MotoGP: Bagnaia victorious in Valencia, Rossi bids farewell
Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) took victory as the Italian led home a historic Ducati 1-2-3 at the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana, he once again perfectly-poised as he saw the flag just ahead of Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) and Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) for a Bologna lockout.
The race will forever be remembered as Valentino Rossi’s (Petronas Yamaha SRT) last dance too, and The Doctor delivered a P10 in his farewell MotoGP™ appearance in front of a packed Circuit Ricardo Tormo crowd. Bagnaia also dedicated the win to his mentor.
Danilo Petrucci (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing) saw the chequered flag in P17 as the Italian premier class race winner also says goodbye to Grand Prix racing in an emotional Sunday in Valencia, teammate Iker Lecuona heads for WorldSBK after scoring a final point of the year.
Rewinding to lights out and polesitter Martin grabbed the holeshot into Turn 1 as fourth place Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) got a great start to get the better of Bagnaia, with Miller slotting into second. Rossi made a good start and was up a place into P9, whereas World Champion Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) was P6. Up ahead, Miller then dived up the inside of Martin at Turn 1 on Lap 2 to take the lead, but it was short-lived. Martin and Mir cut through on Lap 2, and Miller down to third, then it was fourth, then fifth – the Australian was going backwards after briefly leading.
The Suzukis were charging though – hard. Mir was harassing Martin, before Bagnaia then used the GP21’s superior grunt to take P2 off the 2020 Champion. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) then snuck past Mir at Turn 6 on Lap 3, as the top four – Martin, Bagnaia, Rins and Mir – started to create a gap to now fifth-placed Quartararo. Miller was down to P6, seemingly struggling in the early stages.
The race then settled as the front runners held station, but Martin, Bagnaia and Rins were now 0.7s ahead of Mir. After a few laps of following the World Champion, Miller was back through on Quartararo and up to P5, as Rins set the fastest lap of the race. However, at Turn 6 on Lap 11 of 27, Rins then went down. The Spaniard tucked the front of his GSX-RR, handing teammate Mir third. Rossi, meanwhile, was now 10th, 0.6s down on Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama) who, as things stood, was losing out on the Rookie of the Year crown with Martin leading…
Bagnaia was swarming all over the back of the race-leading rookie though and with 12 laps to go, at Turn 14, Bagnaia pounced. Now, with some clear air, what could the Italian do? The fastest lap, a 1:31.042, came next and the hammer was well and truly down. His mentor Rossi was still 10th with 11 laps to go, but VR46 Academy’s first World Champion and fellow Yamaha star Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) was behind him…
Up front though, Martin was not letting Bagnaia pull clear. On two consecutive laps, the rookie was quicker than Bagnaia, and a second or so behind, Miller grabbed P3 off Mir at Turn 2. It was a Ducati 1-2-3 with eight laps to go, and history was on the cards for the Bologna factory. Miller wasn’t done yet either, the Australian 1.3s back when he passed Mir, but by five laps to go, he was just 0.7s off Martin.
With two laps of the season to go, Bagnaia was 0.8s clear of Martin and it seemed the battle would be for second. Miller was closer than ever to Martin, but the rookie was holding firm. Unable to make a move, Miller couldn’t quite make it a factory Ducati 1-2 as Bagnaia crossed the line to win for a fourth time in 2021, although Martin clinched the Rookie of the Year crown with a P2. Miller, in third, helps Ducati make history with their first 1-2-3 in MotoGP™ with his fifth rostrum. In addition, Bagnaia’s P1 and Miller’s P3 helps Ducati take the Teams’ Championship, adding to their Constructors’ crown.
Mir held onto P4 by just 0.2s in the end as Quartararo homed in, but El Diablo takes P5 to cap off a title-winning season. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) was P6, Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was P7, with Bastianini’s P8 was not quite good enough for the Rookie of the Year title – nine points split the Italian and Martin in the end. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) struggled in the latter stages and slipped to P9, finishing one place ahead of The Doctor.
Valentino Rossi took P10, where he started, to bow out in style. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe the Italian’s glistening Grand Prix career, as one of the world’s biggest sporting icons bids a fond farewell to the sport he loves – and the sport that loves him. Grazie Vale, from millions of fans around the globe!
Morbidelli crossed the line less than a second away from Rossi as the Italian now aims to get fully fit for 2022, Andrea Dovizioso (Petronas Yamaha SRT) had a good final weekend of the season to finish in P12, and Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol), Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and WorldSBK-bound Lecuona take home the final points of 2021. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) joined Rins in suffering a DNF in Valencia, the Japanese rider was perfectly ok after his Turn 6 crash.
And that, as they say, is a wrap. The curtain comes down on 2021, as we say ciao to the icon that is Valentino Rossi. The number 46 will be missed immensely on and off track in 2022 and beyond, but MotoGP™ couldn’t be in a better place. The next generation is here, Rossi’s legacy will live on with his VR46 Academy and new MotoGP™ team, and Yamaha and Quartararo will be aiming to defend their title against a whole host of unbelievable bikes and riders. What a year! And #GrazieVale!
Francesco Bagnaia: “It’s the only possible thing today – to give a present for Vale. With this helmet, to do a race like that so I want to dedicate this race to him and say thanks to him for what’s he done for us in the academy. So it’s for him, I’m very happy because before the weekend I wasn’t sure it was possible to do a race like this but all the improvements we made this year with my riding style and the bike, finally, we arrived here and were one of the fastest. I’m very happy we won today and it’s an incredible way to end the season.”
MotoGP™ podium (Full Results Here)
1 Francesco Bagnaia – Ducati Lenovo Team – Ducati – 41’15.481
2 Jorge Martin* – Pramac Racing – Ducati – +0.489
3 Jack Miller – Ducati Lenovo Team – Ducati – +0.823
In a tense, red-flagged race at the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana, Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was crowned the 2021 Moto2™ World Champion after finishing P10 on Sunday afternoon. Teammate and title rival Raul Fernandez won for an incredible eighth time to finish just four points down in the overall standings, as Fabio Di Giannantonio (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) and Augusto Fernandez (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) claimed podiums.
The Moto2™ title decider got underway but a crash involving Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46), Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) and Lorenzo Baldassarri (MV Agusta Forward Racing) brought out the red flags, with an oil spillage occurring between Turns 2 and 3. All riders were ok, a brief pause in proceedings happened with a clean up operation underway.
There was a little more drama though. After claiming his first pole since 2012 on Saturday, Simone Corsi (MV Agusta Forward Racing) pulled into pitlane after the Warm Up lap and the experienced Italian was out of the race with a technical issue. Meanwhile on track, Augusto Fernandez led Raul Fernandez into Turn 1, with the latter taking the lead at Turn 6 on Lap 2. Gardner made a steady start and was ninth.
Raul Fernandez wasn’t having it all his own way at the front though. Di Giannantonio came through on the Spaniard to lead on Lap 4, with Gardner slipping backwards. Jorge Navarro (Termozeta Speed Up), Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) and Tom Lüthi (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team) all passed Gardner and suddenly, the Australian was P11 – and had former teammate Tetsuta Nagashima (Italtrans Racing Team) swarming all over the back of him. Still, though, as things stood – Raul Fernandez P2, Gardner P11 – the title was heading to Gardner.
With six laps to go, the Australian found a way past Lüthi at Turn 4 into P10. The top three – Diggia, Raul Fernandez and Augusto Fernandez – were split by nothing, with Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) 1.2s back on the podium scrap in P4. Then, with four to go, Raul Fernandez pounced on Diggia at Turn 2. A classic block pass from the Spaniard saw him take the lead, but with Gardner 10th, it still wasn’t enough. Gardner, in turn, was two seconds behind Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) in ninth, although only 0.6s ahead of Nagashima in 11th…
Two laps to go saw Raul Fernandez P1, Gardner P10. Diggia and Augusto Fernandez were still in touch with the race leader too, and Gardner was keeping Nagashima at bay. By the last lap, a tense 0.3s was the advantage Raul Fernandez held over Diggia and Augusto Fernandez, and Gardner was still 10th – able to just keep his own three-tenth advantage over Nagashima on the chase. Raul Fernandez was holding up his end of the bargain and so was Gardner, but as the rookie sensation crossed the line to take a Marquez-beating, mesmerising eighth victory of the season, taking the chequered flag in P10 made Remy Gardner the the 2021 Moto2™ World Champion.
Diggia and Augusto Fernandez rode superbly to finish just behind Raul Fernandez in P2 and P3, and rookie Vietti ended his campaign with an equal-best result in P4. Aron Canet (Inde Aspar Team) rounded out the top five, with Vierge finishing P6 despite being involved in the red-flagged crash, a great result for the Spaniard who heads off to WorldSBK in 2022.
Lowes, Navarro and Schrötter crossed the line in 7th, 8th and 9th respectively, before Gardner claimed 10th. It was a nervy race, but 10th was more than enough. Nagashima claimed P11, and Lüthi – in his final Grand Prix – notched up P12 as we bid a fond farewell to the fourth highest Grand Prix appearance maker after 318 starts. Stefano Manzi (Flexbox HP40), Marcos Ramirez (American Racing) and WorldSBK-bound Hafizh Syahrin (NTS RW Racing GP) claimed the final points.
A simply outstanding title race between Gardner and Raul Fernandez ends with the Australian coming out on top. A staggering season by both, now we get ready to watch them move to MotoGP™ with Tech3 KTM Factory Racing in 2022. Tune in for more next season as they switch orange for… orange!
Raul Fernandez: “It was a fantastic race, I did my job and won. I’m happy with that. We did an incredible season, in the end we didn’t win the Championship but in was the best season of my life, I enjoyed it like a kid and we won eight races. Before we started if anyone told me I’d win two or three I wouldn’t believe it. Now we have eight.”
Moto2™ podium (Full Results Here)
1 Raul Fernandez – Red Bull KTM Ajo – Kalex – 25’38.612
2 Fabio Di Giannantonio – Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 – Kalex – +0.517
3 Augusto Fernandez – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – Kalex – +0.786
Xavier Artigas (Leopard Racing) is a Grand Prix winner! The rookie played it to perfection with a last corner lunge on Sergio Garcia (Valresa GASGAS Aspar Team) to take his first Moto3™ win in style, with the number 11 forced to settle for second. Jaume Masia (Red Bull KTM Ajo) rounds out the season on the rostrum, with drama earlier on the final lap as contact between Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing) and World Champion Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) saw the latter crash out.
Off the line it was as you were for the front row, with Acosta getting a great start from pole to lead the freight train away. Izan Guevara (Valresa GASGAS Aspar Team) soon struck to take second from Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) though, and drama came early just behind. Lorenzo Fellon (SIC58 Squadra Corse) crashed out, and almost simultaneously Darryn Binder (Petronas Sprinta Racing) had his own higside mid-track, forcing a few into avoiding action. Ryusei Yamanaka (CarXpert PrüstelGP) wasn’t able to and also went down, riders ok but the group taking a few corners to settle.
At the front, the leaders were a train of 12. Acosta, Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech3), Artigas, Masia, Guevara, Andrea Migno (Rivacold Snipers Team), Garcia, Filip Salač (CarXpert PrüstelGP), Foggia, Stefano Nepa (BOE Owlride) and Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team). As ever, the chopping and changing saw plenty of places exchanged.
Another frisson of drama then saw Öncü and Salač both get Long Laps for track limits, which they took quickly – but they slotted back in at the back of the group. In turn, that helped the second gaggle of riders, led by Niccolo Antonelli (Avintia VR46 Academy) tag onto the group, and he brought the likes of John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) and Ayumu Sasaki (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) – the Japanese rider from the very back after an incredible charge after a tough qualifying – into the mix. Next, Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) crashed at Turn 1 too, making one less in the group.
As the final few laps dawned, the melee turned into a 2021 Moto3™ classic at the front: Acosta vs Foggia. And heading onto the final lap, the Leopard machine led the Red Bull KTM Ajo rider over the line, with Artigas, Garcia and Öncü for close company.
Acosta attacked at Turn 1, and Foggia lined him up to return the favour at Turn 2. But the Leopard rider was in too deep and there was contact between the two, with the newly-crowned World Champion then unable to hold it and skidding off into the gravel. Rider ok and Foggia continued, but the incident was under investigation by the Stewards.
Artigas picked their pockets in the melee and in turn, Garcia then attacked the number 43. The GASGAS rider took over in the lead, holding on as the corners ticked down. Masia also got past Öncü with some well-judged aggression, but it all went down to the last apex.
As they headed into the final corner, Artigas attacked for the lead as Öncü attacked for third. The rookie – and wildcard Valencia podium finisher – pitched it to perfection to slot past Garcia, but Öncü headed well wide. On the drag to the line, Garcia tucked in to try and hit back but Artigas held on, the rookie taking his first win and completing the set for the three frontrunning rookies this season: Acosta, Guevara and Artigas have now all won races after an incredible season.
Garcia was forced to settle for second but returns to the podium after his injury struggles, and Masia completes the rostrum to end the year on a high. Öncü was picked off by Salač as the Czech rider took one of his best finishes in his last Moto3™ race, with Öncü relegated to fifth by the flag.
Stefano Nepa (BOE Owlride) took sixth after an impressive Sunday, with Guevara just behind. Carlos Tatay (Avintia Esponsorama) was next up as he made good progress to take a good haul of points, with Antonelli taking ninth to sign off from Moto3™ in the top ten. Completing that top ten was Sasaki after a stunning recovery ride from the number 71, coming from the very back to P10.
McPhee took P11 ahead of Fenati, another who leaves for Moto2™, after the veteran Italian exceeded track limits on the final lap and was demoted a position behind McPhee. Meanwhile, the result of the Stewards’ investigation relegated Foggia to thirteenth as the Italian was given a three-second penalty for the Acosta incident.
An incredibly tight three-way fight for P14 saw Adrian Fernandez (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) just take it, with Jeremy Alcoba (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3) taking the last point to deny Riccardo Rossi (BOE Owlride). KTM also wrapped the Constructors’ crown, their fifth in the class, with a KTM needing to finish in the top nine and that more than fulfilled with one on the podium in P3 with Masia.
That’s a wrap on 2021, with pastures new for some and a recharge and reset for others. It’s been a truly remarkable season and the Champion now moves up, so join us again next year to see who succeeds Acosta and writes their own chapter in the history books!
Moto3™ podium (Full Results Here)
1 Xavier Artigas – Leopard Racing – Honda – 38’30.302
2 Sergio Garcia – Valresa GASGAS Aspar – GASGAS – +0.043
3 Jaume Masia – Red Bull KTM Ajo – KTM – +0.232