When you're really sick, doing almost anything sucks. Yet that's exactly what Maverick Viñales did for the weekend of the 2024 MotoGP round at Portimão in Portugal, when he was apparently suffering from a bad bout of gastroenteritis according to the MotoGP broadcast commentary team. 

If you were a viewer, you seriously couldn't get through either of the Free Practice sessions, Qualifying, the Saturday Sprint race, or the MotoGP main event race without repeatedly hearing about the poor guy's tummy trouble. No sarcasm intended in that statement, either; getting a nasty stomach bug sucks, and having the kind of pressure that MotoGP racers must feel probably doesn't make it any better. For Mav's part, he certainly wasn't the one complaining; at least, not in public.

Instead, the guy was just doing what needed to be done. He kept his eyes on the prize, and even slapped a mask on his face to protect those around him from his virus when he talked to the press for interviews.

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Then, when it came time to channel his namesake and push through the Saturday Sprint race, it was then that Maverick Viñales managed to perform a small miracle. Not only did he do well; he won the Sprint Race outright. Fever dream or no, it marked the man's first-ever race win since moving to Aprilia. Even if he wasn't feeling 100 percent himself, it was still plenty of cause to celebrate.

Was this the big turnaround in fortunes that he needed? Only time (and the Sunday race) would tell. Sure enough, as soon as the race started and Jorge Martín was off to an absolutely perfect performance on his Ducati, Viñales had what was inarguably one of the best starts he's had in a long time. 

Immediately, he was running in second, consistently just a hair off of Martín's pace from then on. Anyone watching would have been completely within reason to expect that we'd see Viñales on the podium, almost certainly on the second step. Maybe, just maybe, even on the first step if things went exceptionally in his favor. He was running so well, in fact, that the commentary team (Suzi Perry, Sylvain Guintoli, and Michael Laverty) joked that maybe he should consider always racing while ill. 

Maverick doing Maverick things at the 2024 MotoGP Portugal round.

Maverick doing Maverick things at the 2024 MotoGP Portugal round.

And Then It All Fell Apart On The Last Lap

In an ending you truly couldn't script unless you wanted to get thrown out of any self-respecting writer's room, something clearly locked up on Viñales' bike during the very last lap of the race. He rolled straight off the track, and the bike appeared to very simply fall over onto its side, only a few corners away from delivering the beleaguered Aprilia racer a seemingly well-deserved podium.

In the end, it wasn't Viñales who lined up on the podium; it was instead Enea Bastianini, followed by the blindingly fast rookie Pedro Acosta, who also put in a position-climbing performance for the ages. As viewers, it wasn't immediately clear why Viñales' bike had broken; we only knew that it had happened.

Once the dust had settled, Aprilia issued a press release explaining that the issue was the gearbox. 

Viñales began, "From the sixth lap I could tell that something wasn’t working right with the gearbox. I was losing a lot of time on the straight. I still felt like I could have won, though. It’s a shame about the technical problem."

"In any case, I’m happy because I know that I gave one hundred percent. This weekend we took a huge step forward. We got our speed back and we demonstrated that the RS-GP24 can win. Now we’ll head to Austin, a track that I like and where I’ll arrive more motivated than ever," he concluded. 

Let's hope that he's right, because MotoGP (and indeed, all racing) is always better when it's a full-on race with exciting passes and strategy, and not a parade. 

Gallery: Maverick Viñales - 2024 MotoGP Portugal

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