It had been 25 races since Italy’s Valentino Rossi won for Yamaha, at Assen 2017, with Vinales absent from the top step since Le Mans of that year, 28 races ago.
“This is the best feeling ever, honestly! We’ve been in the dark all year, and suddenly we came into the light!” Vinales said.
“The season has been difficult. I needed that win. We needed that win. Yamaha needed it also, to start next year.
“I said on Friday, ‘we need to be good and motivated to start next year really well’ and for sure this win is going to give us a lot of motivation.”
Asked when he last felt this happy, Vinales quipped “more than a year and a half ago!” in reference to Le Mans 2017.
“No, honestly at home I’m really happy because I have a good life. But in my racing life, since Le Mans, I wasn’t happy like this.
“There were two races I felt I could win. One was Silverstone [cancelled] and another was here. So to make it is really good and to win here is so special.”
The now five-time MotoGP race winner admitted his confidence had been shaken by the lack of success, but is now more sure than ever that it’s a question of matching the bike to his style.
“I started to lose a little bit of self-confidence and, for Yamaha, I proved I can win races and they need to try to provide a bike for my riding style. Especially in the middle of the corners to turn and if we have that we have the chance to fight,” he said.
“I think if we work well for 2019 we can be strong as we were in 2017. So we need to keep working. Next year I will also have more experience and I will be better, because I know the worst point of being here racing and the better ones.”
Despite his victory, Vinales agrees with team-mate Valentino Rossi’s pre-race verdict that many things need to change to make the M1 consistently competitive in 2019.
“Yeah, I agree,” Vinales said. “We have a great chassis, but we have to improve the electronic and engine. I really love the chassis because, as today, I can ride really fast.
“But anyway there are a lot of ways to improve and I think Yamaha is making a lot of effort. This year we cannot change the engine [during the season], so we’ll try to make the best results in Malaysia and Valencia, but for next year – if we work cleverly – we can have a great bike.”
Rossi finished sixth on Sunday, 5.1s behind Vinales.
The Spaniard had been quietly confident heading into Sunday’s typically dramatic Phillip Island contest, but was angry with himself for sinking from second to tenth at the start.
“I didn’t expect to start so bad, it was incredible. When I saw myself in tenth I just said to myself, ‘Maverick, you are stupid! What are you doing!'” he smiled. “I just tried to keep my concentration.”
Vinales then marched swiftly up the order to hit the front on lap 8 of 27 and would lead every remaining lap, although his advantage was eroded by Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone and Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso in the closing stages, for a final victory margin of 1.5s.
“We worked so well this morning on the electronics and I knew if I felt good I could be fast because I was top-three all weekend. I felt good, so I said, ‘now I have to push. Not think about the tyres, just push and push’.
“When I saw I was three-seconds [clear] I could relax a little bit and save the tyre, but it was close at the end because both Andreas were coming really fast.
“In MotoGP it’s always really difficult to control the race, control the gap. They were so fast at the end and I was struggling, thinking, ‘maybe they’ll catch me’ because in the last laps my rear tyre was really down. I just tried to control the gas really well.
“Luckily I could push at the beginning. I didn’t expect to be so fast in the beginning, but finally I made enough gap just in case the tyre went down.
“Honestly, it’s amazing, because returning to victory at this track is something unbelievable. It’s the best track, for me, and maybe that’s why I can make a little bit more. I’m really happy.”
Vinales revealed he had gone back to the promising Buriram weight balance set-up in Australia, after deviating in Japan.
“In Motegi, finally we decided to change the bike, but here we came back to the Thailand bike,” he said. “Exactly the same, just I got used to the bike.
“In Thailand, I had a really good feeling, really good feedback from the bike and in FP1 in Japan when I was quite strong it was the same bike as here. But then we started to play a little bit. We wanted too much. Maybe that was the limit from the bike.
“Here I just concentrated on the lines. I knew if the bike wasn’t perfect I could make it perfect because I have some good lines here and I can be fast. I have a lot of speed.”
There has been visible tension in the Vinales side of the garage this season, with crew chief Ramon Forcada moving to the satellite Sepang team in 2019.
“Honestly, the team was working well all weekend, we worked in the way I wanted and it’s unbelievably good,” Vinales said.
“I started the weekend with the electronics not working really good, but as soon as we put the electronics in the correct place we were fast.
“The race just worked and it’s amazing. This morning I felt I could do it and when I had the chance I just went, to show and to prove that my riding style today was at the top. Amazing.”
Vinales remains fourth in the world championship, but is now just 15-points from team-mate Rossi.
Despite only a single win this year, the consistent efforts of Vinales and Rossi mean Movistar Yamaha is now just 16-points from Repsol Honda in the fight for the teams’ title.
Australian MotoGP race result:
- Maverick Viñales ESP Movistar Yamaha (YZR-M1) 27 laps, 40m 51.081s
- Andrea Iannone ITA Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR) +1.543s
- Andrea Dovizioso ITA Ducati Team (GP18) +1.832s
- Alvaro Bautista ESP Ducati Team (GP18) +4.072s
- Alex Rins ESP Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR) +5.017s
- Valentino Rossi ITA Movistar Yamaha (YZR-M1) +5.132s
- Jack Miller AUS Pramac Ducati (GP17) +6.756s
- Franco Morbidelli ITA EG 0,0 Marc VDS (RC213V) +21.805s
- Aleix Espargaro ESP Factory Aprilia Gresini (RS-GP) +22.904s
- Bradley Smith GBR Red Bull KTM Factory (RC16) +22.940s
- Karel Abraham CZE Angel Nieto Team (GP17) +34.386s
- Danilo Petrucci ITA Pramac Ducati (GP18) +35.025s
- Scott Redding GBR Factory Aprilia Gresini (RS-GP) +36.348s
- Takaaki Nakagami JPN LCR Honda (RC213V) +36.389s
- Xavier Simeon ESP Reale Avintia (GP17) +44.214s
- Thomas Luthi SWI EG 0,0 Marc VDS (RC213V) +48.226s
- Jordi Torres SPA Reale Avintia (GP16) +1m 04.965s
- Mike Jones AUS Angel Nieto Team (GP16) +1m 19.817s
- Pol Espargaro ESP Red Bull KTM Factory (RC16) DNF
- Hafizh Syahrin MAL Monster Yamaha Tech3 (YZR-M1) DNF
- Dani Pedrosa ESP Repsol Honda (RC213V) DNF
- Marc Marquez ESP Repsol Honda (RC213V) DNF
- Johann Zarco FRA Monster Yamaha Tech3 (YZR-M1) DNF
MotoGP Championships points (after round 17 of 19):
- Marc Marquez SPA Repsol Honda (RC213V) 296 points (2018 CHAMPION)
- Andrea Dovizioso ITA Ducati Team (GP18) 210 points (-86)
- Valentino Rossi ITA Movistar Yamaha (YZR-M1) 195 points (-101)
- Maverick Viñales SPA Movistar Yamaha (YZR-M1) 180 points (-116)
- Cal Crutchlow GBR LCR Honda (RC213V) 148 points (-148)
- Danilo Petrucci ITA Pramac Ducati (GP18) 137 points (-159)
- Johann Zarco FRA Monster Yamaha Tech3 (YZR-M1) 133 points (-163)
- Andrea Iannone ITA Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR) 133 points (-163)
- Jorge Lorenzo SPA Ducati Team (GP18) 130 points (-166)
- Alex Rins SPA Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR) 129 points (-167)
- Alvaro Bautista SPA Angel Nieto/Ducati Team (GP17/18) 96 points (-200)
- Dani Pedrosa SPA Repsol Honda (RC213V) 95 points (-201)
- Jack Miller AUS Pramac Ducati (GP17) 83 points (-213)
- Franco Morbidelli ITA EG 0,0 Marc VDS (RC213V) 46 points (-250)
- Aleix Espargaro SPA Factory Aprilia Gresini (RS-GP) 39 points (-257)
- Tito Rabat SPA Reale Avintia (GP17) 35 points (-261)
- Pol Espargaro SPA Red Bull KTM Factory (RC16) 35 points (-261)
- Hafizh Syahrin MAL Monster Yamaha Tech3 (YZR-M1) 34 points (-262)
- Bradley Smith GBR Red Bull KTM Factory (RC16) 29 points (-267)
- Takaaki Nakagami JPN LCR Honda (RC213V) 21 points (-275)
- Scott Redding GBR Factory Aprilia Gresini (RS-GP) 15 points (-281)
- Karel Abraham CZE Angel Nieto Team (GP16/17) 10 points (-286)
- Mika Kallio FIN Red Bull KTM Factory (RC16) 6 points (-290)
- Katsuyuki Nakasuga JPN Yamaha Factory (YZR-M1) 2 points (-294)
- Xavier Simeon BEL Reale Avintia (GP16/17) 1 points (-295)
- Michele Pirro ITA Ducati Team (GP18) 1 points (-295)
Photo courtesy Yamaha Europe
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