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As MotoGP™ headed for the rolling Tuscan hills in the north of Italy, much of the pre-race talk was dominated by the possibility of a first-ever Ducati podium lock-out. And why not? Mugello is after all the home of the Bologna bullets, and three of the men riding the GP21s have been in nothing short of sensational form.
Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) was chasing a hat-trick of victories, his teammate Francesco Bagnaia sat second in the Championship standings, while Pramac Racing counterpart Johann Zarco had taken the chequered flag second on three different occasions in the preceding five rounds. It was fair to say that expectations were high for Ducati.
Yet, it didn’t go their way at the Italian GP, as none of them featured among the rostrum places, with there instead being joy for Yamaha, KTM and Suzuki. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) stole a march to the line to spoil the Ducati homecoming. The Frenchman securing a third victory of 2021 and, in the process, extending his lead in the title race to 24 points in what was one of the toughest of weekends for motorcycle racing.
"It was so difficult to stay focused because of the minute’s silence observed just before the start," said Quartararo.
“But once in the lead, I thought only of myself. I absolutely wanted to dedicate this victory to Jason. This Sunday, a second place would not have been enough. It's a shame that Pecco fell so prematurely. But I took this opportunity to escape."
Indeed, after a brief fight against his compatriot Zarco, the Yamaha rider took off.
“I think we have a fairly complete package. Of course, our top speed is not yet the best, but we won on two of the circuits where the Ducatis were given the favourites, he said. No one expected to see a Yamaha, a KTM and a Suzuki on the podium this Sunday. We were just missing the front device, because our starts were a disaster, which we have remedied. Today I just made sure to make up for our speed deficit on the other parts of the track."
Quartararo dedicates Italian GP victory to Dupasquier
Quartararo wasn’t the only rider to capitalise on Bagnaia’s crash, with Zarco moving ahead of the Italian to sit second in the Championship standings, giving French fans of the sport plenty to cheer about. The Pramac man was the best placed of the Desmosedicis on track, crossing the line fourth to pick up 13 crucial points, despite colliding with Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama) pre-race.
"I am satisfied, above all, because this race was full of emotions, between the announcement of Jason's death and this collision with Enea on the grid," said the two-time Moto2™ World Champion.
What happened between Zarco and Bastianini pre-race?
“I admit I was surprised. I was almost afraid I wouldn't be able to start. Luckily the bike was not damaged, and I was able to do the whole race. After the fall of Pecco, Fabio was in the lead. I managed to pass him several times to keep him from leaving. But he was very strong in the sense that he managed to overtake me very early in the lap, so as to create a sufficient gap in the twisty part and to be out of reach."
“It would have taken me a few more tenths to be able to follow him. On the positive side, I still learned a lot. And then Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) arrived, we started to overtake each other, but then my bike was moving a lot out of the bends. I was spending a lot of energy trying to hold it back. As a result, I lost some time at the end of the race. I tried to climb back up for the podium, I couldn’t.”
Oakley Italian Grand Prix: MotoGP™ 15 minute race highlights
"Either way, those 13 points are very important for the Championship, especially in such a weekend. I am now second in the general classification. Fabio has a great operation, but I feel that I am close to something very good to be competitive and to fight against him!"
As we head for Barcelona, expect to see some further French flair on the circuit as the countrymen prepare to do battle.
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