A preview of 2023? Just 0.034 splits Bagnaia and Bastianini after a true duel to remember on the Riviera di Rimini, with ‘Pecco’ coming out on top to become the first Ducati rider to win four in a row.
The 2022 Gran Premio Gryfyn di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini will be remembered for an epic duel between Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) and Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™). The two Italians went head-to-head in the closing stages and were eventually split by just 0.034s on the line as Bagnaia becomes the first Ducati rider to win four races in a row, a phenomenal accolade and one that takes him to second in the Championship, 30 points back on Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) . Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) kept the Ducati duo honest for much of the race before losing touch in the latter stages, coming home third for another Aprilia podium.
From pole, Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) got away fantastically well and so did teammate Francesco Bagnaia as the Italian pounced straight up to third from P5 on the grid. Behind there was drama, however, with Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing), Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) and Michele Pirro (Aruba.it Racing) crashing out of contention at Turn 1, riders ok.
It soon became an even more dramatic race of attrition, however, as a couple of early frontrunners then crashed on Lap 2 – including race leader Miller. The Australian slipped out at Turn 4 and a few corners later at Turn 10, Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) was on the floor. Both riders were unhurt, and both remounted. New race leader Bastianini then had a hairy moment at Turn 14 as the hottest weather of the weekend was seemingly making life tricky for the premier class.
On Lap 3, Bagnaia led for the first time and quickly following him through on Bastianini was Viñales. Further back, the top two in the World Championship at the time – Quartararo and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) – were locked together in P5 and P6. They were 0.8s off the leading quartet that consisted of Bagnaia, Viñales, Bastianini and Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team).
After passing Aleix Espargaro, Quartararo set the fastest lap of the race on Lap 7 of 27 and immediately started hunting down the leaders, however. The Frenchman gapped the Aprilia by 0.7s but it was then the Noale factory rider who set the fastest lap of the race on Lap 9, with the top six – down to the number 41 – split by 2.2s. However, a poor lap from Espargaro on Lap 12 saw the Spaniard slip to three seconds off the lead and 1.6s away from Quartararo.
As we clocked through half-race distance, the top four remained locked together. Bagnaia led from Viñales, Bastianini and Marini, with Quartararo 0.7s away from the intense victory fight. Then, on Lap 16 of 27, Bastianini was wide at Turn 10 to allow Marini an easy pass up the inside. The Beast was straight back past though on the run into the rapid Turn 11 right-hander though, and in good time as Bagnaia and Viñales started to turn up the wick. Meanwhile, Quartararo was losing ground in P5 and Espargaro was now two seconds in arrears of the Yamaha rider.
After that mistake, Bastianini bounced back with a 1:31.895 to reel in Bagnaia and Viñales. Was that famous late race pace starting to surface? With eight to go, after a couple of scruffy corners from Viñales, Bastianini carved his way up to P2 at Turn 1. The gap to Pecco was 0.6s. Then it was 0.4s. Then it was 0.2s. By six laps to go, Bagnaia had been caught by Bastianini but the latter had received a track limits warning, adding to one each for Viñales and Quartararo. Viñales, on his part, was also starting to lose touch and it looked like it was Ducati vs Ducati, Italy vs Italy, 2023 factory Ducati rider vs 2023 factory Ducati rider for the win.
With four to go, the tension was mounting. With three to go it was still advantage Bagnaia, but Bastianini was marginally faster. Two to go, it was as you were. Bastianini swarming, Bagnaia holding strong. And it all came down to the last lap.
Searching for a passing manoeuvre, Bastianini was late on the brakes at Turn 4 and he was out of shape, narrowly avoiding contact and disaster between the two. Was that race over for the Beast? Not yet. He regrouped quickly and by the time Turn 10 came around, the gap was back to nothing. No pass came into Turn 14 and neither into the final corner as the crowd watched on tenterhooks, but Bastianini hooked his GP21 up on the exit and threatened to snatch victory at the chequered flag. As close as is almost visible, Bagnaia just held on to win by 0.034s – a stunningly close finish between two phenomenal riders.
Viñales eventually finished 4.2s away from victory after looking incredibly strong for much of the race, with Marini holding into P4 to equal his best MotoGP™ result – that’s back-to-back P4s for the Italian. Quartararo was unable to challenge for the podium places as a P8 in qualifying proved costly, with fifth the best he could do in Misano. El Diablo’s gap is cut to 30 points in the overall standings, however it’s now Pecco acting as his closest challenger after Aleix Espargaro finished P6 in Misano – 4.4s away from Quartararo.
Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was a lonely finisher in P7 as Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) clawed his way up to P8, the South African leading Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) and Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) home in the top 10.
Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) took P11 after a Long Lap for track limits, ahead of the retiring home hero, Andrea Dovizioso (WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP™ Team). The Italian bows out of MotoGP™ with a P12 finish after a wonderful career, as everyone comes together to say #GrazieDovi – he will be sorely missed in the paddock. Raul Fernandez (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing), Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team) and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) rounded out the points, and Kazuki Watanabe (Team Suzuki Ecstar) qualified, finished and crossed the line third in order but a lap down, doing a solid job of getting out of the way of the leaders. A post-race time penalty for track limits – five offences accrued before he was lapped – saw him join Oliveria and Remy Gardner (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing) falling foul of the green.
And so Misano paints another glorious finish. Four wins in a row; the first Ducati rider to ever do that in MotoGP™. Bagnaia has closed the gap to 30 points to Quartararo with six races to go, as the top three in the Championship are covered by 32 points heading to Aragon – a track Pecco won at last season. Do NOT miss the next showdown at MotorLand in two weeks… Ducati even have a first match point in the fight for the Constructors’ crown.
1 Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) – Ducati – 40’10.260
2 Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) – Ducati – +0.034
3 Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) – Aprilia – +4.212
Francesco Bagnaia: “I’m very happy. A great race because I struggled at the start because the grip was not so high, so I was struggling a bit to find some grip, some traction. But then, I started to feel that the fuel was going down a bit and my feeling with the tyres was even better and better, lap by lap. So, in the last laps, I was trying to push, to open a gap, but Enea was too fast. And nothing, I’m very happy to win today. It wasn’t the best start from P5 but we did it, so I’m very happy.”
#GrazieDovi: AD04 bows out in style
The second most starts ever, podiums on three bikes, wins on two… and a huge heap of memories from one of the biggest protagonists of the last decade of MotoGP™. The story began at Misano as a 125cc wildcard and it ends at the track with some more premier class points.
We really mean it: GRAZIE DOVI!
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