The rise of Maverick Vinales to 2017 MotoGP contender

Maverick Viñales did it again: clocked the fastest lap time at the Phillip Island MotoGP test session (February 15-17). The Spaniard was already the fastest rider at 2017 MotoGP Testing Sepang February

Viñales surprised many with his quick out-of-the-box adaptation to the Yamaha M1. New team, new bike, new teammate (Valentino Rossi), but the Spaniard was not shy to demonstrate his abilities - to the contrary - It is clear now that Viñales has become a 2017 MotoGP title contender!

2017-MotoGP-Maverick-Vinales-test-Sepang-with-Yamaha

Maverick Viñales (born January, 12th 1995) started his motorcycle grand prix career in 2011 riding for Aprilia in the 125cc world championship. In 2012 he moved to the Moto3 ranks with FTR Honda and won that championship in 2013 riding the KTM bike for Team Calvo.

- 2011: 125cc, Aprilia, 3rd place with 248 points
- 2012: Moto3, FTR Honda, 3rd place with 207 points
- 2013: Moto3, KTM Team Calvo, 1st place with 323 points
- 2014: Moto2, Kalex Pons Racing, 3rd place with 274 points

During his 2014 Moto2 campaign, Viñales often competed with Esteve Rabat and Mika Kallio and took only 4 wins, but ultimately received the Rookie of the Year award.

In 2015, the Spaniard entered MotoGP competition with the factory Suzuki Team. It was the return of Suzuki to MotoGP racing but (of course) they were not yet at par with the Yamaha, Honda or Ducati. Viñales took the year to learn and get used to the MotoGP added horsepower. Overall he finished 12th in the standings. Here Viñales statistics for the 2015 MotoGP season:

- Average Start: 10.17
- Average Finish: 9.94
- Finished Races: 88.89% (16 races)
- Best qualifying: 2nd Catalunya
- Best race result: 6th Catalunya, 6th Phillip Island (Australia)

2016 is so far his best year. Suzuki worked to improved the overall package - and Viñales definitely took advantage of that. Here Viñales statistics for the 2016 MotoGP season:

- Average Start: 5.89
- Average Finish: 5.41
- Finished Races: 94.44% (17 races)
- Best qualifying: 2nd Mugello (Italy), 2nd Aragon.
- Best race result: Maiden win at Silverstone (British Grand Prix)
- Podium Finishes: 22.22% (4 races)
- Top5 Finishes: 50.00% (9 races)

These great results promoted the Spaniard to 4th in the 2016 MotoGP standings. Right behind the Yamahas of Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi. FYI: Suzuki teammate, Aleix Espargaro finished 11th in the standings.

For 2017, Viñales has shown great pace with the new Yamaha M1! and tensions already went high between Maverick Viñales and reigning MotoGP champion Marc Marquez during the Phillip Island test session - as Viñales was running his race simulation - Marquez apparently was following from behind. Marquez said observing Viñales on track was "interesting", and thinks the Yamaha rider will be "tough to beat".

Viñales was also nearly a second faster than Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi. Rossi is having challenges to get up to speed - plus the fact that his new teammate is already fast. Still the Italian is looking forward to the next test: "I’m pretty close, although Phillip Island is a strange track," he added. "Also here, like in Malaysia, the fastest were Marquez and Viñales. We will have to work to arrive closer to them".

If the testing so far (Sepang and Phillip Island) prove to be the real MotoGP pecking order, then Marquez, Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo (now with Ducati) have a new fresh contender - and similar to 2016, Maverick Viñales is ready for the challenge. This will be an interesting 2017 MotoGP season!

Posted on February 23, 2017

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