MotoGP: Tension building between Viñales and Marquez

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Tensions are already starting to build between 2017 MotoGP championship favourite Maverick Viñales and reigning champion Marc Marquez ahead of the start of the season next month, brought to a head after the duo clashed on track during the final day of testing last week at Phillip Island.

Completing the three days of testing first and second respectively (and well clear of the rest of the field), Viñales hit out at his fellow Spaniard after the final day, after they came together on track.

Using the time at the end of the day to complete race runs, Marquez latched onto the back of the Movistar Yamaha rider, resulting in on-track action that looked more like a race than a test as they traded a series of aggressive overtakes.

“I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to make something when there is nothing, but for sure this is not normal. When you’re doing a race simulation and someone catches up with you, you can’t do anything, and finally I had to abort it. The track is 4.4km long and it was very strange that he started where I was!”

And while Marquez was quick to downplay the incident afterwards, Viñales took the move as a challenge – one that could backfire on Marquez if the 2016 race winner utilises it properly as motivation instead of fading under the early pressure.

“I’m not sure if he’s trying to get inside my head, but afterwards I put new tyres into the bike and said ‘ok, now for sure I push at 100%!’ and I needed up with a nice rhythm. It’s nice, because it’s good motivation, this fighting.

“I thought he would make a time attack at the end – but maybe he did! He’s fast for sure, but so are we, and it’s always nice to have someone else fast to help us improve. I hope that’s the way the championship, with me there, though! For sure he’s really fast though, and his braking points are amazing. In that area we have to improve.”

But while Viñales might have been fired up over his unofficial race with Marquez on the final day, the Repsol Honda rider was quick to shrug it off as nothing major afterwards, as he fired back with some subtle mind games of his own.

“It was just one run when I saw him go past as I wen tout. There was a little bit of a gap, but immediately I closed it down and followed him for a few laps. It’s always interesting to see a different bike and to see where it’s strong. The Yamaha looks like last year, with a really good package all round.”

Simon Patterson

By Simon Patterson

MotoGP and road racing reporter, photographer, videographer