MotoGP Assen: Bagnaia ‘terrified to crash again’

| | MotoGP
Picture: GeeBee Images

Ducati Lenovo’s Pecco Bagnaia was back on MotoGP winning form at Assen on Sunday despite ‘scary’ conditions and a determined Aprilia.

With three DNF’s in the last six races, Bagnaia has been the literal definition of ‘win it or bin it’ with top step success in the opposing trio. It was a history he was all to aware of during Sunday’s 26-lap Dutch GP.

“Yeah, I’m very, very happy,” the Italian confirmed after securing the spoils. “Wasn’t easy today for the condition. I was very terrified to crash again so I just tried to be smart and just try to don’t push it over the limit and finally, we were able to do a great race again.

“We have worked well all the weekend and we were prepared for this race. The only thing that we weren’t expecting was the rain! Was scary the rain because I was trying to manage but [Marco] Bezzecchi behind me was recovering two or three tenths by lap. So it wasn’t easy to bounce back and try to be strong again. But was enough to win here, to win again, so perfect day for me.”

With rain flags waving ten laps in, it was a case of managing expectations as much as the conditions for the 25-year-old.

“My problem was that I saw the rain and I was thinking that was more slippery than what in reality was,” Bagnaia explained. “But looking at the pace of Bezzecchi that was behind me, was like dry, was like without thinking it was raining so I just tried to do the same and was the correct choice.

“The problem is when it’s raining, when it’s light rain, and you had the tear off, the rain comes into your screen, your visor, and you start to see not clear the things. So I just removed the tear off and I lost like six-tenths/five-tenths in this lap. So I lost a lot of time and he was catching me because he was riding normally like if it was not raining. It was quite difficult at the start because I was pushing without pushing, because when it’s raining, you can’t hit at the corners like if it’s normal, but then I found a way to ride and was okay.”

While Bagnaia was pleased with his victory, the success of the man in second, Mooney VR46’s Bezzecchi, and the commanding and confident performance on show for his maiden podium in the premier class, was equally as momentous for the fellow Riders Academy graduate.

“Is something that you can expect from a MotoGP rider,” he said of his friend and colleague. “So I’m very, very happy that I had this race trying to don’t get recovered by him. I’m very happy for Marco, for his team.

“I think looking at the result of the riders with the ’21 and the rookies, I think is a really great bike to start with,” Bagnaia continued on the potential of his previous Ducati machine. “Because was very competitive already last year.

“When I started in MotoGP with my rookie bike it wasn’t competitive like this. The technicians were telling me that was some tenths slower compared to the factory and the first time I saw Marco or Diggia or even Enea with the ’21 I was thinking that they were very competitive from the start. Because it’s a really great bike, is very close to my one.

“So it’s quite clear that the riders with the ‘21 for sure, maybe when they have to overtake the limit, then maybe they have some more problems, but they are doing a great job. This bike was already so competitive last year, was the best one last year so I think it’s a really great bike to start with.

“Bezzecchi have started the season with my bike completely,” he confirmed. “The start of the test was with my bike. I was going to the team, I said Marco had to have my bike!

“In the transport wheels I have still the ‘Pecco 21’ sticker!” Bezzecchi confirmed.

While Bagnaia completed a dominant pole to flag victory, there was comments that it could have been a different race entirely had Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro not been almost taken out by Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo at turn five after as many laps. The title challenger rejoined the action in 15th before scything through the pack to complete the contest an impressive fourth, just 2.5 seconds adrift of the leading Ducati.

The Italian acknowledged the blistering pace on show from the RS-GP but countered that he was running an entirely different race and therefore a comparison was hard to determine.

“I was scared to crash, for the past races,” he confirmed of his somewhat cautious approach to Sunday. “So my objective today was to finish the race. After two zeros like I did, was very important to arrive to the finish line.

“During the race I was pushing a lot at the start to have a bit of gap to Aleix and Fabio and when they did contact I say ‘okay, I can be more calm’, but pushing.

“I tried different things but the problem was that Marco was closing the gap so I tried to push again and I was seeing that my pace was enough to control it, to control the gap. The problem was the rain. When it started raining he was closing again the gap because I slow a bit down. But then I’m happy because I tried a different way to be more calm. I tried to push again, push the same but with more margin and this helped me during this race.

“For sure he demonstrate a great pace, but he was needing to, to recover,” he said of Espargaro. “So for sure he was more hungry to recover and his pace was quite impressive for sure. I didn’t see but I did a different race. I was trying to manage the gap from the rider behind me and I wasn’t needing to be always on the limit like him.

“I think that I learned to sometimes be more calm on that situation and is better like this. He was for sure able to have a great fight with me but I don’t know because the race finishes. I won the race, he was fourth.

“In Italian we say ‘with ifs and buts’.”

Picture: GeeBee Images
Picture: GeeBee Images