Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP's Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi got back into the saddles of their YZR-M1s for this weekend's Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix. Viñales loves the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, and it showed in his perfect results: he topped both FP1 and FP2. Valentino Rossi also had a productive day working on his bike in the wet and the dry conditions. He secured seventh place in the combined FP timesheets.
Rain couldn’t stop Viñales from getting into the groove early on at the Phillip Island circuit. He put his Yamaha briefly in second place and then got to work perfecting the set-up. Fifteen minutes into the session the Spaniard decided to raise the level. He was pushing, clocking a 1’39.338s for provisional first. He improved his time gradually on the next two tries, only to finish the mid-session run with a 1'38.957. This red-hot time in the wet conditions kept him firmly at the top of the FP1 rankings, 0.147s ahead of his closest rival.
As often at the Australian circuit, the conditions in the afternoon were completely different from the morning session, with the bright sunshine greeting the Yamaha rider as he went out on track to defend his P1 position from the morning. The number-12 rider quickly adapted to the dry track conditions on Run 1, setting a 1’30.110s for first place again, and kept up his benchmark-setting form. When the pace quickened, he retaliated on Run 2 before he switched to a soft rear tyre for a final push. He posted a 1’29.012s, increasing his advantage, and followed it up with a 1’28.824s, the first and only 1’28s lap of the weekend so far. It earned him first place in the FP2 results with a 0.496s gap to the rider in second.
Rossi was on it right from the start of FP1. He was setting multiple personal best laps and featured in the top 5 as he searched for a set-up that suited the wet track conditions. The Doctor returned to the box to have some adjustments made to his YZR-M1 and went back out on track with 20 minutes to go. However, with rain coming down hard 15 minutes before the end, it was difficult for the Italian to improve his time. He had dropped to sixth place but delayed his hot lap, making another quick stop. On Run 3, he moved up to fourth in the final three minutes with a 1’39.885s, putting him 0.928s behind his team-mate.
The Doctor needed a little time to get comfortable in the dry conditions in FP2, but once he had tweaked the YZR-M1’s setting to his liking, he recovered to sixth place before the usual ‘mini time attack’ at the end of the session. He put in a flying lap, a 1’29.436s, for fifth place but was eventually pushed to seventh. The FP2 result also put him in seventh place in the combined FP timesheets, 0.612s from first.
FP2 was followed up by a special Tyre Test Session at the demanding Phillip Island circuit, to test the durability of the 2020 Michelin tyres. Viñales and Rossi used the 20 minutes of track time just to gather data on the Michelin new soft rear casing, which increases stability and grip. They finished the session in third and seventh place respectively.
“Phillip Island is known for its changeable weather conditions, anything can happen, and we've seen that again today. FP1 was completely wet and FP2 was fully dry, so that gave us the possibility to work on the set-up for different conditions, and we were competitive in both. Maverick was in a league of his own here. He had a solid gap to the rider in second place in both the wet and the dry session. Valentino was also quite comfortable with his bike and he ended the day in seventh place overall. Especially during FP2 we could evaluate the slick tyre specifications, front and rear, in view of the race. This might have been the only dry session before a dry race, so it could be crucial. It's early days, because it's just the Friday, but right now we have good momentum. Today we were also able to try the 2020 tyre casing for Michelin in a special 20-minute Tyre Test Session. Both riders got a positive feeling from it.”
MONSTER ENERGY YAMAHA MOTOGP RIDER
“I feel really good. At this track I always find exceptional lap times, so I’m quite happy. We set up the bike in a really good way and I stayed out on track just riding and riding, also in the wet, because that's always difficult here. You have to warm up the tyres really well, you have to keep running a steady pace, so actually I’m quite happy about today’s results. It’s too early to judge what the race will be like. We set the pace today, but we have to keep working. The race is a totally different story, we will see on Sunday. But I do feel good with the bike’s set-up, and that’s the most important thing right now. The 2020 Michelin tyres feel good. They are very consistent, that’s an important point, I’m happy about the work they did.”
MONSTER ENERGY YAMAHA MOTOGP RIDER
“Today is a very important day because we tested in both conditions and it looks like the forecast for tomorrow is wet, so everybody pushed a lot to stay in the top 10. At the end, on the dry, I was in P7 and my pace is quite good. In both conditions I feel comfortable with the bike, I was not so bad also in the wet, I was in P4. For sure, we have to work in some areas to improve and also try to understand the best tyre option, but the feeling with the bike is good.”