Valentino Rossi has described Yamaha’s decision to drop Jonas Folger as its MotoGP test rider from next year as “a shame” and warns it needs riders capable of matching race lap times to be effective.

Following last week’s announcement that Folger has been axed as its European-based MotoGP test rider, reports have suggested Yamaha will revert to its two Japanese test riders Katsuyuki Nakasuga and Kohta Nozane for 2020 with its technical team headed up by Rossi’s outing crew chief Silvano Galbusera.

Rossi, who has previously called for Yamaha to strengthen its test operations, gave a wary reaction to the changes during the pre-event Valencia MotoGP press conference and would prefer the Iwata factory to have test riders capable of consistently matching the pace of its race riders.

“I think in the modern MotoGP the test team is important,” Rossi said. “It is not just for the shakedown of the motorcycle like in the past but also to try to understand and try for the performance. Also to understand if the new stuff is better.

“Yamaha worked a lot on the test team and also on its organisation to try to make something better.

“For me it is a shame a little bit because sometimes you need a rider that can stay close to the lap time of the race to understand. Maybe, we will see, maybe it will not change a lot.”

Nakasuga has contested at least one MotoGP race with Yamaha for every season since 2011, with the exception of this year, and has finished every race inside the points including the highlight of second place back at the 2012 Valencia Grand Prix in wet conditions.

Nozane has made one Yamaha MotoGP wildcard outing at the 2017 Japanese round when he qualified in last place before crashing out after three laps.

Maverick Vinales says questions over losing its a European-based test rider for 2020 are best directed at his team’s senior management but hopes both he and Rossi can provide Yamaha with adequate information during its winter testing programme in preparation for next season.

“This is not in my hands so if I have to say something it is that we will continue to concentrate and continue to improve on ourselves to give our best and to at least give the best feelings for Yamaha to try to improve,” Vinales said.

“But honestly it is not in my hands so it is best you ask Yamaha. In that moment I am happy now but I don’t know.”

Yamaha had previously approached Johann Zarco over a testing role after he split from KTM but the French rider turned down the opportunity as he preferred to target a return to racing in 2020. Bradley Smith has also been linked to the Yamaha testing role and is currently test rider at Aprilia alongside his MotoE race commitments.

All of Yamaha’s MotoGP rivals have European-based test teams with riders that are either former race winners or world champions at international level.

2020 preparations begin next week at the two-day post-Valencia GP test held on 19-20 November.

 

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