Maverick Viñales (April): “I felt like a rookie” / MotoGP

Motegi has not hosted a MotoGP event for two years, now the world’s best motorcycle racers are returning to Japan and Maverick Viñales feels like a newcomer. Still, the Aprilia driver was happy.

For Aprilia factory rider Maverick Viñales, Friday’s free practice in the MotoGP class was the first benchmark at Mobility Resort Motegi. The Spaniard completed 25 laps of the 4.8km circuit to finish 10th after 75 minutes of the session, just 1/1000th of a second ahead of Ducati’s Johan Zarco.

Overall the lap times were very close. Viñales lost just 0.288 seconds to the fastest Jack Miller. But the 27-year-old knows exactly where he wants to improve on Saturday – provided he stays dry.

“I am very happy because the bike feels very good. I felt like a newcomer, because I haven’t been on this track for a long time, I had to get used to everything,” said the Spaniard with a smile. “Hunting in our time has been good, even if of course it could have been much better.” I also set up my race pace and was able to run deep 1:45 times, which is very fast.

You saw Viñales help his teammate Aleix Espargaró set a faster lap time. Was this planned? “No. But I helped Aleix because he has to be at the front. Due to the slide in the last sector, I was able to support him. I think it worked out fantastically. I think we can both be very competitive,” the Aprilia driver emphasized.

“We still have a little bit of improvement to do, but it was just Friday.” Most factories here have data from test riders, we don’t. The times are very tight, there are only small details that need to be improved,” said the world number 10, adding: “These details take 0.2 or 0.3 seconds. Rain would not be a disaster as we are already in the second quarter.

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Where does the Spaniard waste the most time? “We can still gain time in sectors 1 and 2. It will definitely come as I gain more confidence on the bike lap by lap. I can push a little more there. We also have to change something in the gearbox because it limited us a bit,” says Viñales. “If we put everything together, we’ll be there. I am very motivated, the bike handles much better than in Aragon. When I entered the track, I got faster.

MotoGP result FP1, Motegi (September 23):

1. Miller, Ducati, 1:44.509 min
2. Bagnaia, Ducati, + 0.028 sec
3. Quartararo, Yamaha, + 0,049
4. Aleix Espargaró, Aprilia, +0.068
5. Marini, Ducati, + 0.136
6. Marc Marquez, Honda, +0.147
7. Pol Espargaro, Honda, +0.169
8. Brad Binder, KTM + 0,226
9. Oliveira, KTM, +0.234
10. Viñales, Aprilia, + 0.288
11. Zarco, Ducati, +0.289
12. Nakagami, Honda, +0.377
13. Rins, Suzuki, + 0.404
14. Bastianinis, Ducati, + 0.469
15. Martin, Ducati, +0.500
16. Morbidelli, Yamaha, +0.556
17. Crutchlow, Yamaha, +0.678
18. Darryn Binder, Yamaha, +0,857
19. Bezzecchi, Ducati, +0.917
20. Alex Marquez, Honda, +1,091
21. Raúl Fernández, KTM, +1,230
22. Nagashima, Honda, +1,336
23. Gardner, KTM, +1,482
24. Giannantonio, Ducati, +1.856
25. Tsuda, Suzuki, +2,209

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