Francesco “Pecco” Bagnaia powered his Ducati to a historic MotoGP title on Sunday, in front of 170,380 fans at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia, Spain.
He becomes the first Italian to win the premier class since the great Valentino Rossi in 2009, the first Ducati rider to claim the crown since Casey Stoner in 2007, and the first Italian to clinch the title on an Italian bike since the legendary Giacomo Agostini. five decades ago in 1972.
Just a few months ago, such a victory seemed more fanciful than possible.
Heading into the summer break, the Italian was trailing Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo by 91 points, but a string of disastrous performances from the 2021 champion and masterful victories from Bagnaia – seven in total during the season – have seen the gap evaporate.
Quartararo had to win in Valencia and hope Bagnaia scored less than two points. The Yamaha rider entered the race determined to fulfill his end of the bargain.
During the first breathless laps, he and Bagnaia found themselves together, swapping places with tight overtaking. At one point, the two bikes clashed, sending one of the Ducati’s aero fenders spinning in the gravel.
Bagnaia then moved into the peloton behind his rival who was struggling to keep up with the leaders. Around him the runners withdrew from the race, with Marc Marquez, Jack Miller and Johan Zarco among those sent sprawling.
Suzuki’s Alex Rins finally took the win. The Japanese factory announced a surprise withdrawal from MotoGP racing earlier this year, and like a final waltz, it was executed as flawlessly as they could have wished.
Rins, with pictures of his Suzuki teammates on his helmet and good luck messages from Suzuki fans adorning his team’s garage, crossed the line ahead of KTM’s Brad Binder and Ducati’s Jorge Martin.
Quartararo collapsed on the tank of his Yamaha as he crossed the line in fourth position. Bagnaia’s ninth place finish was more than enough to make him the champion.
“It’s the best day of my life,” Bagnaia told MotoGP.com in Parc Fermé.
“I struggled 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 having a lot of trouble with the front of the bike, it was impossible to control. But the most important thing is that we won, we are world champions and it’s a very good day, I’m very happy.