Motorcycle Racing

Vinales “closes the circle” with first Aprilia win in Portugal MotoGP sprint

Maverick Vinales, Aprilia Racing Team

Having inherited the lead on lap 12 after Francesco Bagnaia ran wide at Turn 1, Vinales resisted pressure from first Marc Marquez and then Jorge Martin to win the half-distance race at Portimao by just over a second.

It marked his first-ever premier class victory of any kind on the Aprilia RS-GP and ended a victory drought stretching back to the opening round of the 2021 season in Qatar.

Although Vinales had scored a number of podiums since being given a second life at Aprilia after his acrimonious split with Yamaha in the middle of the 2021 season, the Spaniard was yet to truly replicate the breathtaking speed that made him a nine-time grand prix winner.

Having finally banished his demons and beaten the Ducatis of Marquez and Martin in Portugal, and crucially at the start of his final contract year with Aprilia, Vinales described the result in Portugal on Saturday as a “big relief.”

“I’m really happy because I closed this circle,” he said. “Finally. So it’s a big, big relief.

“I’m really happy to show the confidence and the big potential that we have. Nothing else.

“Just really warm to go to the box, try to improve a few things and be ready for tomorrow because it’s going to be a long race and I think very crucial with the rear tyres. So we need to understand what we really need for the race.”

Reigning champion Bagnaia shot to the front at the end of lap two after overtaking early leader Jack Miller (KTM), and went on to build an advantage of over a second on the factory Ducati.

But a mistake under braking for Turn 1 severely destabilised him and left him out of the podium positions, handing the top spot to Vinales.

While admitting that Bagnaia was simply too quick for him in the early part of the race, the Spaniard hailed the pace he was able to showcase on worn tyres in order to keep the Ducatis at bay.

Maverick Vinales, Aprilia Racing Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

“The only thing I can say is that Pecco in the beginning was so fast, very fast,” he said. “He took one second away in just two laps. And then I was catching little by little but he was riding well.

“So when I see the mistake, I said, ‘okay, if I keep riding like this of course it’s gonna be tough for the guys on the rear to overtake me’. At the end, wow, it’s amazing to do the first victory for Aprilia. It’s crazy.”

Vinales’ victory on Saturday won’t count towards his overall tally, which means he…

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