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Bagnaia doubles up with Mugello masterclass

Monday, 12 June 2023

Ducati's reigning world champion Pecco Bagnaia wins his home Grand Prix for the second year running, dominating both the sprint and feature races to extend his championship advantage in Italy.

Reigning world champion Pecco Bagnaia made a decisive move in his quest for back-to-back titles at the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello, the Ducati rider taking pole and winning both the Saturday sprint and Sunday feature races to extend his series lead to 21 points.

The Italian was peerless in winning at home for a second consecutive year, repelling compatriot and nearest title rival Marco Bezzecchi (Ducati) in Saturday's 11-lap sprint, and then leading from the second corner of the first lap onwards in Sunday's processional 23-lap feature race, eventually finishing 1.067secs clear of Ducati's Jorge Martin.


Martin's teammate Johann Zarco rounded out the rostrum, the second all-Ducati podium in as many races and third in six Grands Prix this season.

A subdued Bezzecchi could only advance to eighth from ninth on the grid on Sunday, while the first non-Ducati finisher was KTM's Brad Binder, who was 8.925secs behind Bagnaia in fifth place.

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Just 22 bikes started the race after Honda pair Joan Mir and Alex Rins were late withdrawals, Mir hurting his wrist in a Friday practice crash, and Rins breaking his right leg in the Saturday sprint.

Of the three non-finishers on Sunday, two were the Marquez siblings – Marc crashing out of the top five just six laps in to continue a miserable season where he's yet to finish on a Sunday, while Alex fell from third place with eight laps left.

Aussie watch

Jack Miller had a start and first corner to remember before an Italian Grand Prix that petered out on Sunday, the Australian finishing seventh after initially stealing the spotlight when the lights went out to start the 23-lap race.

From fourth on the grid, Miller made an electric getaway on his KTM to scythe down the inside of pole-sitter Bagnaia to lead at Turn 1, but his former teammate quickly regained the advantage at the next corner as Miller's afternoon became one of largely going backwards.

Using a hard-soft front/rear tyre combination, Miller repeatedly struggled under braking into San Donato, the heavy-braking Turn 1 at Mugello, and narrowly escaped being skittled by Alex Marquez (Ducati) at that same turn on lap three, the Spaniard getting into the corner too hot and making contact with Miller's KTM.

Miller spent the final five laps in a fight with Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia), losing sixth place to the Spaniard with three laps to go, and falling just 0.091secs short of stealing it back at the finish line after making a desperate run out of the final corner.

After finishing sixth in Saturday's sprint to accumulate 13 points for the weekend, Miller improved to seventh in the riders' standings with 62 points for the season.

Mugello mixed promise with pain for Australia's Moto3™ rider Joel Kelso; competing in his last race as a teenager, the CFMOTO Racing PruestelGP rider was a spectacular second in qualifying to KTM pole-sitter Deniz Oncu, but was one of six riders to be sent to the back of the grid as a penalty for riding slowly on the racing line during Saturday's third practice session.

Starting from 21st, Kelso served his long-lap penalty for the practice infringement on lap four of the 17-lap race, but crashed out of 20th place at the final corner four laps later.

Surprise packet

Describing a sixth place for Aleix Espargaro as a surprise after the veteran Spaniard finished fourth in last year's world championship doesn't make much sense on the surface, but the Aprilia rider defied the pain barrier to finish 10.098secs behind race-winner Bagnaia from seventh on the grid on Sunday to bag 10 world championship points under self-inflicted duress.

Espargaro crashed his bicycle while riding around the Mugello circuit in the fog on the Thursday before the race, admitting he "was using my telephone like stupid" when he came off his bike and hurt his back, arm and particularly his heel, which was filled with blood and required plenty of medical attention for him to even use the rear brake of his Aprilia effectively.

A crash in Friday practice only complicated matters, but eighth in the sprint race and sixth in the Grand Prix proper helped to quell the pain as he improved to ninth place in the riders' standings.

Number to know

366.1: In kilometres per hour, Brad Binder's MotoGP™-record top speed during the Sprint on Saturday, his KTM breaking the old fastest-ever speed mark by over 3km/h. The South African's pace on Mugello's start-finish straight equates to a staggering 101 metres per second …

Italian Motorcycle Grand Prix: top 10

1. Pecco Bagnaia (Ducati) 41mins 16.863secs
2. Jorge Martin (Ducati) +1.067secs
3. Johann Zarco (Ducati) +1.977secs
4. Luca Marini (Ducati) +4.625secs
5. Brad Binder (KTM) +8.925secs
6. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) +10.908secs
7. Jack Miller (KTM) +10.999secs
8. Marco Bezzecchi (Ducati) +12.654secs
9. Enea Bastianini (Ducati) +17.102secs
10. Franco Morbidelli (Yamaha) +17.610secs

Riders' championship standings (top 5)

1. Pecco Bagnaia (Ducati) 131 points
2. Marco Bezzecchi (Ducati) 110 points
3. Jorge Martin (Ducati) 107 points
4. Brad Binder (KTM) 92 points
5. Johann Zarco (Ducati) 88 points

What's next?

Round 7: Germany (Sachsenring), June 18