In front of a packed Mugello, it’s advantage Bagnaia as Martin gains and Binder banks a top five – but Bezzecchi falters in eighth.
Sunday at the Gran Premio d’Italia Oakley is a day that Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) will keep fondly in his memory, as the Italian completed the double in Mugello – from pole – and extended his Championship advantage from one single point to a very healthy 21. Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) kept the Italian honest from start to finish but didn’t quite have enough to topple the number 1 as he was forced to settle for second, although only a second back. The battle for third raged on all race long, finally seeing Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) fly through the field to take P3 and deny Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) a home podium.
Tensions were high on the grid as the sun shone over Mugello for one of the most iconic Grands Prix on the calendar, and it was Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) who took the holeshot into Turn 1 but Bagnaia came out of the gates determined to deliver on home soil, the Italian pushing his way back to the front at the next apex. He then began to stretch a lead as the chasing pack was swapping paintwork on the opening lap.
Bagnaia crossed the line for the first line 0.4s ahead of the special liveried Prima Pramac machine of Martin, who had made his way past Miller, and the Australian was under attack from a queue of riders led by Marini and Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team).
The front two began to break away as Bagnaia attempted to stretch out the field, with Martin clinging onto the coattails of Pecco as chaos started to unfold behind in the battle for third.
With 21 laps to go, Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) had a wild rush into Turn 1, seemingly unable to drop anchor and threading through the group. Both he and Miller were sent wide, allowing Marini and Marquez to bully their way through into third and fourth, and Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was right in the mix too.
The race settled down as the laps began to tick away and it was Bagnaia leading with a consistent 0.4s gap over Martin, who nevertheless was keeping himself in victory contention. 1.5s back, a battle for the podium was brewing nicely with Marini sat in P3 with the Marquez brothers glued to his rear wheel.
As ever, Marc Marquez was on the absolute limit of his Honda machine. But it wasn’t quite enough at Mugello as the Spaniard ran wide at the final turn and crashed out on the dirty part of the tarmac with 17 laps remaining, ending his hopes of some points on Sunday.
That spread the field out a little bit as Marini had a bit of breathing space over Alex Marquez in fourth, with Zarco starting to threaten the podium fight in fifth. The podium fight was well and truly on with 11 laps to go as Alex Marquez rode up alongside Marini into Turn 1, pulling off the perfect block pass to demote the Italian down to P4 – with Zarco also waiting to pounce.
Marini continued to pile the pressure on Alex Marquez in front though, and then the slightest of mistakes saw the Spaniard crash out of the Italian Grand Prix. The only rider who’d put in a lap to match Bagnaia was out of the running.
Six laps to go and Zarco made Marini well aware of his presence as he made a beautiful move at the final corner to lead Marini onto the front straight. The Italian got straight back into the Frenchman’s slipstream and retook 3rd place as they barrelled into Turn 1, but Zarco wasn’t having any of it. The Prima Pramac rider snapped straight back at the VR46 rider, putting the hammer down in an attempt to break away from his fellow Ducati.
The Frenchman went on to do exactly that, and with some incredible late-race pace sailed away from Marini to consolidate a double Pramac podium at the team’s home circuit.
Ahead of that charge though was Pecco’s own as Bagnaia kept it pitch perfect to manage the gap ahead of Martin. It was down to only a second on the final lap, however, as the number 89 pushed on and Zarco homed in on him in turn, but Bagnaia kept it calm and took that well-earned home win, consolidating that points lead in style.
Binder set the new all-time MotoGP™ top speed record on Saturday and was the first non-Ducati in P5. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) was next up as the Aprilia rider managed to catch and pass Miller, but not by much as the two staged a near photo-finish drag race to the flag.
A tough start to the race for Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) saw him stuck down in P8 with 15 laps to go, and the Italian couldn’t make progress as the laps ticked down. He gives up a few points to Binder in taking that eighth, and even more ground to Martin as the Spaniard finished second.
Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team) finished his first race back from injury in P9, with Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) rounding out the top 10 ahead of his teammate Fabio Quartararo as the tougher run continued for the Frenchman.
It was a big weekend for Bagnaia’s 2023 title hopes as the Italian support fuelled his Championship defence. With a 21-point lead over Bezzecchi, the number 1 has gotten the triple header off to a perfect start… just as the paddock heads to the very venue where it all went a little wrong for Bagnaia in 2021. The Liqui Moly Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland awaits the grid next weekend, with action in Assen just one week later. Make sure to come back for more and see if Bagnaia can keep the roll going in 2023!
MotoGP Top 4 – Main Race Result – Italian GP
1. Francesco BAGNAIA – ITA – Ducati Lenovo Team – 41’16.863
2. Jorge MARTIN – SPA – Prima Pramac Racing – +1.067
3. Johann ZARCO – FRA – Prima Pramac Racing – +1.977
4. Luca MARINI – ITA – Mooney VR46 Team – +4.625
MotoGP Top 4 Championship Points after Main Race – Italian GP
1. Francesco BAGNAIA – ITA – Ducati Lenovo Team – 131pts
2. Marco BEZZECCHI – ITA – Mooney VR46 Team – 110pts
3. Jorge MARTIN – SPA – Prima Pramac Racing – 107pts
4. Brad BINDER – RSA – Red Bull KTM Factory – 92pts
PECCO BAGNAIA: “I’m happy for sure it’s the best weekend so far. Pole position, winning the Sprint, winning the Grand Prix, so for me it’s the best way possible to do a race weekend in Italy. I want to say thank you to all the fans because looking at the grandstands and looking around the track was incredible today. It was like how we saw Mugello in the past, and I really want to say thanks to all the people that have come yesterday and today. It’s been unbelievable I’ve really enjoyed the weekend I’ve really enjoyed the work we did to arrive at this performance, and today the race was quite tough really but sincerely I’m really happy to finish in this way.”
On the pressure from Martin:
“Yeah when I saw Miller was already overtaking me at the start I just said to myself no I have to be at the front and to push because I knew that many riders were starting with a soft rear tyre and I didn’t want to be with anyone in the first part of the race. I just wanted to have an advantage in the last part so I was just trying to push. Then in the last part of the race it was tricky for everybody but sincerely I’m quite happy with my choice because I think that for me that was the best option.”
“Yeah, like I said the barbecue I didn’t know anything about it, but my fan club is always putting a big smile on my face every time! They arrived here with a mascot going around with the sound bar around the paddock with loud music, and I really enjoyed everything. Sincerely, you can be criticized for everything on social media, but then when you see something like what we saw today, it’s the most important thing for us as a rider and as a person so today was a really emotional day for me.”
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