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Marini: Francesco Bagnaia would be MotoGP champion without VR46 Academy, but… | MotoGP

It adds to the Moto2 title Bagnaia won (riding for the VR46 team) in 2018 and puts him ahead of fellow Academy member and Moto2 champion Franco Morbidelli, whose MotoGP victories in 2020 served as inspiration for Bagnaia.

While Bagnaia was quick to credit the work of the Academy following his MotoGP title, the first by an Italian on an Italian bike since 1972, Rossi’s younger brother Luca Marini believes Pecco would still have all the attributes needed to be champion.

For Marini, the bigger question is whether Bagnaia, like many of the other VR46 Academy riders, would have dropped out of racing long before reaching the premier-class.

Bagnaia failed to score points during his debut Moto3 season, with Team Italia, before being picked up by the VR46 team and Academy the following year. He then moved to Mahindra where he took his first race wins before rejoining VR46’s own team in Moto2.

“I think that everybody finds his way because you don’t need the Academy, you don’t need nothing. You just need to be strong, talented, work a lot, have a clever mind, a strong mentality. And Pecco showed all this,” said Marini, who was team-mate to Bagnaia in Moto2 and now rides for VR46’s own team in MotoGP.

“In my opinion also without the Academy [he] would win this [MotoGP title]. But I don’t know if without the Academy he was able to continue his career in Moto3. This is maybe the question.

“Just like it was for Franco, like it was for Marco [Bezzecchi], like was for me. Because without the Academy maybe I was not able to go into the Pons team in the European Moto2 Championship [in 2015] and this was the key for my career. Because if I was not there, in my opinion, was impossible also for me.

“But maybe you can find the money another way, with your dad, with another manager. You can do it. If you want it enough you can.”

With four VR46 riders – Bagnaia, Morbidelli, Marini, Bezzecchi – now competing in MotoGP, plus the likes of Moto2 race winner Celestino Vietti looking to join in the near future, Marini says the Academy has exceeded even its own expectations.

“We didn’t need I think [to win the title] to understand the strength of the Academy,” said Marini. “The Academy brought four riders into MotoGP. All of us started very far away from MotoGP. We never thought to arrive here. Maybe also the top level of the Academy didn’t think that we would arrive!

“But we are here and now we need to improve the organisation, the situation, because it will be not easy in my opinion to manage four riders, I hope five in the future, fighting for victory in MotoGP.”

Unfortunately for Marini, a six-time race winner and title runner-up in Moto2, he is the only current VR46 Academy MotoGP rider still waiting for a podium.

The Italian finished in fourth place twice this season on his way to twelfth in the standings, plus two front-row starts and the fastest lap at Aragon. The 25-year-old then topped the timesheets at the Valencia test.

Marini believes a realistic next step is to try and break into the championship top five next season, when MotoGP will also introduce Saturday Sprint races.

“I hope that I can be fighting for the top positions, but I think that if you want to fight for the championship next year, you needed to finish this year in the top five,” he said.

“But now finishing P12 is a little bit too far, so make another step, finish in the top five [next year].

“We will also have Sprint races. This maybe changes a bit the situation, so it will be interesting and qualifying will become even more important. So I hope I can find a solution. I will train a lot to prepare better for qualifying.”

Marini and Bezzecchi will race year-old Ducati GP22s next season.

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