Bagnaia Defends The MotoGP Title
Monster Energy’s Bagnaia defends his 2022 MotoGP title with the ’23 MotoGP crown, while Bezzecchi placed 3rd overall.
With a flat out Statement victory at Sunday’s Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana, Monster Energy’s Francesco “Pecco” Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo) has laid claim to his second overall MotoGP championship in as many years, and third of his spectacular career. Monster Energy’s Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing) wouldn’t figure in the scoring at Valencia, but did make the overall podium in 3rd place – his first career overall MotoGP podium finish.
“Amazing, I don’t have many words now,” said an elated Bagnaia from the Valencia GP press conference. “It was a long race. 27 laps of struggle because I didn’t feel good in the front. I let the KTM riders past (Jack Miller and Brad Binder), and then the feeling became better, maybe because the pressure or the temperature changed.”
Bagnaia continued… “From that moment (Lap 15) I was able to push, but in the last few laps I was completely without tires. But we did it. It was quite tough, but we did it. We won the title. We won the race. It’s impossible to get any better than this.”
With an excellent qualifying run (2nd place) Bagnaia was actually gifted the Circuit Ricardo Tormo pole position when pole winner Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) was docked three positions for ignoring safety flags during Warm Up. Bagnaia would turn the pole position into the holeshot, putting his Ducati Desmosedicic GP out front on the opening lap. Bagnaia was quickly joined by rival Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac), who was mathematically in the hunt for the title as well – trailing Bagnaia by 14 points heading into the final Valencia MotoGP round.
With Bagnaia and Martin out front of the two KTM racers – Binder and Miller – Martin made the first move with an aggressive pass attempt in Turn 1 at the beginning of Lap 3, making contact with Bagnaia – and paying the price for it as he was forced to back it down and dropped all the way down to 8th place.
This move by Martin would be crucial in the title chase, as now the Prima Pramac racer had to hustle to play catch up – and in doing so made an even more serious error when, on Lap 6, Martin tried in vain to put an inside move on Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) on Turn 4 – and in doing so rammed Marquez, and knocked the 8-time MotoGP champion out of the race, as well as himself.
“I did not see it,” said Bagnaia of the Martin/Marquez incident. “I was thinking he was 4th, and I was saying to myself, ‘Don’t crash. Because if you crash he (Martin) will win.’”
Though Bagnaia admittedly didn’t know immediately, “MARTIN OUT” was soon signaled to him on his pit board, and he could have shut his bike down then and won the title. However, with Binder now in 1st and Miller 2nd, Bagnaia pinned the throttle on his Ducati and set sail for the KTMs. With 12 laps to go, Binder would run wide in Turn 11 – and dropped from 1st to 6th in an instant. Now blood was in the water and Bagnaia began the hunt of Miller for the top position – a lead of just over a second.
With nine laps remaining it was Miller that flinched, wadding up his KTM on Turn 10 as the pressure from Monster Energy’s champion Bagnaia was at a boiling point. The remainder of the race proved to be one of the more thrilling contests of the year as Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing) moved up onto the rear fender of 2nd place Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac), who was just a click (.3 seconds back of Bagnaia).
The last lap of the season was so close the riders could have swapped helmets, with the No. 1 Monster Energy helmet of Bagnaia prevailing – and another major championship added to the ever-growing trophy case at One Monster Way in Corona, Calif.
Monster Energy’s 2023 MotoGP overall season standings
1st – Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo)
3rd – Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing)
8th – Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing)
10th – Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha)