Aprilia Team Manager Paolo Bonora explains to Neil Morrison how the factory has nurtured Maverick Viñales to a level where he is a MotoGP contender once again.
Would it be fair to say Mack is back? If not now, then top figures at Aprilia are confident it won’t be long until Maverick Viñales is on the top step of the podium once more, in part thanks to a good deal of patience and a careful strategy of man-management.
It hadn’t been an easy start to life in Aprilia colours for the enigmatic Catalan. He finished higher than tenth just twice in his first 13 races aboard the RS-GP, a bike that could currently be hailed as the most rounded package on the grid, and one that could yet win this year’s championship with teammate Aleix Espargaro.
But the British Grand Prix at Silverstone was vindication for the faith Aprilia has shown in the former Moto3 World Champion. While his performance lacked a touch of composure in the critical moments, it was the first time Viñales was clearly the fastest rider on track in any race since his explosive exit from Yamaha this month a year ago.
What’s more, the 27-year old mentioned he had “started laughing” when up front, fighting among the Ducatis of Francesco Bagnaia, Jack Miller and Jorge Martin. It has been quite some time when Viñales has appeared so comfortable and content both on the bike and off it.
Aprilia deserve as much praise for getting Viñales to this point as the rider does. As Race Manager Paolo Bonora revealed, the Noale factory has worked particularly hard to ensure its rider feels the full trust of the technicians around him – that and relieving him of the excessive pressure he was placing on himself – no easy task.
After Viñales’ stirring second place at Silverstone, Motomatters caught up with Bonora to discuss the technical changes that led to the #12 scoring back-to-back podiums, as well as the efforts to make him feel welcome in the Italian team.
Q: I guess Maverick’s performance at Silverstone proved satisfying that not only Aleix is competitive with your bike. Was this the ultimate confirmation that this year’s RS-GP is one of the grid’s top bikes?
Paolo Bonora: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. In the Sachsenring race we saw Maverick made a step with his confidence on the bike. Despite the ride-height device problem, he was in the fighting positions. From there we’ve seen that we found something with him and his mood was better and better. At the moment, it’s very helpful for us having Viñales in such a good situation. As you saw at Assen and today he did a great job. Thinking about the championship, it’s very useful to have both riders with good race pace, good performance. Each rider helps the other. There were a few corners where Viñales did better than Aleix and other corners where Aleix did better than Viñales. They are a help for each other. Also for us, it’s important because we have a lot of data to check. Before, there was a bigger gap between the two riders. This year, we have both riders at a very good performance level. It’s helpful also for the technicians and engineers.
Q: Earlier in the season you said one challenge was ensuring Maverick could ride without pressure. You saw him putting too much expectation on himself. How have you managed this?
To read the remaining 735 words of this article, you need to sign up to become a MotoMatters.com site supporter by taking out a subscription. You can find out more about subscribing to MotoMatters.com here. If you are already a subscriber, log in to read the full text.
This is part of a regular series of unique insights into the world of motorcycle racing, exclusive for MotoMatters.com site supporters. The series includes interviews, background information, in-depth analysis, and opinion, and is available to everyone supporting the site by taking out a subscription.
If you would like to read more of our exclusive content you can join the growing band of site supporters, by taking out a subscription here. If you prefer, you can also support us on our Patreon page and get access to the same exclusive material there.