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Monster athletes at the 2018 GP of Qatar
NEWS

Pecco Bagnaia talks a breakthrough Moto2 title year

Nov 082018

Francesco ‘Pecco’ Bagnaia would seem to have it all. 21 years, looks, unwavering focus, the backing of Italy’s highest-profile team and the most potent infrastructure through the VR46 Academy, a GOAT for a tutor and now a place in the record books of Grand Prix motorcycle racing. In just his second year of Moto2 competition and the last season with that distinctive screech of 600cc Honda engines, #42 has achieved the distinction of world champion a year after Academy-mate and friend Franco Morbidelli shined the gold FIM winner’s medal.

Add a confirmed seat with the Alma Pramac Ducati team in MotoGP for 2019 and Bagnaia is really moving places.

Results and potential opens doors and brings spoils but it also invites other difficulties. We were keen to know how he handled the situation. We pinned Pecco to some time to explain the last nine months and his trek to the first momentous plinth of his career…

 

This has been a different season, a different way to go racing. You’ve been at the front every weekend and that must bring more scrutiny and pressure…
I think the biggest factor was consistency and staying with the same team, bike and category. Last year I was a rookie in Moto2 and I had to learn about the bike and the class. 2018 was the first season where everything was in place for me to try to win. I also changed my mentality this year. My training was the same, the set-up – apart from new suspension – and we also created a big ‘group’ in the team together with Luca. It felt we were working all together every week. We were at the front every session. It was like you could feel the strength back in the pitbox and this was important for me in a championship [push]. The consistency was key, especially in the second half of the season because I had a ninth place in Argentina [round two], which was not OK. In Barcelona and Sachsenring we had some bad luck with a [poor] rear tyre and [Mattia] Pasini crashing in front of me. From Brno [round ten] we were very constant and I’m really happy about that.

What’s it like to have a stellar season? You might win the first couple of rounds and have that euphoria but what about when you get to rounds ten, eleven, twelve and so on? Does the excitement dip and is replaced by another type of emotion?

Ha! For me it doesn't dip. I finished second in Japan [he was later awarded the win after Fabio Quatararo’s disqualification] and wasn’t very happy. On one side it was good for the championship because Oliveira was behind and it meant more points. It was the same in Aragon. When IRTA came to us in Japan and said I had the victory then I was really satisfied. I still think that for our team each and every win is something incredible. My best this year was in Thailand [round fifteen] because it was me and Luca versus Miguel and Brad. SKY versus Ajo! And we won the battle. I don't think Team Ajo were expecting us to be in the race because we were fast but not like them and we made a little step and could beat them. That was really nice. The best of the year.

 

Away from the bike what is it like to be a race winner and champion?

More media. I also have more people saying congratulations…even some that said a few years ago I was nothing. It is important at this time to know which people you need to have around you; those who love you and those that you can trust. I understand that very much now and have made a small step in that respect. [At the beginning] you get surrounded just because you are a [Grand Prix] rider…that’s not correct.

 

Are there other things to worry about now? Not just the bike, the result, the performance but also your appearances, profile, social media, sponsor obligations?

Yes, but maybe not at the level of a MotoGP rider still. It’s coming though. You have to take more care of things like Instagram and what kind of posts and the kind of image you want show. You cannot make a ‘story’ when you’re at a party with a drink! I mean, it’s not my problem but it is something you cannot really do. You have to make a good example for the people that follow you and your fans.

Moto2 this year was a good fight. Was having Miguel there a positive thing? Did it keep you sharp and focussed? Did it make for a better story than say a season of dominance?

I think so. It was really nice that we could fight like that. At Brno he was just two points behind me. It was close but we made a big step in the Czech Republic and then from Austria onwards. I think with a bit more luck in Barcelona and Sachsenring then the story might have been a bit different. This is part of racing though and you cannot have a full season of luck. You just have to give your best to make the best result possible. In the end I had some good points over Miguel, not like in Moto3 where it was just a few: I wouldn't have liked that!

 

Many riders have different dreams. Some just want to make it as a Pro, some just want to stand on a Grand Prix podium. Others only dream of victory or being a champion…What is your dream? You’ve won Grands Prix in two classes, you’ve won a title and now you go to MotoGP…

The dream changes, or maybe I should say the objective changes every year. I think the big dream is to do something with my life that I enjoy. And with a smile. My objective is to be one of the fastest motorcycle riders in the world.

 

Lastly, in Phillip Island and Sepang you were on the very edge of that title. It must be difficult to go into those weekends and races but was it also something terrifically exciting? It is not a sensation that very many people have at all…

It is something strange. It was my first time and I didn't really know what to do. I knew I wanted to win those races but then Pablo [Nieto, Team Manager] started to say I needed to be more calm and think of the overall picture. It was something I didn't want to know! If I started to think about it then I might have lost concentration. I needed to have my mind clear to push. But it all worked out!

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