Listening to Wilco Zeelenberg, Maverick Viñales’ rider coach, on Saturday, you’d have suspected the Catalan was in for a torrid afternoon on race day at Misano as the dark clouds concentrated overhead, with the rain ceasing to relent.

Zeelenberg had spoken of the need for Viñales to find that added confidence in full wet conditions. Judging by previous showings in qualifying at Assen and the Sachsenring in June and early July, where he was eleventh fastest and some way off top, there was work to do.

Yet rather than wilt, Viñales very much rose to the challenge, as he started well, maintaining position behind the leading quartet that was reduced by one when Jorge Lorenzo fell out.

He stood firm in the face of sustained pressure from Jack Miller and Michele Pirro too, to secure a fine fourth. A ride of real character, and, without doubt, Viñales’ finest wet weather showing in MotoGP to date came when the stakes couldn’t have been any higher.

The reason behind his speed and consistency stemmed from improvements with the front end, he said, which allowed him to press ahead through the short, twisty track’s 16 turns. Only a lack of traction on the exit of the left-hand corners held the 22-year old back.

“Honestly, it’s positive for our side of the box,” said Viñales. “Maybe Marc [Marquez] and Dovi [Andrea Dovizioso] were at the front battling but if we remember from the Sachsenring that I was eleventh and three seconds [slower per lap] in the qualifying, we did a good improvement.

“I think we did quite consistent laps, especially in the middle of the race. But anyway, it’s not enough. We have to do another step in the wet. I think we take the correct direction, especially with this new chassis and the electronics, but still there are points to improve. I’m happy, and I did my best, my 100 percent, and the result can show that it was difficult to be in front.”

“The handling of the bike today was really good. I’m happy with the front. The front tyre and the behaviour of the bike with the front was good. I’m happy. I have the same feeling in the dry – we improved the front feeling.

“But on the rear it was very difficult to get the traction, especially on the left. It was sliding a lot the bike. I could not lean. I touch maybe four of five times the left knee down during the race. It was difficult, like going on the ice.

“But anyway, I’m happy we could do this result. It’s not bad. We only lose three points from the leader and we have to continue working like that. There are some races now that for our bike will be good and we have to continue pushing.

“For me it was not about the time. The problem remains the traction. We have to modify the bike, especially the electronics to find more traction. It’s the only problem because with the front part of the bike I felt really good in all the track and during all the laps. It’s just the traction. Without the traction you lose a lot of time, especially in the wet.”

Now 16 points behind Marquez and Dovizioso, who are tied for the championship lead, Viñales acknowledged pegging both men back will be tough. But, as he said, he’s prepared for the long slog ahead.

“It’s going to be the same. It’s not easy, for sure. It’s easy when it’s two riders or only you. That’s easier. But three riders is a lot. You can not make any mistake because the chance that the opponent wins is double, so you have to be ready.

“Anyway, Jorge [Lorenzo] and Dani [Pedrosa] today didn’t feel so good. Jorge was really fast and he did a mistake. For sure, the championship is getting clear and we have to be there, ready to fight.”

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