with the hard, and that permits the bike to go a bit better. Anyway, we changed the weight distribution a bit, and because I'm quite a light rider, we changed it a bit and it was better.”

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