Double Trouble: Pecco Bagnaia Wins Back-To-Back Races with Ducati & One on Home Soil at Misano!
Author: Myanna Wedes
The 2021 Gran Premio Octo di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini was won by a brilliant and flawless Ducati rider on home soil, that is Pecco Bagnaia. If you flashback to the seasons where Pecco was onboard a Ducati machine, it was such a mixed bag and right now he is in the form of his life. It was truly exceptional for the factory Ducati team to have him win at home and against Fabio Quartararo, teammate Jack Miller, multi–World Champion Marc Marquez and also rookie rider Enea Bastianini who had a rocketing pace throughout the race that enabled him to finish on the podium for the first time this season and with a 2019 spec Ducati.
No doubt, something has clicked with Bagnaia and being comfortable on board his bike regardless of the tyre issues that quite often hit the Ducati manufacturer. Bagnaia is demonstrating to the world that he is capable of being a title contender and the World Championship is far from over in his eyes. This time round it was Miller who suffered, was frustrated, and feeling let down. Miller started off strong and then faded quickly being forced to defend his position for points. According to Bagnaia, as a rider, he has adapted due to studying Jorge Lorenzo’s data at the team, adjusting his braking style to being a lot harder, stronger, and calculated. The front tyre has become a real asset for Bagnaia and he is utilising this to have speed and the confidence to push. Whereas, during the race, Miller had vibrations with his rear tyre and this let him down completely as he lost pace, the ability to run at the front and also a podium position that would have been quite sweet at the Italian circuit. The Australian rider is an ideal teammate who has voiced that he will support Bagnaia with regard to the title race.
With that said, if Pecco continues this dominance, we know there will be some friction within the box as one excels without issues and the other suffers with issues when it should be two bikes going fast at the front. This weekend was Ducati versus Yamaha and Fabio Quartararo put up an amazing fight to try and upset the rhythm of Bagnaia, although it wasn’t enough to put pressure on the Italian to make a mistake. If Quartararo had of won, there was every chance the title could be finished up by Austin, although this could still be possible as you never know how a rider will shape up on a race weekend and at a circuit they have not raced on for some time. With a handful of races to go, it is “Perfect Pecco versus Fabulous Fabio”.
"It was another perfect weekend! It wasn't an easy race at all: Quartararo was really strong towards the end, but I tried to stay consistent as much as possible. To get another win was important, and to do it here at my home track, in front of so many fans and those who love me, was even more special. Now we won't have much time to celebrate: Tuesday and Wednesday, we'll be back on track for two days of testing, but for now, I want to enjoy this success".
"Unfortunately, after a good start, I started to feel some vibrations in the rear that didn't allow me to maintain the same pace until the end. It's a shame because I felt really comfortable when I was second behind Pecco in the first few laps and could pull in a gap on my rivals. Then, after the first part of the race, I started to suffer because of these vibrations. I ended up wide and tried my best not to lose too many positions. Now we try to move on and concentrate on the two days of testing that we will have here at Misano on Tuesday and Wednesday. Congratulations to Pecco for another extraordinary victory".
We were really happy to see Bastianini finish on the podium because the last few races he has demonstrated a maturity about him, speed and control that is baffling other riders who are on 2021 spec machines. During the first few races, Bastianini had parts breaking on his bike and it was due to a lack of parts as they are much older that he would suffer in the results. By improving the riding style, calculating the set up and finding his comfort levels in amongst the scary side of riding on the limit, the young rookie rider is setting himself up for a bright future. When you compare him to his teammate, Luca Marini, you can see Bastianini is not succumbing to the pressure of being partnered alongside Rossi’s brother as well as a VR46 academy endorsed and sponsored rider. In fact, he is proving why they signed him in the first place to jump up from Moto2 to the premier class and race. Team manager Rubén Xaus has done a brilliant job with mentoring Bastianini in order to keep him calm, on target and performing at a level so many thought was going to be impossible. Watching Bastianini push like he did throughout the race was a credit to his skill level and not buying into the future, rather just racing in the present. We have witnessed the young rider grow as we were trackside when he first started in Moto3. What a story he has written for himself in the sport!
In the 2021 season of MotoGP, consistency can win you a World Championship. Joan Mir is all too familiar with this, although this year, the Suzuki team has had quite the opposite number of results with frustration certainly creeping in amongst team personnel. Frustration is what Quartararo experienced in 2020, though in 2021, he is a totally different rider. The Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP rider utilised a sports psychologist to keep his mind in check, is racing with confidence, precision, pushing limits, defying odds, and standing up to the criticism of the past by remaining consistently in the points, on the podium as well as winning. His efforts are sure to be rewarded with the crown! Regardless of having zero feeling in the corners and a poorer qualifying session over the weekend, he is still able to find ways to go fast throughout the race, keeping the race pace up there and also managing his tyres without making errors as a result of high-pressure situations. This is the masterclass ability required in order to be the best in the world. As we watched the Yamaha rider battle at the front, his teammate Franco Morbidelli had a rough return and looked like he was unconformable on track. There is only so many pain killers you can take to ease the pain, so we will be watching his recovery with interest because it is an uphill battle at the present moment and whether or not he is ever the same as well with his knee is a topic of debate, like has been the case with Marquez’s shoulder.
“It was an unexpected result, but since this morning I thought it was possible because I saw that I could do good lap times easily. We were able to find a good set-up on the bike and I was able to enjoy. In the middle of the race I felt really good and when I overtook Miller, I kept setting my pace. I knew I had Quartararo and Bagnaia in front of me and I wanted to try to attack them, but I was already pretty much at the limit. I’m very happy with this 3rd position and it was great to get this podium in Misano.”
“I was thinking about overtaking Pecco on the last lap, but he did an amazing race. I tried everything. To be honest, today I even forgot mostly about the championship. I had some moments with the front, it was close to being a zero today, but in the end a score of 20 here in Misano is very positive. I can't wait to be back the day after tomorrow for the test. We have some interesting things to do. I have nearly a two-race-wins advantage with four races to go. I think that's quite nice. I'm so happy about that, and you can imagine how happy I am that it stayed dry. I feel so good. Last year, my weak point was that I was thinking too much about the championship, but today it was the opposite: I didn't think about it enough. I was super on the limit and I'm happy. My dad said after the finish that I rode like a champion today, which I really appreciated. Let's see what we can do in Misano 2. I think that will be fun, because this was one of the most fun races I ever did. My pace was so strong, and I came so close. I will give it another try in Misano 2.”
“It was tough, but anyway it was nice to get back to racing. I had a good start, and it was nice to stay in the pack for a few laps. I enjoyed it and it was the right thing to do. This morning I wasn't thinking that it was possible to face this race because I was struggling a little bit with the leg. But with some painkillers and adrenaline, I managed to do the whole race and also be quite consistent. I understood a few things about the bike, so this is positive, and I'm really happy to be back. It will be very important to keep improving the setting of the bike, my feeling on the bike, and try some new items as well, so the Misano test will be really important. It's great, and I'm happy to do it.”
Honda were delighted with the result of Marquez finishing in fourth and he had to battle hard in order to finish in the top five. There was relief in the face of Marquez when he returned to the box, thinking about the race and how he pushed to get ahead of Miller and Mir although was not able to shake Bastianini who was able to brake harder, faster, and better than the Honda rider securing a third-place podium finish. Overall, the weekend for the Honda machines was up and down with Marquez their number one rider, although the bike itself still remains in control over the rider. Time is needed in order to improve the bike and allow Marquez to provide valuable feedback to shape it for the remainder of 2021 and of course the upcoming 2022 season. With a test at Misano taking place, the track time is sure to help many riders who have been struggling with overall performance. Every time Marquez is able to improve, it provides a glimmer of hope that he will be around for many years to come, racing hard, fast, and not afraid to push himself to find the limit.
“I am really happy with our performance today because honestly speaking I was not expecting this result today! At the start I was calm and honestly not riding very fast, but step by step we went faster and our feeling improved. The key point was staying calm in the first laps and pushing at the end, I’m quite proud about the last part of the race because I brought Mir with me. In practice it was a little different, I was following him, but in the race, he was following me and we caught Jack. In the last lap I didn’t feel like I could fight, but Mir and Miller went wide and I saw my opportunity! It was nice and now we get ready for a really important two-day test here.”
“At the end of the day I am surprised with the rhythm we had in the race because during the weekend I was struggling to get under the 33.0 time, but we did the race under this every lap. We were also able to finish just three seconds behind my teammate, of course the position is not what we are aiming for but this is a better situation than I was expecting. We started in the second row and finished seventh, a little off the top four and we should be happy with this result. We’ll carry the positive vibe into the Tuesday and Wednesday test and keep working. Of course there are still some things to work on and it will be a busy test but I feel like we have made a step and there’s more to come.”
The crowd favourite, Rossi had a welcomed reception with 60,000 fans decking out the Misano circuit grandstands. It was nice to see Rossi pay tribute to his soon to be daughter, with a pink helmet and reminding everyone that he is really retiring from the sport. No matter where he finishes, Rossi’s aura is incredible, the brand speaking for itself in yellow and fans just happy to capture a glimpse of him before the end of the season. There will be another chance to see him with #Misano2 although the results have not been ideal with a constant battle down the back. The frustration is evident because we are not used to seeing the Doctor at the back of the pack and struggling for tyre performance. It just feels weird to continually think he is last, second last or third last. On the odd occasion, he is within the top ten or just outside. The results have not been kind to the retiring superstar. Teammate Andrea Dovizioso would have found it challenging to be so far down the pack as his former team went on to be victorious, something a rider like him will stomach for now and use as a fire to bring himself back up to scratch because why else would you return after the retirements of Jorge Lorenzo and soon to be Valentino Rossi. Dovi has the desire to keep going so watching him grow again in the sport is definitely going to be interesting.
“The crash yesterday meant that I started the race today from 23rd, which was a problem. In the first corner I was able to recover some positions, but then in Turn 4 there was some contact and I had to go off track, which put me last. After that I tried to push, my pace was decent and I was able to complete some overtakes. It’s a shame that it wasn’t enough to earn some points. After the flag it was really nice with the fans, a really emotional moment for me, and I enjoyed being able to do a lap of honour. We have a test this week, so we will try the tyres and see what we can improve with the setting. After that we go to Austin, which was a great race for me last time, and we will see what our potential can be there.”
“It was a really strange experience to start the race from 24th, but it was good because we wanted to be consistent throughout the race and learn, which is what we did. Unfortunately I had to do a long lap penalty and I lost the group, but after that I was able to play a little and understand more things. I’m happy with that and also that my best lap of the race was towards the end, plus it wasn’t a bad lap time. I felt a lot of good things from the bike at this point, but we need to work together to analyse why it happened then to make sure I can feel that at the beginning of a race as well. I’m happy that I will get two days of testing this week and I hope that the weather will be good for it.”
The testing schedule is vital for Suzuki because they did not perform this weekend at Misano. Not only did Alex Rins crash once again, but Mir also didn’t have an ideal weekend at all and his qualifying continues to let him down time and time again. The fight for fourth was fun, though as we know exceeding track limits on the last lap ends with a demotion. The fact he comes to life throughout the middle to end of the race is not doing Mir any justice with wanting to compete for race victories. In fact, the more they fail to fire their engines at the front, the easier it becomes for other title rivals to run away at the front and only have to deal with a select number of competitors. We have been saying this for some time, Rins needs to reset and focus because his time at Suzuki is limited if they continually have to pick their bikes up out of the gravel. One podium does not wash away a season of poor results! This MotoGP World Championship is so highly competitive that you can lose your seat within races if you are not careful and making your mark.
“Honestly I expected things to be different today - I was struggling a lot and that was quite a surprise. At the beginning my feeling wasn’t very good, but it got much better as the race went on, although by then it was too late to really challenge. Our potential is much higher than this, and I really want to demonstrate that in the next races. I actually really enjoyed the last laps, overtaking Marc and fighting with Jack; it was tough but it was fun. We all swapped places many times and unfortunately I was just over the track limits on the last lap which meant I had to move back one place to sixth. It could be worse, and I will keep my head up and look to the next rounds. Texas is an exciting circuit and I’m keen to get there.”
“I’m OK after the crash, just disappointed because I was doing a good race with nice pace. I was pretty consistent across all the laps, and I felt confident. I was riding very hard and I was trying to follow Bastianini, but he was super strong all race and he was braking harder than me. I lost a lot of time at the beginning of the race trying to make up places, and I was pushing to the limit to stay with Bastianini and get the best position possible, then I went down. I was pushing, but not more than normal, so we need to look at the data to realise exactly what happened. It’s disappointing but I’m glad that I’m uninjured, and now I’ll focus on the test days we have here. Then I’ll be looking forward to arriving in Austin in a couple of weeks.”
We turn to Austin, the next upcoming race where COVID-19 has been a topic of discussion as it’s still very real with case numbers, rider, and team safety a priority and a circuit that is sure to entertain. It is the arena of Marquez, so will his burning orange desire to win again at the Austin circuit propel him on regardless of the shoulder pain and challenging bike? Will those twenty or so crashes he has already experienced since returning remind him of what is at stake or is the psyche of a rider to keep pushing until you are told to stop? We look forward to watching on as the riders enter the ring in Texas!Protect your Motorcycle. Call Shannons Insurance on 13 46 46 to get a quote today.