Francesco “Pecco” Bagnaia and his Ducati Desmosedici GP23 proved to be the tour de force at the Italian MotoGP 2023, held at the Mugello Circuit over last weekend.
The weekend initially looked bleak for the Ducati factory team as Bagnaia entered the pits on crutches, still sustaining the broken tallus (bone in the foot) after the accident with Maverick Vinalez in the French round two weeks prior. His teammate Enea Bastianini was also far from being 100% fit. Consequently, Bagnaia and Bastianini ended P1 in 16th and 15th, respectively.
As for the LCR Honda team, Alex Rins and Takaagi Nakagami ended the session in 12th and 13th.
However, Bagnaia, Bastianini and their team staged a turnaround for P2 held later that day. First, Bagnaia knocked 1.5 seconds off his previous time and ended up at the top of the timesheets, putting him straight into Q2. Bastianini rubbed off 1.2 seconds and found himself in 6th, also moving him directly into Q2.
Come Saturday, Bagnaia stomped the field to deliver his best time of the weekend to earn Pole Position for the later Sprint Race and Sunday’s Main Race, fighting through the mind games attempted by another rider who entered the racing line just as Bagnaia was lining up the first turn during his flying lap.
Aleix Rins also did well to qualify 9th on the struggling Honda RC213V, while Nakagami ended the session in 16th.
Bagnaia then nailed the start of the Sprint Race, and controlled the race from the front to lead an all Ducati podium from Marco Bezzecchi and Jorge Martin.
Unfortunately, Rins had a brutal crash in the Sprint Race which broke his tibia and fibula. A surgery to attach an external fixator followed that very night.
On Sunday, Bagnaia once again claimed the holeshot when the lights went out to control the race from the front, followed closely by Jorge Martin while leaving their rivals to squabble among themselves further down the order. The remaining podium position was so hotly contested that there were several close overtaking manoeuvres and two riders crashing out.
Bagnaia’s win sees him pulling ahead in the Riders Championship standings with 131 points ahead of Bezzecchi with 110 points, and Martin in third with 107 points.
Our thoughts also go out to Alex Rins and hope he gets well soon.