Maverick Vinales Signs with Yamaha MotoGP
After eight-straight years – including three MotoGP titles – aboard Yamaha YZR-M1 machinery, Jorge Lorenzo signed a contract with Ducati, the Spaniard set to ride the Desmosedici from 2016 through 2018.
This left a vacancy, and the future teammate of nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi was unknown. Following Lorenzo’s Ducati deal ahead of Austin MotoGP at Circuit of the Americas, the paddock chatter began. Many rumored the young Maverick Vinales would claim the empty seat – and these rumors were confirmed Thursday.
Ahead of this weekend’s Mugello MotoGP, a home race for Movistar Yamaha MotoGP, the team confirmed that Vinales will pilot the factory Yamaha for the 2017/2018 season.
The 21-year-old joined Grand Prix motorcycle racing in 2011, racing for Aprilia in the former 125cc class. He then competed in the Moto3 Championship, first for FTR Honda in 2012 and KTM in 2013 – the year he earned the Moto3 title.
He spent one year in Moto2 racing for Kalex before joining the Team Ecstar Suzuki, which returned to the premier class after a three-year haitus. Vinales finished 12th overall in 2015 as he helped the team work the bugs out of the GSX-RR. Maverick has ridden a different bike every season – except for his repeat Suzuki ride this year – and has proven he can adapt quickly.
So far in 2016, Vinales has performed well except for a DNF due to a crash in Argentina; his best finish was third at Le Mans MotoGP two weeks ago, the Spaniard claiming Suzuki’s first podium since the 2008 Czech Grand Prix (Alvaro Bautista).
Speaking at the Mugello MotoGP press conference Thursday, Maverick Vinales said: “Finally I decided to move, to go to Yamaha factory and I think it’s a really important part of my career because I will grow up a lot. Finally I am really grateful to Suzuki because they trust me a lot and try to give me the best bike they can. They’ve done a great job.”
Photos by Luciano Bianchetto