In the last few days, the question on everyone's lips over here has been whether or not the Yamaha truly experienced a rebirth in Thailand, or was it simply a welcome one-off. We'll probably have our answer come Sunday, because Motegi will be “a good test bench for the M1”, as Valentino puts it.
How is Valentino on arriving in Japan? “I have doubts and hopes in equal measure” he comments, he too curious to see how the M1 will behave.
“Things didn't go badly in Thailand, I was quite fast over the entire weekend and it was one of our best races of the year if we look at the gap to the front. But we need to understand what it was that helped us - was it the track, the tyres, the temperature or actually the changes made to the bike”.
And this is why Motegi may serve as a litmus test.
“It's a more normal track, where we use the usual tyres. It's also a track at which the M1 has behaved well in the past, with the exception of last year but it rained all weekend”.
This year's event should be dry, at least on Sunday.
“It will be an important weekend in which to see whether we can be competitive. Also because we were the first to be surprised by how things went at Buriram. We ran well in Thailand, but not well enough to really be able to fight for the win, Marquez and Dovizioso were stronger than me and Vinales”.
This is why Valentino has no intention of lifting his foot off the gas when it comes to pushing Yamaha management to improve ahead of next season.
“Some of the big bosses were in Thailand and we spoke at length, I told them exactly what I think. I don't know if the message will get through or now, because the Japanese always appear to be in agreement but then you don't know what will happen”.
They can only wait. But one man keen to close this 2018 season is Marquez, who faces his first match point at Motegi.
“I think he'll try and finish it this weekend, that's what I would do- states Rossi - This is Honda's home track and winning here would be important but it's also true that Dovizioso is strong and so we may well be in a for a fight. It will be those two battling it out I think, with no real change to the normal scheme of things”.