In a sign of how difficult Yamaha's 2017 season has been, they have a busy testing schedule ahead of them in the next few weeks. After the traditional two-day test at Valencia, both the Movistar Yamaha and Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team will be heading to Malaysia, for a private test at Sepang.
The testing schedule for Yamaha means that Michael van der Mark will not be taking part in the two-day test at Valencia. Yamaha need the resources from the Tech 3 team to assist Maverick Viñales, Valentino Rossi, and Johann Zarco get through their program. "They have so much to test here that they need my team to help prepare everything," Van der Mark told the media on Thursday.
The testing schedule and the decision to enlist the help of the Tech 3 team is a sign of how much work Yamaha fear they have ahead of them. Though the Movistar Yamaha riders talk only of having a new engine at Valencia, the scale of testing suggests that there are plenty of other areas which will need to be evaluated as well. Officially, a new chassis will not be ready until the Sepang test next January, but there is reason to believe that new parts could be ready for the private test Yamaha will be holding at Sepang at the end of this month.
With any chance of the title already gone, Maverick Viñales indicated that Yamaha could focus on testing setups for the race in Valencia, rather than waiting for the two-day test on Tuesday and Wednesday. "For sure, Tuesday and Wednesday are going to be more important, because already, with nothing to win or to lose, we are already thinking about 2018," the Spaniard said. "It's true that we have an important race, but anyway this race it's also going to be important to try new things, risk a little bit more than in other races. And go ways that we didn't try during the year."
One of the areas Viñales and his team could explore is a setup they found at the previous round at Sepang. "In Malaysia, in the warm up, we found a completely different set up which worked quite good. So we are trying to reconfirm that improvement, and then let's see. Finally, in the race you have a lot of things to try," he said.
The problems Yamaha have had this season have caused problems in planning for the 2018 season for the Tech 3 Yamaha team. Normally, Yamaha take the bikes used by the factory team out of the Movistar garage on Sunday night after the final race at Valencia and roll them straight into the Tech 3 garage. However, Yamaha are still not sure what their plan for Tech 3 is going to be next year. Much will depend on the outcome of the private Sepang test at the end of the month. The outcome of that test will form the basis for the 2018 plan for both the Movistar and Monster Tech 3 teams.
The good news for Tech 3 – and indeed Yamaha – is that there is distinct possibility that Jonas Folger could be present in Sepang at the end of November. The German has been diagnosed with Gilbert Syndrome, and it is hoped that he will be fit enough to start riding again very soon. He is currently undergoing a detoxification program, and will be following a special diet to allow him to recover faster. But a final decision on his participation will be made shortly before the test is due to take place.
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