Pecco becomes the first Ducati rider to win four on the spin as the victory battle goes to the wire between the Italians
The 2022 Gran Premio Gryfyn di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini will be remembered for an epic victory battle 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. Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) faded late on but held on to claim another hard-earned podium.
Bagnaia makes Ducati history after fending off 2023 teammate
From pole, Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) got away fantastically and as did teammate Francesco Bagnaia as the Italian pounced straight up to third as we saw Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing), Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) and Michele Pirro (Aruba.it Racing) crashed out of contention at Turn 1.
It soon became a dramatic race of attrition 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, both remounted. New race leader Bastianini then had a hairy moment at Turn 14 as the hottest weather of the weekend was 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 – Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) 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 Espargaro, Quartararo set the fastest lap of the race on Lap 7 of 27 and immediately started hunting down the leaders. The Frenchman gapped Espargaro by 0.7s but it was then the Aprilia star 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. One thing to note and to keep an eye on was a couple of track limits warnings for Viñales and Quartararo – caution for the pair was needed with 12 laps to go.
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 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 man.
After that mistake, Bastianini slammed in 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. Six laps to go, Bagnaia had been caught by Bastianini but the latter had received a track limits warning. Viñales was losing touch now and it looked like it was Ducati vs Ducati, Italy vs Italy, 2023 factory Ducati rider vs 2023 factory Ducati rider.
With four to go, the tension was palpable. 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. Was that race over? Not yet. Bastianini regrouped 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, but Bastianini hooked his GP21 up on the exit and threatened to snatch victory away from Pecco’s grasp at the chequered flag. It wasn’t to be though as Bagnaia won by 0.034s – a stunningly close finish between two phenomenal riders.
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Quartararo and Aleix Espargaro have a quiet Sunday
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 P5 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 led Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) and Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) home in the top 10.
Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) crossed the line in P11 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.
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.
1. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) – 27 laps
2. Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) + 0.034
3. Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) + 4.212
4. Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) + 5.283
5. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) + 5.771
6. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) + 10.230
7. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 12.496
8. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 14.661
9. Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) + 17.732
10. Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) + 21.986