Gabriel Rodrigo wins the inaugural Virtual Moto3 race
Gabriel Rodrigo wins the inaugural Virtual Moto3 race|MotoGP.com
Motorsport

Top-class racing galore at the Red Bull Virtual Grand Prix of Spain

Sudipto Chaudhury

Had it not been for the Coronavirus pandemic, we would have been moving into the fifth round of racing by now. In fact, this week would have marked round 5 at Jerez, by when the fight for the MotoGP title would have been on at full force. That said, the action in the virtual sphere was no less, with racing across the top three categories – Moto3, Moto2 and Moto GP – going underway at the Circuito de Jerez - Angel Nieto.

This time around, however, there was a humanitarian aspect as well. Just as proceeds of last week’s Formula E race went to UNICEF, the proceeds of these races were given to www.twowheelsforlife.org , the official charity connected to motorcycle racing, which aims to help hard to reach communities for them to receive COVID-19 test results, education, equipment and most importantly prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Qualifying

As has been the case so far for the virtual MotoGP races, the qualifying consisted of a 5-minute session of the riders zipping across the track, trying to set the best time, and consequently, the best place on the starting grid for the eight-lap race.

Qualifying – Moto3

Despite this format being the proverbial stepping stone to premier-class racing, such was the level of competition between the Moto3 riders that they all qualified within 3.5 seconds of the leader, Gabriel Rodrigo of Kommerling Gresini Moto3 (Honda). Joining him in the first row were Dennis Foggia of Leopard Racing (Honda) and Albert Arenas, from Aspar Team Gaviota (Honda), who has already taken a victory in real terms at Qatar. Red Bull KTM’s Raul Fernandez, meanwhile, qualified sixth, due to successive crashes.

The results of qualifying for the Moto3 class are as under:

Moto3 qualifying times
Moto3 qualifying times

Race - Moto3

The race started with Gabriel Rodrigo being overtaken by almost everyone on the grid. Rivacold Sniper (Honda) team’s Tony Arbolino immediately pulled ahead, followed by Red Bull Tech 3 KTM’s Deniz Oncu and Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Raul Fernandez, before Arbolino lost his front, pushing Fernandez into the lead. However, Fernandez’ lead was short-lived, as Leopard Racing Honda’s Dennis Foggia swiftly pulled ahead. By the end of Lap 1, however, Foggia ran wide on Corner 13, taking out BOE Skull Rider Facile Energy KTM’s Riccardo Rossi.

Dennis Foggia crash
Dennis Foggia crash MotoGP.com

Lap two saw Fernandez regaining the top spot, with Gabriel Rodrigo climbing past the competition into second place. Meanwhile, Dennis Foggia disconnection (due to internet problems) reduced the grid to nine racers, with Ricardo Rossi now dead last.

Going into Lap three and Raul Fernandez was still the man on top, with Rodrigo about a second behind him and Albert Arenas in third place. As the lap progressed, Rodrigo was able to close in the gap, and almost clipped Fernandez’ rear wheel on Corner 1 of Lap four. Back marker Rossi, meanwhile, went down again, now running 9 seconds behind eighth-placed Tony Arbolino. Up front, Fernandez was holding on to his lead and fending off Rodrigo’s repeated advances.

Five laps in, and there were no changes in the placings, as Fernandez, Rodrigo and Arenas were in a tight group, divorced from the rest of the crowd. The lap ended with Rossi crashing yet again, while the battle for seventh place saw Arbolino succeeding at a daring inside-line pass over Estrella Galicia Honda’s Sergio Garcia.

Rodrigo trying his best against Fernandez
Rodrigo trying his best against Fernandez MotoGP.com

Lap six saw a shocking change of order, as Rodrigo took the inside line on Fernandez on Corner 1, leading to some contact, with Fernando then going down. However, this only cost Fernando the loss of one position, as he was soon hounding Albert Arenas from just 0.344 seconds behind.

The penultimate lap saw the battle between Niccolo Antonelli and Alonso Lopez in the middle of the pack, heating up, with Lopez trying every trick in the book to best Antonelli. However, a small miscalculation on Lopez’ part saw him going down after some contact with Antonelli.

The final lap of the race was easy goings for Rodrigo, with a lead of over 4 seconds on Arenas, and a further seconds over Fernandez. The Argentinian finally took the victory, his first Moto3 win, both virtual and outright, with Arenas coming in second and Fernandez coming in third.

The final results of the Moto3 class are as under:

Moto3 final results
Moto3 final results

Qualifying - Moto2

Flexbox HP40’s Lorenzo Baldassarri took the pole position, his first one of 2020, followed by Luca Marini from SKY Racing Team VR46, while Dutchman Bo Bendsneyder from NTS RW Racing GP was the third man in the first row.

The results of qualifying for the Moto2 class are as under:

Moto2 qualifying times
Moto2 qualifying times

Race – Moto2

Right off the bat, Luca Marini got a clean start, relegating Baldassarri to the second place. Next, Corner 2 claimed quite a few racers, including Liqui Moly Intact GP’s Marcel Schrotter and Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Jorge Martin. In all the confusion, Petronas Sprinta Racing’s Jake Dixon was able to come up to third place. By the end of the lap, however, Baldassarri was able to regain his lead, as a particularly aggressive manoeuvre from Marini caused him to go off the bike. In the very next corner, Dixon was able to go in from under Baldassarri to take the lead, the first time he’s led a race in his career.

Luca Marini crashes
Luca Marini crashes MotoGP.com

By Lap 2, Baldassarri was closing in on Dixon, and made his move on the back straight. Meanwhile, Aspar Team’s Aron Canet was under pressure from Marini, who was adamant to regain his position. And though Canet did make a few mistakes allowing Marini to briefly pass him, some contact between the two racers saw them falter, and NTS RW Racing GP’s Bo Bendsneyder to sneak past them both. Soon enough, though, Canet tried to take the outside line ahead, and went down after contact with Bendsneyder.

With half the race done, Baldassarri now had about a second’s gap from Dixon, who was now pulling ahead from Bendsneyder. Meanwhile Marini was in fourth place and Canet in sixth. As the lap progressed, the front runners got spread further apart, with Baldassarri about 2 seconds ahead of Dixon, and Bendsneyder a further two-and-a-half seconds behind. At the back, Jorge Martin was able to slip in the inside of Marcel Schrotter and briefly take the seventh place, before the German fought back. However, ahead of Schrotter was Aron Canet who was still putting in his best to catch up with the front-runners.

Lap 5 and 5 saw Dixon staying a full 2 seconds adrift of Baldassarri, who seemed to be racing his heart out and getting further away. Baldassarri had taken the third win last year also at Jerez, and seemed to want to replicate the feat. Down the gird, and there was quite a bit of back-and-forth between Aron Canet and Jorge Navarro, before Navarro was just able to slink ahead and onto fifth place, and Canet finally surpassing him on the back straight.

Aron Canet crashes
Aron Canet crashes MotoGP.com

As the final lap crept up, Baldassarri was yet to make a mistake, hammering out the corners in a frantic pace, and pushing Dixon almost 3 seconds away. The race concluded with Baldassarri taking the win, followed by Jake Dixon and Bo Bendsneyder rounding off the podium. This was the debut podium for both Dixon and Bendsneyder.

The final results of the Moto2 class are as under:

Moto2 final results
Moto2 final results

Qualifying – Moto GP

Fabio Quartararo set the fastest time in qualifying, the second time he’s taken a virtual pole position. He was followed by Alex Marquez and Francesco Bagnaia, all three finishing within half-a-second of each other. Also, this time around the roster had 11 racers, with Iker Lecuona making his comeback and former European Superstock Champion and 125, WorldSBK and FIM Enel MotoE World Cup rider Lorenzo Savadori making his virtual racing debut.

The results of qualifying are as under:

Moto GP qualifying times
Moto GP qualifying times

Race – MotoGP

As opposed to the Moto3 and Moto2 races, the MotoGP race was of 13 laps. Alex Marquez got the best start, pulling away from Quartararo and staying away from the crashes in Corner 1 which claimed Danilo Petrucci, Maverick Vinales and Alex Rins, with the next corner taking down Marc Marquez and Lorenzo Savadori. The ensuing confusion gave Francesco Bagnaia the lead, with the younger Marquez trailing him by 0.6 seconds.

Crashes at Lap 1 Corner 1
Crashes at Lap 1 Corner 1 MotoGP.com

By the end of the lap, there was contact between Alex Marquez and Bagnaia, which led to Marquez losing his front and crashing, pushing Lecuona to the second spot and handing the third spot to the elder Marquez. Further down the grid, Danilo Petrucci got a really slow run up to the straight, allowing Maverick Vinales to shoot past and into fifth place.

Lap two saw last round’s victor Baganaia further solidifying his lead, with Lecuona doing his best to keep up. Quartararo, too, was pushing himself, trying to stay with the top two. However, a late braking into the last corner saw Lecuona slipping out into the sand and being relegated to the eighth place, while the elder Marquez and Mavrick Vinales took up second and third respectively.

However, Lecuona again hit some bad luck, hitting the back wheel of Quartararo and crashing again and falling down to tenth place. The younger Marquez, climbing up to fourth, had Vinales in his crosshairs,but there was still a considerable gap between them, and fifth-placed Petrucci, too, was intent on clawing ahead. Just behind him, Quartarao and Oliviera both ran wide and crashed out, pushing Lorenzo Savadori ahead. Meanwhile, Marc Marquez, fell from second to fourth, pushed down by the Alex Marquez and Vinales.

Crash between Fabio Quarataro and Miguel Oliviera
Crash between Fabio Quarataro and Miguel Oliviera MotoGP.com

Meanwhile, Bagnaia was six seconds ahead of Alex Marquez, who was fending off Vinales, a scant half-a-second behind. Quartarao’s string of bad luck continued, with yet another crash pushing him down to tenth place. With half the race distance down, many of the racers were facing overheating on their rear tyres, with Lorenzo Savadori going down for precisely this reason, followed soon by Quartararo.

Lorenzo Savadori crashes
Lorenzo Savadori crashes MotoGP.com

Up ahead, Bagnaia was calm and completely in control, now close to 4 seconds ahead of Alex Marquez. Vinales, however, was scrabbling to stay in third place, fending off attacks from the elder Marquez, who was able to momentarily cinch third place. At the back of the pack, Savadori was doing his best, albeit unsuccessfully, to get past Lecuona. Regardless to say, the lack of experience with the console and the game, was apparent.

Coming into Lap 9, Alex Marquez had closed in somewhat to Bagnaia, cutting down the advantage to half, and trying to make further inroads. At over 2.5 seconds behind Bagnaia, he would need to ride a couple of faultless laps, while at the same time hope for Baganaia to make a few mistakes. However, a happy consequence of his focus was that he had now doubled the gap with Vinales, who was now almost 4.5 seconds behind.

With Lap 11 underway, Alex Marquez crashed, handing the second spot to Vinales. With a handful of laps remaining, it looked like another victory for the Bagnaia, who was nearly 7 seconds ahead of Vinales and a further three from the Alex Marquez, before a freak accident, dropped him down to third place. Vinales, meanwhile, had broken clear of Alex Marquez, moving ahead almost 3 seconds, and holding his lead till the end of the lap.

The penultimate lap, saw the battle for fourth place heating up between Marc Marquez and Danilo Petrucci, only for Marquex to pull ahead as Petrucci’s wi-fi began acting up as he tried to break out of the Repsol Honda rider’s slipstream on the back straight. This was followed by some more cheeky attempts by the Ducati rider, before a particularly daring manoeuvre caused them both to tumble, though only pushing Petrucci down one spot in the standings.

Down to the final lap, and Vinales was going at a lightning pace, sometimes stepping a bit out of line, line going over the apex on the sweeping Corner 4 left-hander. At the end, it was Maverick Vinales taking the win, his first virtual MotoGP victory, after a third-place finish at the inaugural virtual GP in Mugello and a second-place finish at the Red Bull ring. Coming in second was Mugello winner Alex Marquez, with Francesco Bagnaia, winner of the previous round at the Red Bull Ring, rounding off the podium.

The final results are as follows:

MotoGP final results
MotoGP final results
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