MotoGP riders like Maverick Vinales 'race' from comfort of home
MotoGP, the premier world motorcycle racing event, has been put on pause since March 8, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Its organiser said recently that racing could resume by end-July.
But the downtime has not stopped MotoGP World Champions such as Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi, as well as Maverick Vinales, Alex Marquez and Francesco Bagnaia of Pramac Racing, from going elbow-to- elbow.
They are still racing competitively with one another - albeit virtually and in the safety and comfort of their homes in what is known as the MotoGP Virtual Race.
Yesterday, Vinales participated in his third virtual race, the Spanish MotoGP Virtual Race, which will air on Fox Sports 2 at 5.15pm today.
When asked how difficult it is to operate a PS4 controller, the 25-year-old Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP rider said over Skype: "For me, it seems harder on the PS4 than in a real-life (circuit) racing. But (virtual racing) is really good to maintain your concentration and train yourself mentally."
The motivation behind this stay-home GP is to entertain fans who are similarly under self-isolation.
"If we can do something to make people enjoy at least for one hour, it will be nice (for fans)," said Vinales, who was Moto 3 World Champion in 2013 and third-place finisher in last season's MotoGP championship.
While the Marquez brothers were jokingly hurling threats at each other during the second virtual race that took place last month in Austria, the Andorra-based Vinales sported a serious race face.
The Spanish rider admitted that the same steely look of determination is what he wears under the helmet during real racing.
But having raced for many seasons, surely racing virtually on familiar circuits is easy?
"You have to work the controller well," Vinales said. "The only thing that is very similar are the (cornerning) lines."
Unlike the full support Vinales gets in the MotoGP paddock from mechanics, engineers and technicians working on his Yamaha YZR M1 race bike, it seems he is on his own in the MotoGP Virtual Race.
Get your own PS4 controller on Shopee and win a virtual race from your sofa
He has to "set" his virtual racebike, but gets expert advice from two-time MotoGP eSport World Champion Lorenzo Daretti, who is the first Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP virtual rider.
Vinales said: "With his advice, I know the bike is working well."
Being forced to put the brakes on and stay home during the coronavirus outbreak has given him time to reflect on life and its fleeting ways.
He connects with friends and his parents, who live 200km away. He also keeps in touch with teammate Rossi, as well as his own team through video calls.
Vinales said: "The little time (you) go out of your home or stay in a park are important things. Before (the lockdown), I never appreciated them. Enjoy the little moments and value them."