JORGE LORENZO’S NEW CHALLENGE
Maverick Vinales’ first career MotoGP
victory, a “run away and hide” affair in the
2016 British Grand Prix, was confirmation
of the hype and expectation surrounding
the then-21-year-old Spaniard.
Vinales had moved up to MotoGP with a
returning Suzuki in 2015, playing himself
in during his debut season, then regularly
and spectacularly crashing the party in
2016. The GSX-RR was a sweet-handling
machine, but Vinales gave it an added
potency, adding three more podiums to
that first win and finishing fourth in points
– a MotoGP “Alien” in the making.
The Aliens are MotoGPs gang of
otherworldly-fast and talented racers,
the guys who stand out from the merely
outstanding. Casey Stoner was an Alien
before retiring at the end of 2012. Valentino
Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo and, on his day, Dani
Pedrosa are well-established Aliens, and
they’re now joined by physics-defying Marc
Marquez, the current Alien-in-chief.
And now, with his blazing speed and
freaky bike control (up there with Marquez,
many say), Vinales has the membership
form filled in and pending, too.
A NEW ALIEN
By stepping things up as he did in
2016, Vinalis became the sport’s hottest
property, and when Lorenzo’s Yamaha
YZR-M1 seat became available for 2017,
Vinales was the no-brainer choice to team
with Valentino Rossi.
An unabashed Rossi fan, Vinales has
been welcomed in to the fold by his hero.
It’s early days in the relationship, but so far
things are working well – to the point where
reigning MotoGP World Champion Marquez
believes the third-season MotoGP rider will
be a genuine title threat in 2017.
“I’m interested to see Vinales with
Yamaha, because I think he will be a tough
rider and competitive for the title,” says the
Honda rider. “Of course Rossi will be there
too, so for me both Yamaha riders will be the
strongest competitors for the championship.”
But perhaps the ultimate praise for
Vinales came from the man he replaced on
the Yamaha YZR-M1, Lorenzo.
“He has great talent, ambition and
aggression,” Lorenzo told Spanish
newspaper Marca during the off-season.
“He’s at a similar level to Rossi, while still
Maverick Vinales was always hyped for MotoGP greatness. With a top ride at Yamaha, it’s his chance to prove it.
(MAIN) Getting the
message out... Yamaha
new recruit Maverick
Vinales laid down a
marker when he was
fastest overall in
MotoGP’s first major
pre-season test in
Why “Maverick”? Because Vinales’ dad
was a big fan of the movie “Top Gun.”
...can go either way. So far, the wily, savvy
Valentino Rossi (RIGHT) is playing nice.