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Yamaha’s overtaking problem could wreck its title bid

by Simon Patterson
3 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Yamaha may have won four of the seven 2020 MotoGP races so far, but the bike’s inability to overtake is a significant hurdle for the team’s title bid, say both Maverick Vinales and Fabio Quartararo.

Vinales became the third Yamaha rider to win a race this season at Misano today, following Quartararo’s brace of victories at Jerez and Franco Morbidelli’s first success at Misano last time out.

However, so far all four wins have come as a result of all-but-identical rides where they’ve made an early breakaway and then managed the game to the end.

“I knew I couldn’t overtake Miller even if I was faster” :: Maverick Vinales

Vinales’ win today is the only anomaly, but it was only possible because Pramac Ducati rider Pecco Bagnaia – who had caught and passed the Yamaha in the opening laps – crashed out while ahead of him.

With last weekend’s crash from Quartararo showing exactly what happens when the Yamahas are forced to work behind other bikes, Vinales says the team must fix the problem to be fast everywhere and fight for the title.

Maverick Vinales

“This morning, I exited the pits behind a few riders in warm-up, and even though I was faster than them all I was doing was warming up the brakes because I couldn’t overtake them,” said Vinales.

“It’s hard to control the pressure of the tyres too.

“I was upset this morning, because I was thinking ‘what can I do if [Jack] Miller is in front of me?’ I knew I couldn’t overtake him even if I was faster.

“My only mentality was to be first on the first lap, and once that happened I was able to get into the rhythm. You need to start first.”

Maverick Vinales Yamaha Misano MotoGP 2020

His sentiments were echoed by Quartararo after the race. The Petronas SRT rider was completely unable to stop the charge of Joan Mir in the closing laps, having been dicing with Pol Espargaro for third when the Suzuki came past them both. Though Quartararo eventually did pass Espargaro’s KTM, a track limits penalty dropped him back to fourth.

Quartararo conceded that there’s nothing you can do on a Yamaha to maintain your place to a faster bike.

“At the moment I’m just looking at how we’re struggling to overtake people,” he admitted to The Race.

“In Montmelo, I’m planning to ride much more with the other riders, especially on the tail of the Ducatis, so that I can see how to overtake them” :: Maverick Vinales

“If you’re not doing it like Maverick it’s so difficult to win a race. I did it like this, Franco did, Maverick did.

“As soon as you’re behind someone who has a little more engine than you, you can’t do better.

“Let’s see what happens in Barcelona because it’s a track that I love – but it’s got a straight of one kilometre.

“I’m really looking forward to it because I think we can do something good, and I’m happy that the next race is only next week.”

Pol Espargaro Joan Mir Fabio Quartararo

Vinales too is keen to get back to action next weekend, with a plan to try to find a solution to Yamaha’s racing woes foremost in his mind.

“At the minute it’s our weak point, and we need to figure out how to fight back when we get overtaken,” he said.

“In Montmelo, I’m planning to ride much more with the other riders, especially on the tail of the Ducatis, so that I can see how to overtake them.”

Yamaha’s inline-four engine at a significant speed disadvantage to the the V4 Ducatis and KTMs at the best of times and is struggling even more at the moment as it works around a power restriction brought about due to powerplant woes from the opening rounds at Jerez.

It’s trying hard to limit the impact of those power restrictions by trialling new parts like the exhaust that Vinales ran during the weekend, but it’s likely that Yamaha’s riders are going to have to continue to struggle in close racing situations for the remainder of 2020.

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