Neither Jorge Lorenzo nor Silverstone will feature during the real 2020 MotoGP season, after the British circuit was dropped from the shortened line-up and wild-cards were scrapped to save costs.

So Lorenzo had to be content with a wild victory on his Virtual debut, in the sixth and final Playstation race organised by Dorna during the coronavirus disruption.

Seated at a full car simulator rig, although only the normal Playstation controls were used for the Virtual MotoGP race, Lorenzo made his intentions immediately clear by sweeping to a debut pole position ahead of Fabio Quartararo and Takaaki Nakagami.

Showing his usual levels of preparation and focus, Lorenzo had put in plenty of practice before the event, including consultation on technique and set-up with Monster Yamaha's e-sport racer Lorenzo Daretti.

"When I do something, I do it completely, 100% and if I play any type of game with my friends I always try to win," Lorenzo said. "And when I am completely focused I don't play around, my face is focussed and I don't speak! I cannot do like the other riders that can play and chat at the same time. I can't do that!"

The #99 added: "Lorenzo Daretti is a professional [esport] racer and he knows all the tricks. I practiced twice with him and he taught me some tricks, especially in the entry of the corners and the way in some corners you have to shift down one more gear to stop a little more the bike. This was helpful for me in the Silverstone track in some corners and I took some advantage from that."

But such tips counted for nothing when Nakagami, not for the first time in the series, made an amusingly optimistic lunge in the opening corners of the race, knocking Lorenzo to the ground.

"Nakagami is the Lorenzo at Catalunya 2019 of the Virtual races!" Lorenzo joked, referring to the multi-rider accident he triggered last season in Barcelona.

"In the third corner Nakagami entered like a bull! He took me off the track and I crashed. It was a difficult moment because I had to say ok, the race is long, be patient because there will be more crashes from the others.

"But the problem was the rider in front of me was Quartararo and he was going away from me, because he was faster. So it was difficult to keep patience, recover positions without letting Quartararo get too far away."

Nursing only virtual bruises, and helped by mistakes from the other seven competitors – including Quartararo - Lorenzo reached second place behind surprise leader Tito Rabat by the midway stage of the ten laps.

"I was consistent and quite fast, but I overheated the rear tyre a little so it wasn't easy to catch Tito."

Realising he was in trouble, Rabat - who had been nowhere near as competitive in his previous Virtual outings - attempted to break Lorenzo's legendary focus… without success.

"Tito tried to un-focus me a little bit, trying to ask me some questions, but I had this focus to win the race in my mind and he couldn't do anything," Lorenzo smiled.

"I was telling him 'I will not make any mistakes, don't try to unblock me mentally!' It worked because one of my better skills is this concentration and also it works on the Playstation.

"I was the fastest guy after Fabio so I recovered until I caught Tito, who was saying, 'why did you have to be here today? The first time I was going to win and you appear!'

"So, sorry Tito, but I couldn’t say no."

Lorenzo duly took the lead soon after and went on to win by 1.5s from the Avintia Ducati rider, while Quartararo - one of the riders Lorenzo now assists in his role as Yamaha test rider - completed the podium.

"Like some Roman Emperors said, Veni, vidi, vici! I arrived, I took the pole position and I won!

"It was fun and I'm happy. I was lucky Fabio crashed many times. It would have been very difficult to beat him. But to win the race you have to finish and we did it even if I crashed in the first lap.

"I'm feeling good because you gave me the opportunity to participate as a wild-card let's say, the wild-card I couldn't do in Barcelona, so something is something and I could race on the Playstation.

"Honestly I've always been a Playstation player since I was a child, the MotoGP but also the Formula One games, Soccer games. Then when I got this opportunity I practiced two or three nights with my friends online in Silverstone and I was quite prepared to fight with the fastest guys.

"Also, Just before the Silverstone race, the [game developers] made an update to the game. For sure this changed a little bit the riding and surprised some riders like Pecco who was a little bit mad because he said he wasn't competitive! Lucky for me I was practicing just when the game was out, so I knew the last update.

"I knew Fabio was the fastest in the races before, but made a lot of mistakes. This was the difference. I think it would be harder if Alex Marquez and Maverick Vinales [former virtual winners] were here, but I would have been up there, especially without the crash with Nakagami."

Upon announcing his retirement at Valencia last November, Lorenzo admitted he couldn't have imagined racing other riders for a Virtual MotoGP victory in May.

"All of this coronavirus is unexpected. We have to adapt and finally we've arrived in the era of these online games that are getting more professional and more people can make a living from it," he said.

"It's kind of strange. I don’t know if in 10-20 years they will replace us as the 'real' riders! But I don't think this will happen. I think we will combine the Virtual races with the real ones.

"It’s a completely different world because on the bike, you are feeling the bike, changing your body position. But in terms of concentration and not making mistakes, it's quite similar.

"Obviously on the Playstation you have the freedom that if you crash it doesn’t hurt! It can be helpful! But in terms of concentration, pace and focus I think it's good training."

 

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