MotoGP: Vinales. The Maverick-Cycle News

Michael Scott | May 13, 2016

618518Should he stay, or should he go? The chance to become a Suzuki legend by winning the title on the underdog bike is almost as enticing as bing Rossi’s teammate at Yamaha.

He was named after Tom Cruise’s movie character in Top Gun. Perhaps his parents knew something. The talented kid from Figueres in Catalunya – home town to surrealist legend Salvador Dali – has been exactly a maverick has he rose through racing like a climbing jet fighter.

He first raced minimotos as a toddler, aged three; then motocross before moving to real circuit racing, becoming Catalan champion at the age of 12.

As he progressed, he was Rookie of the Year in every major contest: the influential Spanish CEV in 2009; on a 125 in the World Championship in 2011, in Moto2 in 2014. In every case he won races in his first season, and everywhere except Moto2 he went on to take the title.

Some talent, and snapped up by Suzuki for their 2015 MotoGP return. He was, of course, Rookie of the Year, with five top-ten finishes, although this time no wins, finishing 12th, one place below experienced teammate Aleix Espargaro.

Now the 21-year-old is the hottest property in the paddock, and caught in a tug of love between Suzuki and Yamaha. The first offers the chance to become a maverick champion on an underdog marque. The second a place alongside Valentino Rossi on the best bike in the series.

And he’s been spinning it out ever since the start of the season.

Should he go or should he stay? The words from the broodingly good-looking and rapidly maturing former teenage tearaway give few clues beyond the obvious: his heart says Suzuki, where he feels highly valued; his head says Yamaha. “I want to decide before too much longer,” he said at the last round at Le Mans.

So does everybody else, and not only the respective teams: the fate of several other riders depends on his decision.

Rossi, already an admirer, summed it up at Le Mans. Staying at Suzuki to emulate Kevin Schwantz, their common hero, would be “more romantic”, he said. “The Suzuki has good potential, but it would be more difficult. The Yamaha is stronger for sure,” he said.

He is not the only one to have been impressed by Vinales ever since the first of four maiden-season GP wins at only his fourth race.

But there was a counter-current at Le Mans: a body of opinion suggesting he was somewhat over-rated. After all, he hadn’t scored a MotoGP rostrum yet.

Guess where he came on Sunday. Third.

The answer should come soon – perhaps even at the next race at Mugello. Only then will such canards as “PEDROSA TO YAMAHA” be laid to rest; and the confusion in the wake of Lorenzo’s switch to Ducati will become a little less confused.

Vinales has been an off-track maverick before now: storming off home mid-event in 2012 in a money row with his 125 team. He was thinking with his heart, and “I have always been that way,” he said a couple of races ago.

Will this be the time to change?

617961Vinales hath gelled with the Suzuki well and if he stays will require better machinery from Hamamatsu to challenge for the ultimate prize.