Francesco ‘Pecco’ Bagnaia claimed his historic Ducati MotoGP title on Sunday in front of 170,380 fans at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia, Spain.
He became the first Italian to win the premier class since the great Valentino Rossi in 2009, the first Ducati rider to take the crown since Casey Stoner in 2007, and the first Italian to win the title on an Italian bike since the legendary Giacomo Agostini. five decades ago in 1972.
Just a few months ago, such a victory was more fantasy than possibility.
The Italian led Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo by 91 points at the summer break, but the 2021 champion’s disastrous showings and a master’s win by Bagnaia – seven in total for the season – saw the lead evaporate.
Quartararo needed to win in Valencia and Bagnaia will be hoping for less than two points. The Yamaha rider went into the race determined to live up to his bid.
The breathless first laps saw him and Bagnaia locked together, trading places with tight passes. At one point, the two bikes collided, sending one of the Ducati’s aerodynamic wings spinning onto the gravel.
Bagnaia then settled into the group behind his rival, who was struggling to keep up with the leaders. Around him the riders left the race, and Marc Marquez, Jack Miller and Johan Zarco were among those sent.
Suzuki’s Alex Rinse eventually won. The Japanese factory announced earlier this year that it would make a surprise exit from MotoGP racing, and as a final waltz this was as perfect as it could have been.
Rins, with photos of his Suzuki teammates on his helmet and messages of good luck from Suzuki fans decorating his team’s garage, crossed the line ahead of KTM’s Brad Binder and Ducati’s Jorge Martin.
Quartararo crashed into his Yamaha’s tank as he crossed the line in fourth place. Bagnaia’s ninth place was enough to become champion.
“It’s the best day of my life,” Bagnaia told MotoGP.com at Parc Fermé.
“I was struggling a lot. My mission was to be in the top five, but I didn’t know why, after the first three or four laps I started fighting a lot with the front of the bike, it was impossible to control. But then the most important thing is that we won, and that we are world champions and it’s a great day, I’m very happy”.