Repsol Honda Team’s Alex Marquez managed to avoid the chaos around him to clinch an impressive victory in his debut race as a MotoGP™ rider during Sunday’s historic Virtual MotoGP™ Race. The first-ever #StayAtHomeGP was filled with thrills and spills as ten MotoGP™ riders put on a show in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Petronas Yamaha SRT’s Fabio Quartararo started the race from familiar territory after the Frenchman stormed to pole position, a quarter of a second clear of Pramac Racing’s Francesco Bagnaia and over half a second clear of Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP’s Maverick Viñales.
It was drama from the off as the lights went out on the first Virtual Race, with polesitter Quartararo alongside Viñales, Marquez and Bagnaia on the run into San Donato (Turn 1). It was Quartararo who emerged ahead but he was clearly too late on the brakes when the front-end of his Yamaha M1 washed out from beneath him, incredibly taking out 2021 teammate Viñales in the process.
Marquez and Bagnaia avoided the incident and were able to break clear, with World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) settling in third place after attempted lunge up the inside by Team Ecstar Suzuki’s Joan Mir. Further back, Quartararo was fighting back through the field and up to fifth after getting the better of Alex Rins (Team Ecstar Suzuki) and Iker Lecuona (Red Bull KTM Tech 3), with the rookie highsiding in spectacular style whilst trying to get back ahead of the Frenchman.
As the leading two crossed the start-finish line at the end of the opening lap there was absolutely nothing between them having already swapped places, and paint, on numerous occasions. Bagnaia would once again dive past Marquez into Turn 1, but Marquez responded immediately after the Italian ran wide.
Meanwhile, chaos would ensue behind the leading two. Mir was the first to crash out after getting an almighty shunt from his teammate Rins of all people. Quartararo wasn’t too far behind, tucking the front at Turn 1 for the second lap in a row. However, the Frenchman respawned on track, Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) rode straight into him and the pair crashed out, dropping the poleman even further down the order.
Onto lap three and Alex Marquez was starting to edge further and further clear of Bagnaia at the front. The gap was starting to stretch to over half a second, but the Ducati rider wasn’t throwing in the towel just yet. Behind, Viñales was recovering well from his earlier incident and had Marc Marquez in his sights after taking advantage of a Rins mistake to take fourth.
Viñales then crashed out after braking too late into Correntaio and running into the gravel trap. The factory Yamaha rider visibly annoyed at himself as he slapped his controller in fury. Seconds later though, Marc Marquez would have a crash of his own, which allowed Viñales to get ahead of the Repsol Honda and into the final podium place.
As the pack filtered through to start the penultimate lap, the podium places looked secure but there a battle heating up between Marc Marquez and Quartararo for fourth place. The first Marquez vs Quartararo fight of 2020 would unfold with the Frenchman coming out on top thanks to a move at the Casanova-Savelli complex, despite Marquez throwing everything he had into Arrabbiata 1 as he tried to stop the Yamaha man breaking clear.
On the final of the race, Alex Marquez kept his nerve to take victory by over seven seconds and was joined on the podium by Bagnaia and Viñales. Quartararo ended up fourth, despite setting the fastest lap of the race with his final lap before Marc Marquez completed the top five. Rins came out on top in the battle of the Suzuki teammates after he took sixth ahead of Mir in seventh. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3), Lecuona and Espargaro completed the top ten.
An incredible and historic #StayAtHomeGP had pretty much everything. Crashes, clashes and a rookie taking the victory. The good news is we don’t have to wait long for the next Virtual MotoGP™ installment with a handful of other premier class stars getting their chance to shine in the coming weeks.