Valentino has to cling on to hope right now, because he's aware that the Yamaha cannot fight on a level playing field with its strongest rivals. Le Mans may come as an exception, which would be useful for both morale and the general standings.
“Generally speaking, I can't be very optimistic. We don't have anything new, we know our limits. As for the future though, my optimism is at a max, but it's not that I have much choice: I have to be" he laughs.
The M1 is having a tough time of it, and time is ticking on
“It's been going in since the second half of last season. I was hoping we'd have resolved things in time for the start of this year, but that didn't happen”.
So, he needs to grit his teeth and cross his fingers because the purgatory is set to continue. If Valentino had known this, would he still have signed another two-year contract with Yamaha?
“I've not thought about it. But I was too keen to continue to race and so I don't think my decision would have changed”.
Not even to set up his own team in MotoGP, even though the satellite Yamahas are still looking for a squad.
“It would be great to have a team with VR46 in the top class, but it won't happen for the next two years. Firstly, we wouldn't have much time and I don't like the idea of this project while I'm still racing”.
Valentino still wants to race, but also to win.
“It's difficult to say how long we need to solve our problems. They are working in Yamaha and we have a few days between races before the second half of the season which could be useful. I would prefer it if they could solve things sooner though”.
He needs to make the most of any opportunity, and Le Mans could be one such example.
“I haven't won a lot at this track but I've always completed solid races. I even reached the podium on the Ducati. There are some tough braking points and changes of direction, I like, and the Yamaha has always been strong here. I think we can be more competitive than at Jerez, but we need to see to what extent, compared to our rivals. In MotoGP the level is very high and to run in the top five you need to be at a similar performance level to the winner”.
Essentially, it's time for the Doctor to role up his sleeves and believe that anything is possible.
“In the last two years, we've seen that the situation can change completely from one track to another without even making one change to the bike. In testing at Jerez and Mugello we didn't resolve much, but we didn't have anything new either. The M1 has always gone well at Le Mans, as have I , so I'm curious to see how it goes this year”.
The aim (shared by everyone) is to set up the bike to work effectively with the Michelins.
“The French tyres have improved this year, not so much in terms of maximum performance but in terms of resistance. In these first races, I've noted minor difficulties in the second part of the race, but we continue to suffer more than our rivals. They consume the tyres less and we're working to improve in this area”.