Misano: Bagnaia leads the cavalry onto home turf
In the wake of Pecco’s first win, the paddock heads for familiar and fast territory for the Italian. And one of Yamaha’s most successful tracks…
Tuesday, 14 September 2021
As the dust settles following a truly spectacular duel at MotorLand, the paddock is already setting up to take on the stunning Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli. For the winner of that Aragon showdown, Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team), there could scarcely be a better place to head next on the heels of his first MotoGP™ win. Home turf, and somewhere he’s been incredibly quick before.
It wasn’t just pace that Bagnaia had at MotorLand, however. What made his maiden win such a stunner was the sheer pressure from Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) lap after lap, the Italian brushing off Marquez’ attempts at the lead like they weren’t coming from one of the most decorated riders in history – or one of the most successful at anti-clockwise Aragon. It was no mean feat, and Marquez himself pointed out something in Bagnaia’s arsenal that could be crucial come Misano too: corner speed.
Bagnaia has used it before to great effect at the track, even before he truly mastered the art this year, taking his first MotoGP™ podium in the first visit in 2020 and leading in the second until crashing out. But he also set the fastest race lap as he left the rest behind, and missed out on pole for track limits. That performance, compounded by MotorLand, will likely play on everyone’s mind.
His fellow Ducati runners like stablemate Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team), who had an issue that took him wide at Aragon and then couldn’t make up ground from fifth, will be looking for a lot more on home turf for the Borgo Panigale factory too. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) and teammate Johann Zarco had a more muted weekend at Aragon – the rookie fading a little after a good start and the Frenchman suffering some arm pump issues – and they’ll want to bounce back.
Reigning Moto2™ Champion Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama) could be one to watch too: a stunning Aragon GP saw him take his best yet of sixth, and Misano is home, familiar and successful turf for the Italian, as well as where he took his first ever win in Moto3™. Ducati test rider Michele Pirro returns in a wildcard as well, often a bother for those looking to make it straight through to Q2, and Luca Marini (Sky VR46 Avintia) will want more on home turf – also a winner at the track in Moto2™.
The most likely barrier to Bagnaia and Ducati’s dreams of Riviera di Rimini success though, despite Aragon, still likely comes from Yamaha. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) struggled for grip on Sunday at MotorLand and came home in eighth, giving up some points to both his key title rivals, but Misano is Yamaha territory. The Iwata marque is the most successful at the venue with eight wins, and Quartararo was already fast there as a rookie. Last season didn’t quite go to plan, but the Frenchman has ramped it up so far in 2021. Will it be a showdown between the top two in the Championship this time around?
There are also some more headlines aside from El Diablo. Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT), by definition, as the Doctor takes on Misano for the penultimate time. Can the familiar ground help him move forward after a tough MotorLand? And Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis spoke of a “verbal” agreement regarding Quartararo and Rossi’s teammates too: Franco Morbidelli is slated to return and move to Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP, and Andrea Dovizioso is expected to join the Petronas Yamaha SRT ranks alongside Rossi. Both home heroes, Morbidelli coming back from injury but a winner at the track last season… and Dovizioso returning to Yamaha. The two should be a treat to watch if their comebacks are confirmed.
Meanwhile, for Suzuki, Aragon was more a mixed bag. But reigning Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) locked out the podium and from a solid qualifying, and he’s the only rider last year at Misano who was on the rostrum in both races. The track should suit and he’s got and on form, so can he take that next step to trouble the top step? The mixed bag was more completed by teammate Alex Rins, meanwhile, as the winner of one of last year’s races in Aragon equalled his worst ever MotoGP™ qualifying in P20 and then came home 12th. After a podium at Silverstone, was it a blip and can he prove so at Misano?
Aprilia continued showing form at Aragon, and will expect to carry that on at Misano. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) took fourth and was top Independent Team rider, which may not be another history-making milestone like Silverstone, but it’s still their second best result in the MotoGP™ era. So the momentum rolls on, and Misano is familiar turf as well as home for the Noale factory. Maverick Viñales, new to the ranks, also has a few more laps round the venue on his new RS-GP, as it’s where he got the first taste. A winner last year at the track too, can he take a step forward? Lorenzo Savadori will also make it three Aprilias on the grid as he returns in a wildcard with Aprilia Racing.
It will also be an interesting watch at Honda to see how Marc Marquez fares at a venue that’s less emblematic for the Spaniard. MotorLand was a stunner, can he get in the podium fight again at Misano? And can Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) take a step back forward after a tougher day at the office in P13? Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) will want more too, having completed the top ten, and Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) crashed early so will want to bounce back. Stefan Bradl will also be on track in a wildcard for HRC.
And what about KTM? The Austrian factory took a podium last year at Misano, and Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) is building some good momentum to get in that mid-top ten again, incredible Red Bull Ring win aside. Iker Lecuona (Tech 3 KTM Factory Racing) put on quite a show at MotorLand once again too, storming through the ranks early on. What can he do? And can his teammate Danilo Petrucci and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Miguel Oliveira bother some bigger points hauls?
Bagnaia on a roll. Yamaha with an incredible record. Quartararo with proven pace and the likes of Mir, Miller and more waiting in the wings… Misano promises a showstopper, so tune in at 14:00 (GMT +2) when the lights go out for the Gran Premio OCTO di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini.
MotoGP™ Championship top five:
1 Fabio Quartararo – Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP – Yamaha – 214
2 Francesco Bagnaia – Ducati Lenovo Team – Ducati – 161
3 Joan Mir – Team Suzuki Ecstar – Suzuki – 157
4 Johann Zarco* – Pramac Racing – Ducati – 137
5 Jack Miller – Ducati Lenovo Team – Ducati – 129
*Independent Team rider
Moto2™: who can hit back at Misano?
It could be an intriguing weekend ahead, with the form book and momentum at odds on the way in…
When news broke that Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) had been forced to have surgery on his hand after a cycling mishap, following a crash out at Silverstone no less, it seemed there had been two massive swings in favour of teammate and Championship leader Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo) in less than a week. But come race day at MotorLand, the only swings landing on his rivals came from the number 25’s incredible laptimes as he dominated despite the pain barrier, taking back five of those points lost at Silverstone as Gardner came home second. And instead, it’s Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) and Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46) who arrive at Misano on the back foot after both crashed out. So what will the Adriatic bring?
Raul Fernandez will likely be strong again, as he has been everywhere, and despite the pain in his hand. And he’ll be more fired up than ever to keep cutting that gap, with the Spaniard having so far found the perfect answer when he’s needed to. He could also wrap up Rookie of the Year, although he’s had one hand on that for a while despite an impressive season of consistency from Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia).
However, Gardner hasn’t put a foot wrong this season and he’s still 39 points clear despite Aragon not being a circuit he loves, and he can now afford to take two paths: gloves off or very much on. The first because everything else is signed, sealed or delivered: the team are already Champions and his 2022 deal is inked. Nothing “except” the Riders’ title hangs in the balance, and 39 points is a big margin to play with.
Recklessness, or maybe something more akin to pushing the limits, hasn’t been part of Gardner’s vocabulary in 2021 so far though and it seems unlikely he’d start now, especially when he’s still won four races as part of his campaign. And the gloves remaining very much on option is that 39 points easily allows him to follow his teammate home in every remaining race this season and still wrap up the crown.
Despite the return of the Red Bull KTM Ajo domination at Aragon though, there are some interesting records at Misano for those looking to threaten the duo, especially for Bezzecchi. Riding on home turf is always something special and the Italian had two good races there last season, just off the podium but less than a second off the win in the first and duelling for victory throughout the race with then-teammate Luca Marini in the second. Now really needing to dig deep to get back on terms with Red Bull KTM Ajo, can the Italian come out swinging?
Lowes, too, is looking for redemption as the Brit crashed out at MotorLand – a venue where he’s had some serious success. He’s been there or thereabouts in Misano in recent seasons, although the results sheets from the first visit to the venue last year need an asterisk: he came eighth, 16 seconds off the win. But he also did so from pitlane, forfeiting the pole position he’d taken after a penalty from the Styrian GP. So how will his MotorLand crash affect his approach? Earlier in the season we saw the number 22 go for solid points when he needed to build back up but will the same be true this time around?
Lowes’ teammate, Augusto Fernandez, said that was his mission after a tougher start to the year too. And he’s seriously fulfilled it, now fifth overall in the Championship as his momentum keeps building. Since Assen, he’s outscored everyone except the top two and had more podiums than any other rider. Anyone remember Misano 2019? He and Fabio Di Giannantonio (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) staged a spectacular showdown, so the number 37 has form at the venue and momentum in the season. Can he go better than third?
‘Diggia’, meanwhile, evidently has shown speed at the track but this season has seen the Italian’s early charge take a dip in the middle. The last two races have seen him back in the top six though, so can he get back in the fight for the podium? And what can the likes of Aron Canet (Inde Aspar Team) and Jorge Navarro (+Ego Speed Up) do on the Boscoscuro? Ogura, too, remains on a solid roll. The Japanese rider is less than a race win’s worth of points off the top five overall is on a good run of top tens, including that first podium.
Misano is always a classic and 2021 will be no different, with a chess match in the title fight and some eager home heroes looking to make life difficult. Tune in as Moto2™ take on the venue at 12:20 on Sunday – with another fascinating contest just around the corner!
Moto2™ Championship top five:
1 Remy Gardner – Red Bull KTM Ajo – Kalex – 251
2 Raul Fernandez – Red Bull KTM Ajo – Kalex – 212
3 Marco Bezzecchi – Sky Racing Team VR46 – Kalex – 179
4 Sam Lowes – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – Kalex – 127
5 Augusto Fernandez – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – Kalex – 108
Can Foggia take the momentum to Misano?
The Italian won in style in “enemy” territory… can he keep the roll at home?
Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) gave his rivals an open goal at Aragon with his first race day mistake of the year, but for one reason or another only one rider was able to capitalise: Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing). The Italian took his third win of the season, moved back into third overall and is now 58 points off Acosta as five races remain on the table… so can he continue the charge on home turf at Misano?
Last season Foggia fought at the front in both races but hit bad luck in one, although the form was there. Based on his form so far in 2021, there’s no reason to count against the Italian managing to battle for the win again. And with the pressure a little more on for Acosta, and the rookie with less experience of the venue by far, it could be another key weekend as Foggia pushes to make gains. There’s also another home hero to consider, however: Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team).
Fenati actually showed some good speed at MotorLand, and checking the results is far from the whole story. The veteran campaigner got forced out wide by a crash ahead of him and dropped well outside the points, but somehow managed to push back through and take a couple. After Silverstone and his absolute masterclass, it seems more muted in the points but less so in the pace. And Misano? The number 55 has the best record in the field. He’s taken two victories at the track, one of which came last year in the dry, and one of which was a poetry-in-motion wet weather masterpiece in 2017. Can he pull the pin again?
If Foggia is to continue making big gains, he’ll also want to defeat Sergio Garcia (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team) too, which is no mean feat when the Spaniard is on it. Unfortunately, he came off it at MotorLand and lost the chance to home in on Acosta, but he’s the other rider with multiple wins so far this year and still has a little cushion back to Foggia, such was the deficit before. Can he, and teammate Izan Guevara, bother the podium fight again?
Niccolo Antonelli (Avintia VR46 Academy) is another experienced veteran with podium form at Misano, and a home hero, and John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) and Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) have won there. What can they do? And Andrea Migno (Rivacold Snipers Team)? Red Bull KTM Tech3 riders Deniz Öncü and Ayumu Sasaki will also be aiming high after their podiums in Aragon. For Sasaki it’s rebuilding after a difficult few months, and a key relief to be back on the rostrum after injury struggles and more.
For Öncü, it was another race where he missed the win by hundredths, and that’s not enough after it having happened twice. Can Deniz defeat Dennis this time around? The Turk ran at the front for much of the race at MotorLand, which is fast becoming the weapon of choice for winning in the lightweight class…
Misano welcomes Moto3™ back for more this weekend, with the home heroes on song and Acosta and Garcia looking to bounce back. What will the Riviera di Rimini bring? We’ll find out at 11:00 (GMT +2) on Sunday.
Moto3™ Championship top five:
1 Pedro Acosta – Red Bull KTM Ajo – KTM – 201
2 Sergio Garcia – Gaviota GASGAS Aspar – GASGAS – 155
3 Dennis Foggia – Leopard Racing – Honda – 143
4 Romano Fenati – Sterilgarda Max Racing Team – Husqvarna – 134
5 Jaume Masia – Red Bull KTM Ajo – KTM – 111