MotoGP Valencia: Sachsenring Bagnaia’s turning point, ‘everything was a nightmare’

| | MotoGP
Picture: GeeBee Images

Pecco Bagnaia achieved the dream of becoming MotoGP World Champion on Sunday after a rollercoaster season on the Ducati Lenovo.

A difficult start to 2022 saw the factory outfit scrambling to amend the pre-season direction of its updated Desmosedici with Gresini’s Enea Bastianini outpacing the pack after inheriting Bagnaia’s 2021 model.

An eventful summer break saw the Italian return to action revived and with a new found confidence, heralding seven podiums - four on the top step - to add to his three previous victories on European soil. Five DNF’s blotted Bagnaia’s copybook as the quest for the title culminated at Valencia’s final race, 23 points the advantage over Fabio Quartararo and a ninth place finish sealing the deal, despite some interesting battles early on damaging the 25-year-old’s front wing.

“I’m very, very happy because on the day of the worst race of the calendar I’ve had a special sweet taste,’ Bagnaia said on his challenging Sunday at Ricardo Tormo. “When I crossed the finish line and saw my pit board with writing saying I was the World Champion everything was brighter and nicer.

“My emotion is incredible in this moment. It wasn’t easy because after the fight with Fabio I lost a winglet and from that moment everything was a nightmare.

“I’ve done lap by lap trying ride defensive lines, but it was very difficult, and it took so long to finish the race. I’m very proud of my team, myself and of what we did because it’s incredible.”

Bagnaia’s fightback saw him overcome a 91 point deficit after Sachsenring, with Assen bringing the first of four consecutive wins as the Italian missed the podium at just Motegi, and the final race, across the second half of the season.

“I lost the faith in the championship for one hour after the Sachsenring race but then after that I knew there was still a chance to be World Champion,” he admitted. “Sincerely, the work we did this year was incredible. We performed in an incredible way in the second part of the year.

“We tried to analyse everything, at home also, to see what to improve, why I was crashing and I was making so many mistakes, and from that moment we’ve just done something incredible. I’m very happy for that because we really deserve this title.

“The most difficult [moment] was Sachsenring,” he continued. “Because I was very competitive, like in Le Mans. I was there with a possibility to win the race, but I crashed and in that moment I realised my weak point was that.

“I was a rider with a lot of ups and downs, with good speed but no consistency.

“To accept that was not easy. From that moment I recognised I had a problem and I tried to improve myself, also thanks to the people at home that worked with me everyday and helped me a lot. I think I improved myself a lot this season.”

Bagnaia’s success calls a halt to Ducati’s 15 years of waiting. The last Ducati rider to claim the rider’s title was Casey Stoner back in 2007, the last Italian, Valentino Rossi in 2009 and the last Italian on Italian machinery, Giacomo Agostini an incredible 50 years ago.

“I saw many faces crying, and it was incredible,” Bagnaia said on the achievement. “I was crying too. It was an amazing victory because I was feeling the weight on my shoulders to give back this title to my team, to Ducati, and to Italy.

“When I spoke to Vale, he said to me yesterday that ‘you have you be proud to have this possibility, not everyone can have the same feeling. It’s true that you feel the pressure, you feel anxiety, you feel fear, but you have to be proud of it, be happy to have it, and try to enjoy it’. I tried to do it, and today in fact it didn’t work but sincerely I’m very happy to think who we have as a mentor and leader.

“Not just the influence of Valentino, but all the guys, all the people are working for us at home,” he elaborated on the VR46 Riders Academy. “At the start was a totally different Academy, was a big help for sure. But in this moment, I think we are very professional.

“We have everything, we can say ‘Today I want to go with the pocket bikes in a track’, they organise everything to do it. We want to go to Portimao to have a test before the season, they organise everything to do, so is incredible. The help they are giving, they are giving all the possibilities, all their life, all their passions to us and this is incredible.

“This is the first title in MotoGP of the Academy, is the third in general with also Moto2 - with Franky [Morbidelli[ and my one in Moto2. But if we look at the performance of every rider in the Academy, unfortunately this year, in Moto3 and Moto2 we had a little problem but if we analyse the performance in MotoGP, we can see clearly that all the riders in the Academy are incredibly fast because at home we work together, we push each other to improve ourselves. When I look at Franky in 2020 doing the runner up, doing second in the championship with three wins, podiums, and it was like reference to me, was something to improve or something to beat. This helped me a lot to improve myself so I want to say thanks to the Academy.”

Picture: GeeBee Images
Picture: GeeBee Images