Just over a week ago, Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) was still patiently waiting for that first MotoGP™ win. He was second in the standings and a consistent podium threat, but that box remained unticked. Then came Aragon and a duel for the history books against Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), with the Ducati rider unruffled to take that stunning maiden MotoGP™ win. So he had the momentum, but could he do it again on home turf?
After another all-time lap record set on Saturday for pole, the signs looked good and the Italian bolted away immediately to make a solid bit of breathing space at the front on race day. But lap by lap, Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) brought the Jaws music and the Frenchman was glued to his exhaust by the final lap. Pecco remained impervious under pressure however, and the Italian pulled the pin to cross the line for his second win in a week – in some style on home turf. Quartararo was forced to settle for second but takes a valuable 20 points, with the podium completed by another incredible ride: rookie Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama) blasted through from P12 on the grid to third, making his first visit to the rostrum in the premier class and at the venue that saw him take his first ever Grand Prix win back in Moto3™.
As the lights went out there was nervy moment as the number 63 Ducati moved right on the limit, but not forward, and Bagnaia kept calm thereafter to take the holeshot from pole. The Italian put the pedal to the metal immediately too as teammate Jack Miller stayed second and the two gained some early breathing space. Quartararo duelled Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) for third just behind, before the Spaniard then fell early at Turn 14, although he was able to get back in it initially.
Bagnaia, Miller, Quartararo remained in an evenly-spaced top three, with Marc Marquez fighting Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) just behind. But Bastianini had something to say about that, the Italian rookie blasting through to pass first the Aprilia and then home in on the Honda. And he made it stick on first time of asking, taking fourth but as the podium fight pulled away into the distance… for now.
As Bagnaia pushed on at the front, Quartararo was homing in on Miller, aided a little as the Aussie headed slightly wide at Turn 13. By 14 to go the Frenchman was on the scene and sliced past, with the gap to Bagnaia up to 2.7 and Miller remaining on his rear wheel. It didn’t take long for the Yamaha to pull away and Bastianini to close down the number 43 though, the rookie gaining over two and a half seconds to take over in third.
Lap by lap, Quartararo was able to home in on Bagnaia as Bastianini was able to pull away from Miller. Marc Marquez had Aleix Espargaro and Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) for company in the fight for fifth too, but Miller held firm in fourth for the moment.
As the laps ticked down, the gap between Bagnaia and Quartararo did too and there was a frisson of tension for the race leader on the horizon: by four to go, El Diablo got within eight tenths and then half a second, making it game on.
The Yamaha kept pushing and pushing, gaining here and there and really tagging onto the back of the Ducati as the final few kilometres dawned. It was just over a tenth as the two crossed the line to start the last lap, with Quartararo setting his sights on victory. But he couldn’t make the move early and Pecco was impeccable through Curvone, stretching the gap back out and laying down the gauntlet with one final push. Could Quartararo go for a lunge? Not in the end, Bagnaia once again proving impervious under pressure, painting Misano red and taking his second win in a week.
Behind that duel, it was beauty from the ‘Beast’. Bastianini kept his stunning pace to the end, taking a comfortable third place. Comfortable is an understatement, however, as the rookie put together a truly stunning race on best lap record pace to take his first premier class podium, and on home turf to boot.
The fight for fourth became Miller vs Marquez vs Mir and it was a last gasp thriller. The reigning Champion attacked the number 93 first to move through onto the back of Miller, and the Suzuki then punched his way through on the Ducati at Turn 14. But both went wide and Marquez swept through into fourth. They stayed glued together but out the penultimate corner, Marquez just kept it in but Mir touched the green. So the eight-time World Champion keeps fourth, and Mir crossed the line fifth but is classified as sixth as Miller gains back that P5.
Behind that shuffle, Aleix Espargaro lost some ground and also lost out to brother Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) after a tougher last few laps for the former, with the 44 in seventh and the 41 in eighth. Ninth was another Sunday charge from Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) as the South African shot through from P17 on the grid, only four tenths off the Aprilia ahead by the flag.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) completed the top ten ahead of Michele Pirro wildcarding for Ducati in P11, and he had Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) close behind after the Frenchman also did a Long Lap for having shortcutted Turns 1 and 2. Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) scored some points in P13 and close behind the number 5, with HRC test rider Stefan Bradl and Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) completing those points.
Martin retired in the end despite rejoining, and Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) crashed out with 10 to go.
That’s that for race day at Misano (for now)! Bagnaia continues to hold the cards on track as we head for Austin, but Quartararo has the ace in the standings. It’s five points closer now though, and COTA has proven a very different hunting ground to Misano in the past… so make sure to tune in for the horsepower rodeo!
1 Francesco Bagnaia – Ducati Lenovo Team – Ducati – 41:48.305
2 Fabio Quartararo – Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP – Yamaha – +0.364
3 Enea Bastianini* – Avintia Esponsorama – Ducati – +4.789
*Independent Team rider
Francesco Bagnaia: “I knew with the soft rear maybe I would struggle a bit but I tried to push like hell in the first two or three laps to open the gap, then on the last laps when I saw Fabio was recovering it was very difficult but I tried to push, in the last part the pace was quite constant. With the medium he was a bit better in the last part but we were incredible today, the team worked so perfectly and two victories in a row is incredible for me. I was struggling to win my first race, missing something, and now already two!”
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