Ducati take back their turf as another 63 vs 20 chess match lights up Tuscany, with Aleix Espargaro making another little piece of history in third.
Pecco is back on top! In another classic 63 vs 20, Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) was back to his flawless winning ways at the front of the field in the Gran Premio d’Italia Oakley, bouncing back in style from a crash out in France. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) nevertheless gave it everything he had, stalking the Ducati rider for the majority of the race after the two picked their way to the front. In taking second, ‘El Diablo’ also extends his lead in the Championship.
Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) came through into third for his fourth podium in a row, giving Aprilia some home turf glory and becoming only the third rider on the grid, along with Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) and Andrea Dovizioso (WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP™), to have taken four or more premier class podiums in a row.
Ducati had swept the top five in qualifying but, rather than the slightly more accustomed Bagnaia being on the front row, it was rookie Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) starting from pole, fellow rookie Marco Bezzecchi sitting second and Mooney VR46 Racing teammate Luca Marini alongside. Di Giannantonio made a good launch and emerged with the lead from San Donato despite an attack from the VR46 duo, but Marini got past as they turned into Materassi as Bezzecchi slotted into third at the start of the 23 laps that lay ahead.
Bezzecchi overtook Di Giannantonio through Scarperia/Palagio, before Quartararo snatched fourth spot back from Aleix Espargaro on Lap 2 after the Aprilia rider had made a bold move down the hill on the opening lap. Quartararo was third when he slipped by Di Giannantonio at Scarperia/Palagio on Lap 2, but he had a serious challenge on his hands to try and keep the Ducatis at bay given the power they had on tap up the main straight.
A new Ducati threat then emerged when Bagnaia, who had been shuffled back to ninth on the opening lap, got through on Aleix Espargaro for fifth on Lap 4. However, Quartararo was also on the march as he slipped past Marini later on that same lap, promoting ‘El Diablo’ to second.
Bagnaia slipstreamed past Di Giannantonio as Lap 4 became Lap 5, and then pulled off a big move the next time he charged up the hill towards San Donato, passing both Quartararo and Marini to move into second. ‘Pecco’ was in the lead after he overtook Bezzecchi at the start of Lap 9, while Quartararo relied on superior turning to pass the VR46 Ducati rider at Scarperia, on Lap 11. The stage was set and so began the see saw at the front. 1.2, 1 second, 1.1, 0.9… the two pounded on at the front.
Meanwhile, Di Giannantonio’s charge began to fade and Aleix Espargaro again found himself in the top five, just behind a battle between VR46 teammates Bezzecchi and Marini. Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) and Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) caught that bunch around 13 laps in, but the former was then out of the race when he tucked the front through Materassi, on Lap 14. Rider ok, standings taking a dent.
Aleix Espargaro finally got back through to fourth as he went down the inside of Marini on Lap 14 at Correntaio, and Zarco relegated #10 to sixth position at the start of Lap 17. Then, Aprilia’s ‘Captain’ got ahead of the next impressive VR46 hurdle with a pass of Bezzecchi at Scarperia on lap 17.
While that was elbows out, Quartararo was starting to make inroads on Bagnaia’s margin. ‘El Diablo’ brought the gap back under a second with around half a dozen laps to go and was able to keep it there, but then the Ducati rider was able to respond. It was back out to 1.1 with a lap to go, and by the time he crossed the line for an emotional win, it was just over half a second. And those 25 points put Pecco fourth, 41 points off Quartararo.
Aleix Espargaro, meanwhile, finished just under two seconds further back, while Zarco passed Bezzechi on the final lap to claim fourth. Marini made it VR46 bikes fifth and sixth, while Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) proved once again that he is the ‘Sunday man’ by climbing from 16th on the grid to seventh all-told, and only a couple of tenths off the VR46 battle.
Rounding out the top 10 were Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu), Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), and – in his last race before surgery on his right arm – Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team).
It took a video review to decide 11th position, in favour of Di Giannantonio, after he and Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) has initially posted identical race times. Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) finished 13th, Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) took 14th, and Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) scored the last World Championship point in 15th. The non-finishers in addition to Bastianini were Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team), who crashed out on Lap 5, and Team Suzuki Ecstar duo Joan Mir and Alex Rins, who both went down in separate incidents on Lap 8. Rins’ crash was after contact with Nakagami, but the incident was reviewed and no action taken.
In the World Championship, Quartararo’s lead over Aleix Espargaro has crept up to eight points, while Bastianini is now 28 points off the pace in third spot. And Pecco is on the march…
Can he make up more ground when MotoGP™ heads to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya for the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya? Find out next weekend!
1 Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) – Ducati – 41:18.923
2 Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) – Ducati – +0.635
3 Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) – Aprilia – +1.983
Francesco Bagnaia: “Incredible. I’m already without my voice; I screamed loud and too much. it’s incredible. I think all of the team and me have really deserved this victory because we have worked a lot. Last week, we were as strong, but we were more unlucky. In any case, we worked so well during this weekend. The start was not my best start ever and in the first braking zone I was a bit late, but in any case, I’m very happy to have won this race at home, in front of our fans. It’s really great.”
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