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Highlights: Bagnaia escapes the chaos to triumph in Sepang
Since getting back onto the top step of the podium in Malaysia, Francesco ‘Pecco’ Bagnaia (Pull&Bear Aspar Mahindra) hasn’t been able to stop thinking about his MotoGP™ test that will take place on Tuesday 15th November in Valencia. Bagnaia will ride the Aspar Team’s Ducati GP14.2 after winning a bet against Team Manager Jorge Martinez “Aspar” and Sporting Director Gino Borsoi.
Bagnaia’s win in Malaysia was his second of the season, after also taking victory in a very different race at the TT Circuit Assen - when the difference between winning and losing was only thousandths of a second.
How did you celebrate the victory?
Francesco Bagnaia: “When I got home it was already Monday and also Halloween. I had a party with my friends to take advantage of the coincidence – but mainly to celebrate the win.”
You now have two victories and six podiums, making this year your best since your debut in the World Championship. What mark would you give yourself?
FB21: “I’d give myself an eight. We started really well, with a podium in Qatar, but over the course of the season we’ve had problems in some races – and in others I’ve made mistakes – like in Austria. We’ve not always been able to get the results we wanted. Despite that, in general it’s been a great year.”
How much has the bike changed from the start of the season until now?
FB21: “We’ve worked really hard in the races to get a good setup, and I think we’ve done a good job because now it goes really well. At the start it was a bit difficult, because when the new bike arrived in December we didn’t have time to try things, and that penalised us a bit at the start of the year. Now we’re at the front, fighting with Honda and KTM.”
What would you say are the strong points of the bike, and what do you think could be improved?
FB21: "The strong points are clearly in the chassis. That helps me a lot because of my riding style, and it allows me to brake late because the bike turns well. I think it’s still missing a bit in acceleration and the gearbox still needs some work."
With victory at Sepang you’ve moved up to third in the Championship standings: a goal you set for yourself – but at times had seemed quite far away.
FB21: “That’s my goal and it has been my goal all season. We would be much closer to achieving that if I hadn’t been taken out in Australia, because the difference in points to Bastianini would be a lot less. In Valencia we’ll have the chance to fight to be runner-up – it’s far away, but we’ll do everything we can to achieve it.”
After the race in Malaysia you revealed you had a bet with Jorge Martinez and Gino Borsoi if you won another race. How did that come about and what was it exactly?
FB21: “The bet was born near the start of the season, in Argentina or Texas. Me and Jorge Martin were in the MotoGP box. I sat on Eugene Laverty’s bike and told Jorge I wanted to try it. Gino Borsoi overheard me and came over – and he said that if I won two races this year then I could try it in Valencia at the test.”
When did you think you’d be able to achieve that win you were missing?
FB21: "It’s clear that if Binder, Mir and Dalla Porta hadn’t fallen in the first few laps when we were at the front that it would have been more difficult – but we were strong throughout the weekend. When after the next lap I did, on my own, I saw the gap back to the others going up, I started to think the goal was a lot closer and I could do it.”
Have you dreamed about this test a lot? How do you imagine it?
FB21: “For me it’s important. Not all riders have this opportunity and to be able to do it is incredible. But I didn’t want to think about it and I didn’t dedicate a lot of time to it because it’s one of those things that if it doesn’t happen, it’ll feel worse. Now I’ve managed it, I’m daydreaming about it every day. The plan is to do six or seven laps on Tuesday but I think until the gas runs out I’ll keep going!”
It will be the icing on the cake after two seasons with the team. What does it mean to you to have spent two years with the advice and support of a four time World Champion like Jorge Martinez?
FB21: “They have been two incredible years for me, since the beginning the team have supported me a lot. Jorge, Gino, my technical team and the great relationship I have with my teammate…to ride for Aspar is synonymous with being in a family. All the suggestions I’ve made they’ve listened to, and that’s really important in a team. There’s a strong bond between the whole group and that will always remain there. And being able to count on the experience of “Aspar” has given us the energy to keep going in the most difficult moments.”