The Ducati Lenovo Team’s Francesco Bagnaia has scored his first victory in his home MotoGP™ race, the Gran Premio d’Italia Oakley. Despite falling deep into the top 10 in the opening corners at the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello, he hit the front before the halfway mark and banked an important 25 points to get his title bid back on track.
World Championship leader Fabio Quartararo was a commendable second on a Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™ entry which had to make up speed in the corners, while Aprilia Racing’s Aleix Espargaro finished third for the fourth race in a row.
VR46 off to a good start as Bagnaia drops back
Ducati had swept the top five in qualifying but, rather than Bagnaia being on the front row, it was Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) starting from pole, his fellow rookie Marco Bezzecchi sitting second on the grid on one of the Mooney VR46 Racing Team bikes, and the latter’s team-mate Luca Marini alongside them. Di Giannantonio made a good launch and emerged with the lead from San Donato (Turn 1) despite an attack from the VR46 duo, but Marini got past as they turned into Materassi (Turn 4) as Bezzecchi slotted into third position as 23 laps lay ahead of them.
Bezzecchi overtook Di Giannantonio through Scarperia/Palagio (Turns 10 and 11), 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.
Pecco fights back
A new Ducati threat 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 position.
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 spot. ‘Pecco’ was in the lead when 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.
As Di Giannantonio’s charge began to fade, Aleix Espargaro again found himself in the top five, just behind a stoush between the VR46 team-mates Bezzecchi and Marini. Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) and Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) caught that bunch around 13 laps into the contest, but the former was soon out of the race when he tucked the front of his Ducati through Materassi, on Lap 14.
Aleix Espargaro finally got back into fourth position when he went down the inside of Marini on Lap 14 at Correntaio (Turn 12), and Zarco relegated #10 to sixth position at the start of Lap 17. Then, Aprilia’s ‘Captain’ got ahead of the lead VR46 entry with a pass of Bezzecchi at Scarperia on lap 17.
Quartararo gives his maximum but has to settle for second
While all that was going on, Quartararo was starting to make inroads on the margin which Bagnaia was enjoying at the head of the field. ‘El Diablo’ brought the gap back under a second with around half a dozen laps to go, but the works Ducati rider was able to respond. He was back out to a 1.1 second lead with a lap to go, before cruising to the chequered flag for a 0.6 second victory. It is a triumph which he will surely cherish, and an important one after recording a DNF a race ago in France.
Aleix Espargaro 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. Rounding out the top 10 were Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu), Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), and – in his last race before yet more surgery on his right arm – Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team).
A photo finish for 11th
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.
Can he make up more ground when MotoGP™ heads to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya for Round 9, the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya? Find out next weekend (June 3-5)!
MotoGP™ Race Top 10:
1. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team)
2. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) + 0.635
3. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) + 1.983
4. Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) + 2.590
5. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) + 3.067
6. Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) + 3.875
7. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 4.067
8. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) + 10.944
9. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 11.256
10. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) + 11.800