Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP’s Maverick Viñales has finally tasted Virtual MotoGP glory after capitalising on late crashes by Pramac Racing’s Francesco Bagnaia and Repsol Honda’s Alex Marquez in Sunday’s Red Bull Virtual Grand Prix of Spain. The Spaniard was beaten by both Marquez and Bagnaia at Mugello and then by Bagnaia in an epic last-lap scrap at the Red Bull Ring, but it was third time lucky in Jerez as he beat both to clinch victory.
The event was in aid of the official charity of MotoGP, Two Wheels for Life, raising funds for their campaign to fight Covid-19.
As the lights went out, breath was bated as the opening corner approached and once again it was nothing short of chaos as six riders went down, including poleman Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and eventual race winner Viñales. In the early stages at the front, Bagnaia and Alex Marquez were looking to escape and making themselves some space, but then Marquez crashed out after contact with the Italian in the final sector and it was game back on.
Red Bull KTM Tech 3’s Iker Lecuona found himself in second after he managed to stay clear of the carnage in front of him, but his chances of finishing on the podium evaporated on Lap 3 when he crashed at the penultimate corner. In an incident that also saw Quartararo caught up, suddenly Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) was then promoted to second and had a debut Virtual rostrum finish in his sights… but it was far from over.
The reigning World Champion was put under all sorts of pressure by both Viñales and Alex Marquez after the pair had rediscovered their form following earlier crashes, and both swooped through on the number 93 after a mistake at Turn 2. The trio were split by nothing on Lap 5, but the gaps would quickly grow as Alex Marquez edged clear of Viñales for second and the number 12 did the same to Marc Marquez.
Behind, Quartararo and Lecuona came together again as the Frenchman couldn’t seem to stop crashing; the same issue that cost him in the opening two Virtual MotoGP races, but there were a few mistakes up and down the board still to come. At half race distance, Viñales ran wide, allowing Marc Marquez back through for third, but the number 93 didn’t hold the final podium place for long, crashing out just moments later.
With just three laps remaining, Alex Marquez then crashed out of second at Turn 2, only for the leader Bagnaia to then suddenly crash as well, the Italian at the penultimate corner, allowing Viñales to go from third to first in the space of a lap. The Spaniard coped with the pressure in the closing stages and remained cool, calm and collected to take the chequered flag for his first ever virtual victory, particularly sweet after just missing out on his previous two attempts. Alex Marquez ultimately finished second, with Bagnaia dropping down to third but all three once again showing their impressive virtual skills.
Marc Marquez ended up fourth, despite slowing up on the final two laps to have a fight and some fun with Ducati Team’s Danilo Petrucci, coming out on top as the Italian eventually crashed out during that self-made scrap. Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins, a big victim of the Turn 1 drama, pounced on Petrucci’s error to take the final top five spot ahead of the Italian in sixth.
Red Bull KTM Tech 3’s Miguel Oliveira came across the line in seventh, ahead of Quartararo, although the Frenchman can take some solace from setting the fastest lap. Lecuona took ninth, ahead of Aprilia’s test rider Lorenzo Savadori in tenth on his virtual debut for Aprila Racing Team Gresini. Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Racing) took eleventh, and he was also deemed the likely culprit for the Turn 1 chaos – but had no regrets about trying.
“The race has been quite exciting, because I battled a lot. I crashed two times, so I didn‘t expect to win that race, but I kept a good rhythm and I did many fast laps in a row. For me it was really good that I was able to keep my concentration until I crossed the finish line. But anyway I would have been happy, because this race is for a charity event, Two Wheels for Life, and I hope this helped them raise a good amount of money to help people in Africa battle Covid-19. I want to thank Yamaha and all the staff because the bike was fantastic. On a serious note, a sincere thanks to all the fans who are watching us race virtually. It‘s helping us and motivating us to do things that make these challenging times easier, so we can all do better and be happier.”
Alex Marquez – P2
“Another difficult race! The crash really wasn’t good and I’m confident that without it I could have won, it’s a shame but the second place moves us to the top of the points. It was really fun though, I really enjoy putting on a show for the fans and it’s also nice to have some jokes with the other riders. Next time we aim to go one better!”
Marc Marquez – P4
“A pretty similar race to the Red Bull Ring, avoiding crashes and trying to take the podium. Congratulations to Alex for another podium, he has impressed a lot in these opening races. I feel myself getting better but still there’s those three or four guys who maybe have another step over me. A bit more time on the PlayStation should help me to make another step. I hope everyone who watched enjoyed, stay safe everyone!”
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