Under gloomy skies at a soaked Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli on Sunday, the air was filled with tension as Maverick Viñales made his appearance on the starting grid San Marino GP, but despite the conditions, the Yamaha rider remained calm and collected, securing fourth place in what turned out to be a very slippery race.
All eyes were on him as he started the race from pole position and after a good launch off the line, he entered the first corner with caution, slotting into fourth place. He took a couple of laps to get heat into his tyres, after a small wobble on lap 2 gave him a warning of just how tricky the wet track conditions were.
Danilo Petrucci passed the Yamaha rider at the start of lap 3, but the Spaniard had a plan.
Viñales gradually upped his pace in each sector, trying to determine the limit whilst having to contend with a lack of rear grip in most of the left corners. He set consecutive personal best laps, but he had to keep an eye on his pursuers at the same time.
He got into a fight with Cal Crutchlow and Jack Miller, which lost him some valuable time, but the battle was short-lived.
Crutchlow was soon caught out by the treacherous conditions of the race, allowing the number 25 rider to seize the opportunity. Back in fourth position on lap 7, as Jorge Lorenzo crashed out of the lead, the 22-year-old could pick up where he left off and started to better his rhythm again.
He steadily broke away from Michele Pirro and Miller, opening an over 2-second gap. Viñales had a lonely ride in the final stages of the race, though he didn‘t stop pushing for even a second. He ultimately took the chequered flag in fourth place, 16.559s from first.
“I’m happy with the result, because it is the best we could do. Honestly, today we asked 100% of the bike. I tried to get the best result and today that was fourth. We have to continue to work in the same way, because today was a good improvement compared to the wet race at the Sachsenring, especially the handling of the bike,” he said.
“We still need a lot of grip on the traction, so we have to keep going. I’ll have to push in Aragón and believe we can close the 16-point gap to our rivals. On the dry we were really fast, I’m happy we made another step here in Misano. I hope we can do the same in Aragón.”
The result keeps Viñales in third place in the championship standings, 16 points behind the joint leaders and 26 points ahead of Rossi, who holds on to fourth place in the standings.
The MotoGP paddock now heads to the MotorLand Aragón for round 14 from September 22nd – 24th