WORLD EX­CLU­SIVE IN­TER­VIEW Af­ter dom­i­nat­ing win­ter test­ing, even Rossi is wor­ried about the pace of his new team-mate. MCN spoke to Mav­er­ick Viñales to find out what makes him so fast

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - By Si­mon Pat­ter­son MCN MO­TOGP REPORTER

Valentino Rossi has al­ready tipped his Yamaha team-mate Mav­er­ick Viñales as a ti­tle favourite - and af­ter last week’s dom­i­na­tion of the three-day Sepang test the rest of the world is start­ing to be­lieve the hype.

Last year the 22-year-old Spa­niard se­ri­ously impressed on the Suzuki, tak­ing his maiden vic­tory at Sil­ver­stone, but ever since switch­ing to Yamaha for 2017; his form has been elec­tric.

In the three tests he’s com­pleted on the Yamaha M1 he has fin­ished fastest in them all, com­fort­ably out­pac­ing Rossi.

MCN sat down with the young Spa­niard for an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view last week at Sepang where he not only set the fastest time of the three-day test, but also showed im­pres­sive con­sis­tency over longer runs. And even more wor­ry­ing for his rivals is that the new Yamaha sign­ing feels that he is still only scratch­ing the sur­face.

“There’s still a lot to im­prove, es­pe­cially in my rid­ing style. I can take more profit from the bike; I’m not even tak­ing the best lines yet. The bike has im­proved a lot since the last time, and ev­ery time we go to the track we seem to make a big step for­wards.”

With each timesheet-top­ping lap in test­ing comes ever more pres­sure for the young Spa­niard. For most rac­ers be­ing in a garage along­side Rossi and be­ing widely tipped as a con­tender for the Mo­togp crown would be a huge bur­den. But for Viñales, in­stead of be­ing weighed down by the pres­sure, he seems to feed off it.

“I al­ways work well un­der stress, it helps me to push my lim­its and go even faster,” he ad­mit­ted. “It’s not the same pres­sure as when you’re fight­ing for fifth or sixth as it is for try­ing to win the cham­pi­onship. The stress is two or three times higher, and you have to be even more fo­cused and even more pas­sion­ate about it.

“But in­side the team, there’s no more pres­sure this year. Ev­ery team tries to keep the rider calm as that is the key to go­ing fast. They want to win, and the at­mos­phere in the team is re­ally calm and nor­mal. It’s more about your­self; how hard you push your­self. That’s where pres­sure comes from.”

And while it would be easy for Viñales to be in­tim­i­dated by the pres­ence of Valentino Rossi on the other side of the garage, his re­la­tion­ship with the nine-time world cham­pion seems to be good. At least for now...

“The days we spend to­gether are good – re­laxed and easy. He’s quite friendly with me, even though I was think­ing that now we’re team-mates it might mean we’d be a lit­tle more sep­a­rate. But the re­la­tion­ship con­tin­ues to be good, and I’m quite pleased about that. I have a lot of re­spect for him.

“On the track, we still have to push and to fight each other, to be the first Yamaha – but out­side the track it’s im­por­tant that we con­tinue with this strong re­la­tion­ship. It’s good for the me­dia, and for the peo­ple work­ing with us in­side the team, so we have to con­tinue this.”

It’s clear that there is pres­sure on Viñales from all di­rec­tions. He re­mains un­der no il­lu­sion that he still has a lot to learn, but he is also clear af­ter a suc­cess­ful Sepang test about his goals for the sea­son ahead – noth­ing less than the top prize.

“The Mo­togp world cham­pi­onship is the tar­get. When you make a move to Mo­vis­tar Yamaha, one of the best teams in the Mo­togp pad­dock, you know your tar­get has to be to win the cham­pi­onship. You can’t be sit­ting around think­ing that the tar­get is any­thing less – you have to have it clear in your mind.”

‘At Yamaha you know your tar­get has to be to win the cham­pi­onship’ MAV­ER­ICK VIÑALES

Viñales gets an­i­mated with MCN’S Mo­togp reporter SEE THE VIDEO Viñales face-to- face with Rossi on­line now com/ mo­tor­cy­c­lene ws­dot­com

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