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The 2020 MotoGP™ eSport Championship roared back into life on Friday with the dramatic first round of the Global Series providing a host of stand-out performances, plenty of surprises and drama that lasted from the first lap to the last.
In June eleven gamers from around the world had been chosen to represent one of the eleven current MotoGP™ teams for the four-round Global Series, an eight-race event that will determine the wearer of the 2020 MotoGP™ eSport crown.
The spectacle certainly didn’t disappoint. Originally intended to take place at this year’s Italian Grand Prix at Mugello, the current COVID-19 pandemic restricted the eleven finalists to their homes, where they competed against one another while communicating via a communal video call..
MotoGP™´s Jack Appleyard and Jack Gorst combined their presentation duties with exciting commentary while a host of MotoGP™ riders made an appearance – namely Repsol Honda’s Alex Marquez, the winner of the second MotoGP™ Virtual Grand Prix – to offer the finalists advice.
Any advice was welcome, as the gamers had to navigate a way around two of MotoGP™’s most technical and demanding circuits: Mugello and Jerez. The first encounter at the fabulous Tuscan venue was to be held over eight laps, the second over nine.
What followed was a masterclass from one of MotoGP™ eSport’s stars: Williams_Adrian. The Spaniard was a finalist in last year’s series, but has clearly made a huge step in performance this year. He dominated the opening round, claiming pole position in the two qualifying heats races before winning both races.
The manner in which the Red Bull KTM rider won was so impressive, taking the initiative at the first corner and leading every lap in both encounters. Not even Trastever73 or AndrewZH, the winners of the past three MotoGP™ eSport Championships, had an answer for Williams_Adrian’s blinding speed.
As Williams_Adrian led from the start in race one at Mugello, there was a ferocious battle for second behind as Monster Energy Yamaha’s Trastevere73, Ducati Team’s AndrewZH, Ecstar Suzuki’s Williams_Cristian and Petronas SRT Yamaha’s Sanshoqueen all scrapped for position in a pulsating set of exchanges.
Gradually Trastevere73 and reigning MotoGP™ eSport Champion AndrewZH began to show their class, as they closed the gap to the leader. AndrewZH posted the fastest lap the penultimate time around, and Trastevere73 got to within 0.2s of the leader with just three corners remaining. But Williams_Adrian expertly held his nerve to claim his first Global Series triumph by 0.7s, with Trastevere73 second and AndrewZH third as just one second covered the podium places.
Williams_Cristian, brother of the race winner, resisted the efforts of impressive Global Series rookie Sanshoqueen for a fine fourth, with the Indonesian a place behind and just a few tenths of a second back in fifth.
There was drama from the first moment in race two at Jerez, with championship favourite Williams_Cristian crashing at turn one after tangling with LCR Castrol Honda’s moe. By that point Williams_Adrian was building on an early lead. He never looked back, posting a succession of fastest laps that saw him build up a commanding lead. He took the chequered flag 2.1 seconds ahead of Trastevere73, who rode a near faultless race for a second runner-up place of the day.
It wasn’t all smooth running for trastevere73, however, as he was placed under increasing pressure by Sanshoqueen. In an astonishing performance in his first appearance in the Global Series, the Indonesian got within 0.3s of the two-time MotoGP™ eSport Champion on the final lap. Not to worry, as he claimed a brilliant first podium, signaling the start of what may be a surprising title challenge.
Behind there were excellent riders from Red Bull KTM Tech 3’s Juan_nh16, who finished fourth, and Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’s EleGhosT555, in in fifth. Sanshoqueen wasn’t the only rookie who impressed; Repsol Honda Team’s FooXz was an excellent sixth in the Brazilian’s debut in the Global Series.
As Williams_Adrian cruised to victory, it would prove to be a deeply unhappy second outing for AndrewZH. The reigning MotoGP™ eSport Champion failed to find his rhythm from the first lap, and was promptly demoted from third to sixth in less than two laps. To compound a difficult day, he ran out of fuel on the exit of the final corner, dropping him a place to seventh. He already finds himself 25 points behind in the championship race.