Winner on MotoGP’s first visit of the season to his home Misano circuit, Francesco Bagnaia returns knowing that a double victory will also keep his slim title hopes alive.
The Ducati star is now 52-points behind Fabio Quartararo, who can effectively win the world championship – with two rounds and 50 points still to go – if he beats Bagnaia on Sunday.
“To be back racing at Misano after the stunning victory that I took here in front of my home crowd a month ago is definitely very exciting!” said Bagnaia, who held off Quartararo’s Yamaha by just 0.364s but then lost four points to the Frenchman with third place last time in COTA.
“That weekend everything was perfect, and the two days of post-race testing were very positive for us.
“Nevertheless, we have to stay focused: our rivals will come to this Grand Prix much better prepared, and the track conditions will be different, with lower track temperatures than a month ago.
“It will be essential to work well from the first sessions. The objective will be to fight for the win and keep the Championship open until the end.”
Team-mate Jack Miller could help Bagnaia’s cause, the Australian qualified second to Bagnaia at the previous Misano round and let Bagnaia pass without any obstruction in COTA.
“I’m happy to be back racing at Misano again this year,” said Miller, fifth at last month’s race. “It’s Ducati’s home track, and there are always many fans there to support us, so this weekend will definitely be special too.
“We were pretty competitive at the last Grand Prix, even though we didn’t get the results we wanted in the race, but now we have a more solid base to work from over the weekend. We also had two days of testing in September, and the feedback was excellent.
“Certainly, the conditions will be different from a month ago, and our rivals will be more competitive, but I’m optimistic and determined to fight for a good result. We’re close to third place in the Championship, so it will be crucial to try and score as many points as possible.”
Miller would no doubt relish the chance to catch reigning champion Joan Mir (+26 points) in the standings, the pair having clashed on several occasions this season, including COTA, where the Suzuki rider was docked a position.
Meanwhile, Ducati now has a slim lead to protect over Yamaha in both the constructors’ (+9 points) and teams’ (+2 points) titles.
A third factory run Desmosedici will be on track this weekend with test rider making his 60th MotoGP appearance.
“I’m excited to be racing here at Misano again,” he said. “At the last Grand Prix here in September, I came close to a top ten finish, finishing eleventh in a great race that I really enjoyed! I hope I can do even better this weekend.
“Still, the main objective will be to help Pecco and Jack get the best possible result in the race and collect other important data to continue developing our Desmosedici GP.
“Racing on our home track is always very exciting: we’ll give our best to try to entertain as much as possible all the Ducatisti who will come to cheer for us here in Misano!