Maverick Viñales made a statement of intent at the opening MotoGP test of 2017, setting the fastest time at Sepang in his first official outing in Yamaha colours.
The 22-year-old Spaniard, who won last year’s British GP, proved blisteringly fast and supremely consistent over the three day test, topping the charts with a best lap of 1:59.368 in yesterday’s final session. He said: I am quite surprised I could attain a 1'59 and I am really happy, because it was very fast and the bike was going well. We tried many things during this week, so I think we can have a better package for the next test in Australia. We will bring many good things to Phillip Island. At the moment it is difficult to say which aspect of the bike surprised me most. We are developing the bike, trying to better the package that we have, and I think for sure we have the best bike at the moment for one lap and on race distance. Step by step we are choosing the best things.”
If the Malaysian test has proved one thing then it is that the 2017 MotoGP season looks to be one of the closest ever. Just a second separated the top 16 at the end of day three, however the names at the very top were more or less as expected, with Andrea Iannone, Marc Marquez, Andrea Dovizioso, Dani Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi rounding out the top six. Jorge Lorenzo completed the test in 10th on his first official outing as a Ducati rider.
If the Sepang test proves another thing, it is that 2017 could well be an interesting year of technical innovation. With the winglets that appeared in 2016 now banned, the Movistar Yamaha factory team revealed an advanced fairing design that looks to circumnavigate the rule change. Yamaha’s new design has small wings inside the fairing, which should help to achieve downforce and reduce wheelies, without breaking the regulations which state “It is not permitted to add any device or shape to the fairing or bodywork that is not integrated in the body streamlining”. Sepang also saw Honda debut a ‘big bang’ version of it’s V4 engine, while Ducati’s latest bike features a large ‘box’ under the seat hump. MotoGP’s finest journalist, Mat Oxley, has suggested that this could be some kind of gyroscopic anti-wheelie in his excellent blog for Motorsport magazine, while the variable exhaust system that we recently brought you details of is another innovation we could well see on the Desmosedici in 2017.
Unsurprisingly, two time MotoGP winner Cal Crutchlow was the best of the Brits, in ninth, with Scott Redding 19th, Bradley Smith 22nd and Sam Lowes 23rd. Top rookie was double Moto2 world champion Johann Zarco, the Frenchman being the last rider to break the two minute barrier after finishing 11th overall on the Monster-backed Tech 3 Yamaha.
The next test is taking place at Australia’s Philip Island from 15-17 February. Coverage is broadcast live on BT Sport, as well as the official MotoGP website.