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At 41 years of age, Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) produced the goods again to finish P5 at the 2020 myWorld Austrian Grand Prix as the leading Yamaha rider. But the major talking point from the first Red Bull Ring doubleheader will be the monumental crash that brought out the red flags, which the nine-time World Champion and teammate Maverick Viñales managed to narrowly avoid.
On Lap 9, a few metres behind the Italian and teammate Maverick Viñales, Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) and Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) collided and crashed heading into the braking zone of Turn 3, when both were travelling at roughly 300km/h.
Just up the road, Viñales and Rossi were hard on the brakes and tipping into Turn 3, eyeing up a good exit down the next long straight ready for the tricky Turn 4. However, what they didn’t know was that a stricken Yamaha and Ducati were flying towards them – and others – at a terrifying rate of knots. The air-fence on the outside of Turn 2 – the right kink – managed to take a lot of energy out of Zarco’s GP19, which was still upright. Morbidelli’s YZR-M1 wasn’t heading towards the air-fence though. The Petronas SRT machine was skidding along the grass and arrowing straight for the Turn 3 apex at unreal pace – exactly where Viñales and Rossi were.
Somehow, thankfully, Morbidelli’s bike shot straight through the gap that separated the two Monster Energy Yamahas. The Petronas-liveried machine was literally inches away from collecting Rossi. Meanwhile, Viñales was incredibly lucky to not get hit by Zarco’s bike that had been flung in the air thanks to the air-fence doing its job of zapping a shed load of energy out of the crash. It was a terrifying incident. Remarkably, no rider was seriously injured.
So what did Rossi have to say on the incident after the race? His reaction coming back into pitlane after the red flags were waved was clear to see. He couldn’t believe what had just happened. No one could. But the number 46 regrouped, returned to race mode and was back out for the restart and finished P5 as the leading Yamaha, just behind Czech GP winner Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing). It’s testament to every MotoGP™ rider’s ability to go back out and ride the wheels off their fire breathing thoroughbreds after an incident like that. They’re all superheroes.
“Yes it was… very, very scary,” reflected Rossi. “All four riders, but especially me and Maverick, we were very lucky. We have to pray to somebody tonight. Because the situation was very dangerous. I think that it’s good to be aggressive for sure, everyone is trying their maximum, but for me we don’t have to exaggerate. Because we need to remember this sport is very dangerous. You need to have respect for your rivals, especially at a track where you go 300km/h.
“I have spoken with Zarco already, he promised me he didn’t do it on purpose because he went very wide when braking and he shut the door in the face of Franco. With these bikes, at 300km/h you have the slipstream, so Franco didn’t have any chance to brake. After I was with Maverick, entering Turn 3, I felt something arrive. I thought that it was the shadow of the helicopter because sometimes it comes across the track but after Franco’s bike arrived at an incredible speed. Also Zarco’s bike jumped over Viñales. So we were very lucky. But I hope these types of things is important to improve the behaviour of the riders in the future.”
Rossi continues, saying that’s he’s spoken to his close friend Morbidelli after the incident. “I spoke with Franco. He is ok, he tried to not think (about it) but when he does, it scares him. But on this occasion, what made the difference was – nobody was hurt. All four riders are ok, this changes the situation. If something bad happened, it’s completely different.”
The Doctor then goes on to talk about his race after the restart. Unsurprisingly, Rossi admits that he found it difficult to restart the race after what had happened. But once in the groove, he thought he could have gone even better than P5.
“It was difficult to restart, sincerely, but I didn’t have a lot of choice. So I restarted and in the race I was good, I did a good race. For us, with the Yamaha, here is not easy because we suffer with top speed so it's very difficult to fight with the other bikes, but I had a good pace.
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“Unfortunately I had a very, very aggressive overtake from Binder at Turn 9 that pushed me out of the track. We lost a lot of time and lost the first group. But anyway from that moment I still had quite good rhythm, and I could arrive in P5. I think we could have done better but anyway it was a good race.”
Rossi and Yamaha will be back on track at the Styrian GP on Friday, ready to try and work towards mounting a podium attack on Sunday.
2 years ago