5 years ago
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As the dust settles following a truly spectacular duel at MotorLand, the paddock is already setting up to take on the stunning Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli. For the winner of that Aragon showdown, Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team), there could scarcely be a better place to head next on the heels of his first MotoGP™ win. Home turf, and somewhere he's been incredibly quick before.
It wasn't just pace that Bagnaia had at MotorLand, however. What made his maiden win such a stunner was the sheer pressure from Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) lap after lap, the Italian brushing off Marquez' attempts at the lead like they weren't coming from one of the most decorated riders in history - or one of the most successful at anti-clockwise Aragon. It was no mean feat, and Marquez himself pointed out something in Bagnaia's arsenal that could be crucial come Misano too: corner speed.
Bagnaia has used it before to great effect at the track, even before he truly mastered the art this year, taking his first MotoGP™ podium in the first visit in 2020 and leading in the second until crashing out. But he also set the fastest race lap as he left the rest behind, and missed out on pole for track limits. That performance, compounded by MotorLand, will likely play on everyone's mind.
His fellow Ducati runners like stablemate Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team), who had an issue that took him wide at Aragon and then couldn't make up ground from fifth, will be looking for a lot more on home turf for the Borgo Panigale factory too. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) and teammate Johann Zarco had a more muted weekend at Aragon - the rookie fading a little after a good start and the Frenchman suffering some arm pump issues - and they'll want to bounce back.
Reigning Moto2™ Champion Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama) could be one to watch too: a stunning Aragon GP saw him take his best yet of sixth, and Misano is home, familiar and successful turf for the Italian, as well as where he took his first ever win in Moto3™. Ducati test rider Michele Pirro returns in a wildcard as well, often a bother for those looking to make it straight through to Q2, and Luca Marini (Sky VR46 Avintia) will want more on home turf - also a winner at the track in Moto2™.
The most likely barrier to Bagnaia and Ducati's dreams of Riviera di Rimini success though, despite Aragon, still likely comes from Yamaha. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) struggled for grip on Sunday at MotorLand and came home in eighth, giving up some points to both his key title rivals, but Misano is Yamaha territory. The Iwata marque is the most successful at the venue with eight wins, and Quartararo was already fast there as a rookie. Last season didn't quite go to plan, but the Frenchman has ramped it up so far in 2021. Will it be a showdown between the top two in the Championship this time around?
There are also some more headlines aside from El Diablo. Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT), by definition, as the Doctor takes on Misano for the penultimate time. Can the familiar ground help him move forward after a tough MotorLand? And Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis spoke of a "verbal" agreement regarding Quartararo and Rossi's teammates too: Franco Morbidelli is slated to return and move to Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP, and Andrea Dovizioso is expected to join the Petronas Yamaha SRT ranks alongside Rossi. Both home heroes, Morbidelli coming back from injury but a winner at the track last season... and Dovizioso returning to Yamaha. The two should be a treat to watch if their comebacks are confirmed.
Meanwhile, for Suzuki, Aragon was more a mixed bag. But reigning Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) locked out the podium and from a solid qualifying, and he's the only rider last year at Misano who was on the rostrum in both races. The track should suit and he's got and on form, so can he take that next step to trouble the top step? The mixed bag was more completed by teammate Alex Rins, meanwhile, as the winner of one of last year's races in Aragon equalled his worst ever MotoGP™ qualifying in P20 and then came home 12th. After a podium at Silverstone, was it a blip and can he prove so at Misano?
Aprilia continued showing form at Aragon, and will expect to carry that on at Misano. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) took fourth and was top Independent Team rider, which may not be another history-making milestone like Silverstone, but it's still their second best result in the MotoGP™ era. So the momentum rolls on, and Misano is familiar turf as well as home for the Noale factory. Maverick Viñales, new to the ranks, also has a few more laps round the venue on his new RS-GP, as it's where he got the first taste. A winner last year at the track too, can he take a step forward? Lorenzo Savadori will also make it three Aprilias on the grid as he returns in a wildcard with Aprilia Racing.
It will also be an interesting watch at Honda to see how Marc Marquez fares at a venue that's less emblematic for the Spaniard. MotorLand was a stunner, can he get in the podium fight again at Misano? And can Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) take a step back forward after a tougher day at the office in P13? Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) will want more too, having completed the top ten, and Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) crashed early so will want to bounce back. Stefan Bradl will also be on track in a wildcard for HRC.
And what about KTM? The Austrian factory took a podium last year at Misano, and Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) is building some good momentum to get in that mid-top ten again, incredible Red Bull Ring win aside. Iker Lecuona (Tech 3 KTM Factory Racing) put on quite a show at MotorLand once again too, storming through the ranks early on. What can he do? And can his teammate Danilo Petrucci and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing's Miguel Oliveira bother some bigger points hauls?
Bagnaia on a roll. Yamaha with an incredible record. Quartararo with proven pace and the likes of Mir, Miller and more waiting in the wings... Misano promises a showstopper, so tune in at 14:00 (GMT +2) when the lights go out for the Gran Premio OCTO di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini.
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