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The Gran Premio Lenovo di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini was a mixed bag for Ducati. The huge positive to emerge was Francesco Bagnaia’s (Pramac Racing) incredible injury comeback performance, the Italian claiming a maiden MotoGP™ podium on home soil just over a month after fracturing his leg in Brno.
Bagnaia finished eight seconds ahead of the next fastest Ducati on Sunday at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, and just over two seconds away from victory. Not many people would have predicted the premier class sophomore to put in such a commanding performance in his first race since an engine issue ended his Andalucia GP charge, before his Brno FP1 crash. But Bagnaia firmly put those Jerez demons to bed with a formidable ride.
In terms of the Championship, it was also a good day for Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team). Thanks to Fabio Quartararo’s (Petronas Yamaha SRT) DNF, the experienced Italian now sits top of the tree by six points over the Frenchman. However, the 2018 Misano winner didn’t have a say in the podium battle, eventually getting the better of GP20 rival Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) in the closing stages to take the flag in P7 – eight seconds behind Bagnaia and over 10 seconds from winner Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT).
With Miller finishing 8th – the Australian picking up one place after Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) was handed a one-place penalty for exceeding track limits on the last lap – and Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) the other Ducati points scorer in P15, it wasn’t the best day at the office for the Bologna bullets. Despite the P8, Miller does retain P3 in the title race – but the competition has closed in.
For Bagnaia though, after missing the last three races through injury, a podium return can give him all the confidence he needs to push on and get into the World Championship fight. It’s the perfect start to the hectic run of races for the 2018 Moto2™ World Champion, who will now carry a whole heap of momentum into the second Misano weekend.
“I’m very happy to have started again from where we left. After the first day I was thinking more on the leg to try to understand what I needed to do to not have much pain in the race, I started to push again in FP3 and everything came to me easier,” reacted Bagnaia after the race.
“Also the Q2, starting from the second row, but I was not expecting to finish on the podium because the leg was painful, I’ve had a bit of pain during these days and I was thinking I was not able to make a podium. Then in warm up, I saw that I was strong and fast with my pace, I thought it was possible to finish in the top five. Then in the race, after the first four laps where I was struggling with the tyre, I was pushing and recovering the gap.
“The only problem is in the last four laps I was struggling a lot with the leg, the change of direction, the right corner was very strange for the leg. But I’m very happy. To finish second at home in the first race with people around the circuit, is something incredible. I want to dedicate this podium to all the people that have helped me in the last five weeks. They, we have done an incredible job.”
And an incredible job it certainly was. For Ducati though, something has to give. Dovizioso maybe Championship leader with Miller third, but a P7 and P8 isn’t what neither the riders or Ducati will be looking for. Having said that, taking points in the season has never been more important – taking what you can, when you can, is what needs to be done in 2020.
Now, Bagnaia and Ducati’s focus will turn to the upcoming Gran Premio TISSOT dell'Emilia Romagna e della Riviera di Rimini. What’s in store for the Bologna factory in a week’s time? We’ll soon know the answer.