#MatchPoint Quartararo & the Doctor’s last dance: MotoGP™ returns to Misano
It’s a key weekend in Emilia-Romagna as the Frenchman gets his first shot at the crown and Rossi races on home turf for the final time
Monday, 18 October 2021
The COTA confetti is still falling in the wake of Marc Marquez’ (Repsol Honda Team) triumphant return to the top step in Texas, but now we change gear again as the paddock heads back to Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli for the Gran Premio Nolan del Made in Italy e dell’Emilia-Romagna. It’s a big weekend and for two big reasons: first, Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) could lift the crown and become the first French premier class World Champion, and second, it’s the final dance on home turf for Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) as the icon prepares to hang up his racing leathers at the end of the season. That does guarantee one thing already, however: it’s going to be another weekend that lives long in the memory.
First, the title fight. Quartararo is now 52 points clear after pipping Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) to second in Austin and the Frenchman also, in doing so, halted what had been some serious momentum for Pecco after back to back wins for the Italian. But now it’s the turf that saw the two so closely matched on our last visit, it could be a hard-fought duel for the race and, potentially, the crown. Fireworks? There may well be plenty, and the magic number is 50: if Quartararo is that far ahead – or more – by the flag, he is the 2021 MotoGP™ World Champion.
If he wins, he’s Champion. If he’s second and Bagnaia behind him, he’s champion. From there the gaps in the points awarded get smaller and the possibilities more varied, although it would seem unlikely they’d both finish and finish far from the podium. On the other side of the coin, if Bagnaia is far enough ahead and gets the gap to below 50 again, he stays in the game and the battle rages on to the Algarve GP. Does that guarantee a gloves off tussle for glory? It could be quite the showdown.
The other players who could play a big role in the race will likely come out guns blazing too, with the countdown on for a number of key battles this season. That includes Rookie of the Year, and given it’s Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) ahead and Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama) on his tail, the latter of whom had race-winning pace on our last visit and took his first premier class podium, it could be a pivotal weekend there too as they’re split by just 11 points. With no pressure like that endured by those who beat him on home turf last time, can the Beast once again blast through for glory, get even further forward and/or cut that gap?
It also seems likely, comparing the first GP we had at Misano and then Texas, that Marquez will feature in the fight for the top five once again as a minimum, even as he continues to get back to his full form. And reigning Champion – at the last Grand Prix this year where that phrase may be true – Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) has shown he’s pretty handy at the track too. And what of Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team)? Last time out he looked to have searing pace before a tougher Sunday, and he’ll likely be playing the teammate game to perfection once again as Bagnaia faces what may be his final stand. One to watch, especially if he’s racing for red and not solely his own race result…
Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) is also on a solid, somewhat stealthy run of points. The South African is now sixth overall and has only one 0 on his scorecard in 2021, which is from way back at Jerez. He’s only 10 points behind Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing), who is currently the rider in fifth, so the pressure is now on for the Frenchman a little, at least overall. In the fight for top Independent Team rider, however, Zarco has some good breathing space with 141 points to Aleix Espargaro’s (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) 104. That could therefore potentially be decided this weekend, with 50 points left in play after Emilia-Romagna.
Then, as well as Pecco leading the home turf charge on track, there are the more veteran Italians. Andrea Dovizioso (Petronas Yamaha SRT) has been making marked steps forward on his return to the Iwata marque and, as he now does actually have recent experience at Misano on the Yamaha, there may well be even more coming. And Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), despite still pushing to get back to full fitness, could feel the benefit of racing for the second time at the same track as he settles in on the 2021 M1. What can they do on home soil?
And then, of course, there’s Rossi. There may be three races left for the number 46 to shine the sun and moon in the premier class of Grand Prix racing, but the third to last event of the Doctor’s tenure will be extra special in its own way. Home turf, at a venue likely no one on Earth knows better or has raced more, and in front of his final home crowd in gloriously uproarious yellow, it’s its own occasion. The end of an era for an area that has become defined first by what was the new kid on the block searing through the ranks with such charisma and style, and then the icon who has created one of the most successful academies in motorcycle racing, based just up the road. His ranch adds some significant acreage to his home village of Tavullia, just as his presence and legacy have added so much to the region and the sport. Emotional doesn’t quite explain it; it’s a point of no return for all those who’ve raced, watched and loved one of global sport’s biggest icons. On track, at least.
By definition, all those lining up for the Emilia-Romagna GP are at least one of those three, and it will mark a moment in time for Rossi and, potentially, for a new World Champion too. Make sure you don’t miss a minute as MotoGP™ returns to Misano, with the lights out for Quartararo’s first #MatchPoint and the Doctor’s last dance at 14:00 (GMT +2) on Sunday.
MotoGP™ Championship top five:
1 Fabio Quartararo – Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP – Yamaha – 254
2 Francesco Bagnaia – Ducati Lenovo Team – Ducati – 202
3 Joan Mir – Team Suzuki Ecstar – Suzuki – 175
4 Jack Miller – Ducati Lenovo Team – Ducati – 149
5 Johann Zarco* – Pramac Racing – Ducati – 141
*Independent Team rider
Game on, gloves off: Misano awaits for Moto2™
The gap is smaller than ever, the rookie is on a roll… and last time at Misano, it got close
After an earthquake in the standings at the Americas GP, it’s time for Moto2™ to get back on track at Misano. The gap, after another stunner from Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) in Texas and a first real mistake of the season from teammate and Championship leader Remy Gardner, is now just nine points… and the rollercoaster seems likely to continue in the Gran Premio Nolan del Made In Italy e dell’Emilia-Romagna.
Looking back on the San Marino GP as a guide to what may await us on take two, it’s a tantalising possibility. Until the latter half of the very last lap, it was almost nothing between Fernandez and Gardner as the Aussie gained huge chunks of time right before the flag, one solitary wobble putting paid to a last gasp lunge. So the two could be closely matched once again, and if Gardner has less work to do in the early stages from a slightly better qualifying, it could be a serious treat. Added to that, there’s no playing it safe now, with the margin having been cut by 25 points in one fell swoop.
If the two do duel it out, they could have some company. Aron Canet (Inde Aspar Team) impressed on our first visit to Misano to complete the podium and run at the front, and he’ll want to repeat that as he slips out of the top five overall. Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) will want more too, the Brit coming under pressure from the same rider who’s leapfrogged Canet: his Elf Marc VDS teammate Augusto Fernandez. Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46) has his final, final stand to stay in contention for the crown too, 65 points off Gardner with 75 left in play.
For some serious final fireworks at the San Marino GP, one more lap could have seen everything change. Now, we have another 25 to enjoy in the Gran Premio Nolan del Made In Italy e dell’Emilia-Romagna… so can Gardner bounce back and come out swinging? Or will Raul Fernandez find another ace on the Rimini Riviera? Find out on Sunday at 12:20 (GMT +2) as Moto2™ take the gloves off for another race round Misano.
Moto2™ Championship top five:
1 Remy Gardner – Red Bull KTM Ajo – Kalex – 271
2 Raul Fernandez – Red Bull KTM Ajo – Kalex – 262
3 Marco Bezzecchi – Sky Racing Team VR46 – Kalex – 206
4 Sam Lowes – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – Kalex – 140
5 Augusto Fernandez – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – Kalex – 131
The rookie who could be king: Acosta takes aim at the crown
It’s crunch time in Moto3™, but Foggia has a few stats in his favour as Acosta aims to make history at Misano
Three races remain in the 2021 Moto3™ season and there are 30 points splitting Championship leader Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) from the closest rider on the chase, Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing). That makes two things true: one, Acosta mathematically has his first shot at the crown as the paddock returns to Misano for the Gran Premio Nolan del Made In Italy e dell’Emilia-Romagna, and two: Foggia really is now close enough to stop that happening…
With 75 points left in play ahead of lights out, Acosta’s shot is a real but longer one this weekend. If the rookie sensation can take that gap from 30 up to more than 50 points – and it has to be more than 50 as Foggia has four wins to Acosta’s five – he’ll take the crown and become the youngest World Champion ever. So he needs to win and Foggia either not score at all or take a maximum of four points for 12th, but last time out at Misano speaks to a closing gap being distinctly more likely.
It was Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team), now out of contention for the crown, who shot off into the lead with some incredible speed at the San Marino GP initially, and he could be a threat again if he can avoid a repeat of his crash. But Foggia was in the perfect position and kept it nice and tidy to take over at the front, and from there the Leopard rider couldn’t be stopped. He took a composed and assured win ahead of compatriots Niccolo Antonelli (Avintia VR46 Academy) and Andrea Migno (Rivacold Snipers Team), and there’s no reason to believe the tricolore trio, plus Fenati, can’t be the key threats again. Acosta, meanwhile, came seventh as he put in a solid race but couldn’t find quite the same pace. So will history repeat itself? Or can take two see the Spaniard take a step forward and threaten for the throne?
There are also the likes of new winner Izan Guevara (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team) heading in on a high, and his teammate – and still Championship challenger – Sergio Garcia will be aiming to bounce back. John McPhee (Petronas Yamaha SRT) arrives from a podium and he and teammate Darryn Binder could be up there too. As ever, there are plenty of fast threats for victory in Moto3™.
Acosta has more experience at the venue now, but returning to turf where you’ve won only a few weeks prior, having cut down what seemed like an insurmountable gap and with another podium in your pocket from last time out is a serious preface for Foggia. Tune in to see what awaits on take two at Misano on Sunday the 24th of October at 11:00 (GMT +2)… will there be a Champion or another twist in the tale?
Moto3™ Championship top five:
1 Pedro Acosta – Red Bull KTM Ajo – KTM – 218
2 Dennis Foggia – Leopard Racing – Honda – 188
3 Sergio Garcia – Gaviota GASGAS Aspar – GASGAS – 168
4 Romano Fenati – Sterilgarda Max Racing Team – Husqvarna – 138
5 Jaume Masia – Red Bull KTM Ajo – KTM – 135