MotoGP Misano: Race preview

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Rumble on the Riviera: will Misano host another key showdown in the fight for the MotoGP crown?

Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli has already staged some crucial showdowns between Championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) and Ducati Lenovo’s Pecco Bagnaia, and the colourful Adriatic stage is more that set for another. Bagnaia arrives from three wins in a row and could become the first Ducati rider ever to make it four, while Quartararo arrives from a truly stunning ride to second; also Yamaha’s best ever result at the Red Bull Ring. Oh, and for Bagnaia, Misano is home turf…

The Italian has shown incredible speed and won at the venue before, that speed unrivalled despite some bad luck. But the Frenchman made for close company, Yamaha is the most successful factory at the track and Quartararo also won the title at the venue last year, forever making it part of his story too. So will the two come face to face once again, and could we see a proper duel to the flag? We’ve not yet seen the gloves come off between the duo as yet, but both are more than ready to rumble.

Elsewhere at Yamaha, Monster Energy’s Franco Morbidelli has his own good memories of Misano as he’s won there, and it’s a home venue, so he’ll be looking for more than his recent struggles. WithU RNF’s Darryn Binder will also want more points at a venue that should suit the Yamaha, and there’s an emotional farewell brewing for Andrea Dovizioso on the other side of the RNF garage.

After the second highest tally of premier class starts ever, wins on two different bikes and podiums on three, the time has come for Dovi to hang up his leathers. One of the biggest protagonists of recent years, the Italian has had a tougher return with RNF but remains one of the best-loved and most successful on the grid. Where will he finish as he bows out?

For Ducati, meanwhile, the charge continues to get the word armada adopted into Italian. Bagnaia has three wins in a row but his Borgo Panigale stablemates are no slouches. Teammate Jack Miller was back on the podium in Austria and has been a consistent threat at the front of late, whereas Prima Pramac’s Johann Zarco wants a little more from the weekend.

The second Pramac rider, Jorge Martin will also want to bounce back after his late crash in Spielberg, and he arrives from the Ducati 2023 decision going public. He will likely feel he has a point to prove having lost out on the factory seat to Gresini’s Enea Bastianini. And speaking of the Beast…

The trajectory that has led Bastianini to the factory colours from next year began at Misano as he stormed through to podiums, his first visits to the rostrum before he made a habit of visiting the top step with Gresini. His record at the venue also goes back some in his career, it’s home turf, and the pressure is off… so what can Bastianini bring to the party?

Mooney VR46’s Luca Marini and rookie teammate Marco Bezzecchi also have form at Misano, and increasingly great form in the premier class. Marini arrives from his best ever finish of fourth in Austria, and Bezzecchi was once again top rookie in Spielberg. What can they do? Bezzecchi will also want to pull further clear of Gresini’s Fabio Di Giannantonio in the fight for Rookie of the Year as the two Italians continue to hold first and second there.

Now, on to Noale. Austria was certainly a more muted outing for Aprilia Racing, but that says a lot when it was still a weekend of two multiple-point hauls for Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales. By 2022 standards, they want much more so the Noale factory will be hoping they can prove that was a blip as we arrive on the Riviera di Rimini. Espargaro certainly will want to get back in that fight right at the front for the podium as Bagnaia continues to close and Quartararo just pulls a little further clear at the top of the title challenge.

Viñales, meanwhile, may well be rubbing his hands at the prospect of arriving at Misano. He’s already been on pole and won at the venue, and it’s where the adventure began with Aprilia. Can he get back in that trend of upward results and fight for the podium again?

For Red Bull KTM, the hunt for progress continues, but the Sunday heroics of Brad Binder got back on track in Austria as the South African stormed up to seventh. Binder’s comebacks - all the more remarkable given the number 33 often starts well back in the pack but has only one DNF so far this year - continue to impress, and teammate Miguel Oliveira has also been consistently scoring some good chunks of points since Mugello. The Austrian factory have a front row and a podium in their past at Misano, but it will likely be more the top six and top five that proves the aim in 2022. Rookies Remy Gardner and Raul Fernandez at Tech3, meanwhile, are simply looking for points on the Riviera di Rimini.

At Suzuki Ecstar, 2020 World Champion Joan Mir will be sidelined following his Austria injury so it’ll be down to Alex Rins to lead the charge. It’s been a tough run of late for the Hamamatsu factory, but every new race weekend is a chance at a result. It’s also a chance for Japanese rider Kazuki Watanabe, replacing Mir fresh from a podium at the Suzuka Eight-Hours, to try out a prototype MotoGP bike.

Finally, the difficult run continues on-track for Honda, but the positive headlines coming out of Camp MM93 certainly make for interesting reading. Now able to train on motorcycles and with consistent rumours about a return to the track at the test following the San Marino GP, there seems plenty to be positive about for Marc Marquez.

Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) is moving to within striking distance of the number 93 in the standings if he can continue scoring, too, and Repsol teammate Pol Espargaro is only three points further adrift. The number 44 has good memories from Misano and a double podium last year too, with Marc Marquez leading a Repsol Honda one-two. Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol), meanwhile, will likely be looking for a solid finish and a good springboard for Aragon, one of the venues at which he took a stunning rookie podium in MotoGP.

There are enough stories to fill a library in 2022, and Misano’s Gran Premio Gryfyn di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini, will add another chapter in what has already been an incredible season.