MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
Viñales: ‘We can win races, but…’
Top Yamaha rider Maverick Viñales believes the M1 will win MotoGP races this season but winning the title will be a very different matter
After several years running along at tick-over, Yamaha’s MotoGP project is picking up revs because factory bosses have realised they need to get serious if they are to beat Honda and Ducati, just like they did when they signed Valentino Rossi back in 2003.
Last week the factory team announced 2021/2022 contracts with Maverick Viñales and Fabio Quartararo, as well as a 2020 test-rider deal with its three-times MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo.
It is just as well that Viñales has signed a long deal, because even if Yamaha improves the YZR-M1 for 2020 the Spaniard isn’t convinced the bike will be ready to win the championship.
“If we have more top speed and better braking, we will at least be able to fight for race wins,” he says. “But the championship will be very difficult because Marc [Márquez] is on a really high level and the Ducati is very fast. But we have the opportunity to be there and to win races…”
Yamaha is currently fighting back from its worst crisis since it entered premier-class grands prix in the early 1970s. During the second half of last season the factory team finally seemed to find a good direction with the M1, helping Viñales to five consecutive top-four finishes, the first time he had managed that with Yamaha (in fact with anyone).
“We aren’t far away now, we are very close,” he adds.
The number-one concern for Viñales is the YZR-M1’s poor top speed, which causes all kinds of other problems during races. Last season the M1 was often MotoGP’s fourth quickest motorcycle, behind Ducati, Honda and Suzuki.
“It’s very important to gain at least five or six [km/h] (3-4mph) because then we could use the slipstream of other bikes,” he adds. “Our acceleration traction is very equal to our competitors because last season we made a big step with the electronics, especially on the gas. We also improved the chassis, but the engine is a different story. Now it’s in the hands of Yamaha…”
Finding that missing top speed is a big ask, because it will need a significant increase in horsepower, something Yamaha has never found easy.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.