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‘Happiest’ Vinales surprised to be instantly fast with Aprilia

by Simon Patterson
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Maverick Vinales has spoken to the media for the first time in his new role as an Aprilia MotoGP rider, following both the completion of his two-day test at Misano for the Italian factory and today’s news that he will take the RS-GP racing as soon as possible.

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According to The Race’s sources in the paddock, the former Yamaha rider lapped the Italian track at a time of 1m32.4s – only a second from his own pole position time of a year ago, only 0.1s slower than teammate Aleix Espargaro’s best lap and, perhaps most importantly, 0.1s faster than Ducati test rider Michele Pirro, who was also in attendance at the test.

Maverick Vinales Aprilia MotoGP Misano

Yet despite the impressive laptimes, Vinales was quick to stress afterwards that there’s still plenty of work to do – even though the initial signs are promising indeed.

“I found a really positive atmosphere in the box, really calm,” he told MotoGP.com as his test concluded, drawing obvious parallels with the turbulent end to his time at Yamaha.

“We all understand that I need laps on the bike, so before we try to change things or to find a different set-up, I just took the bike from Aleix [Espargaro] and kept going. This is the most important thing. At the end I tried to give good information, which is important, and with the team it’s been fantastic. We’re just calm, trying to understand the bike, and finally enjoying it. We are getting to know each other; this is the beautiful part.

“To be honest I was surprised to be fast in just a few laps, but still I need to improve a lot. But what keeps me really calm is that I can already be fast with a lot of room to improve.

“I can’t wait to make more laps and to understand it better. The way I need to train at home is very different too, and I need days. I need to sleep and recover and internalise everything.”

Maverick Vinales Aprilia MotoGP

His initial feeling from the bike itself was highly positive as well, with the Spaniard admitting that despite going into the test without any expectations, he was surprised to quickly find himself not only up to speed but happy – happier, he says, than he’s been for years on a MotoGP machine.

“I honestly went without expectations,” he explained in a session with the written press, “because you never know what to expect, but I admit I was a little bit nervous because I’ve never tried a bike with a different engine [V4] before, other than the inline four, and we didn’t know how it would react. But I was quite surprised – I adapted to the engine quite easily, and this is nice.

“This is probably the happiest I’ve been on a MotoGP bike all my life, because after five years doing ups and down and not understanding many things, at the end you ask ‘what is going on?’ But as soon as I jumped on the Aprilia, I knew my potential and what I was able to do.

“It was nice to jump quick, because having the opportunity to do six races is much better than just five days of testing, and I will try to prepare well.”

Maverick Vinales Aprilia MotoGP Misano

Those views were echoed by Aprilia race manager Paolo Bonora, who says that, despite limited adjustments to the bike over the course of the two days, it’s obvious that Vinales has a lot of potential still to explore.

“Yeah, it was two fantastic days,” said the former electronics engineer to MotoGP.com, “we are so happy about the first approach of Vinales on our bike. He tasted immediately the feeling with the engine, for sure, and with the vehicle stability. He did many laps, and since the start he felt good so we are happy about this. We didn’t change so much the chassis set-up and electronic set-up compared to the Espargaro setting, so we are quite confident on his riding style on our bike.

“It’s a good result to have him since Aragon. For sure he will be another motivation for Espargaro, because having such a strong rider inside the garage could improve the bike and the rider performance.”

There’s still work to be done, though, with the key thing that Vinales says he needs to perfect in the remaining races of 2021 not any huge improvements to the bike but to his own riding style, as he works to move away from the high corner speed style of the Yamaha and onto a style that better utilises Aprilia’s stability under braking.

Maverick Vinales Aprilia MotoGP Misano

“Basically, what I need to change is the way of braking,” he said when quizzed by The Race. “It’s a bit different and it’s a big learning process because the way that you can brake with the Aprilia is totally different. I will need laps, many laps. Aleix is a very hard braker and I need to learn from him how he does it, but I think that this will come from confidence.

“It’s still difficult to be one with the bike. I’m used to riding in one way with a bike. But I think in Aragon, riding with Aleix I can understand a bit more. He is fast, so I can learn quickly how the bike works. But I already feel strong and that’s the positive.”

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