MotoGP: Francesco Bagnaia very close to the coronation, Fabio Quartararo in search of a miracle

Between Lourdes and Valence in Spain, there is a bit of road: nearly 555 kilometers. Yet it is a miracle that is required of Fabio Quartararo to retain his crown of MotoGP world champion, Sunday, November 6. Attacking the twentieth and final race of the season, the Frenchman on his Yamaha is 23 points behind the leader of the classification, the Italian Francesco “Pecco” Bagnaia (Ducati).

A hole. To hope to be crowned in the premier category, the Niçois must win the Grand Prix de Valence and pray that his rival will finish beyond fourteenth place or give up. A success from Quartararo combined with a fourteenth-place finish from Bagnaia would put the two men level, but the title would go to the Italian on the benefit of the number of victories this season.

The odds are not in Quartararo’s favor. During the 133 races together of the two pilots, it happened only four times that the Frenchman scored 25 points more than the Italian. Bagnaia therefore has its destiny in its hands to succeed Australian Casey Stoner, the last world champion on a Ducati in 2007.

“Pecco had a superb season and he fully deserved to be crowned, but the title is not yet acquired. In motorsport, anything can happen”, comments Claude Michy, the organizer of the Grand Prix de France since 1994. Under pressure, the Turinese can sometimes make mistakes. In 2022, he fell five times (Qatar, France, Catalonia, Germany, Japan) and finished beyond fourteenth place once (15e at the Indonesian Grand Prix).

Ducati Advantage

To clinch a second title, Quartararo can’t just wait for a misstep from his rival. He must also beat the Ducati armada, seven riders strong with an engine more powerful than that of the Yamaha, a very valuable advantage in a straight line. The form of the moment does not really plead in favor of the Frenchman, whose last victory dates back to June 19 in Germany. Nor the circuit. The 2021 world champion has never won in Valencia in four appearances (2e in 2019 as the best result).

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The dynamic is therefore on the side of its rival, irresistible in recent weeks. Arriving 91 points behind Quartararo in Germany, Francesco Bagnaia took over 114 in nine races. For once, the Italian does not hope to imitate the example of his compatriot Valentino Rossi. In 2006, the six-time world champion arrived in… Valencia eight points ahead of Nicky Hayden. Starting in the lead, Rossi fell on the fifth lap to finish thirteenth and hand over the title to the American.

The Ducati, which have won eleven of the nineteen races contested this season, have gradually increased in power over the months and seem very difficult to beat. The layout of the Spanish circuit should give them an advantage over the Yamahas. Last season, the Bologna constructor placed three “house” drivers on the podium in Valencia, a first for him. Quartararo was content with a fifth place.

Ducati has been assured of the manufacturer’s title since September. Which is anything but a surprise since the Bologna firm equips twice as many motorcycles on the starting grid as Yamaha or KTM, and four times as many as second in the standings, Aprilia.

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“The competition has never been so tight”

Will this domination last? This is possible because the current regulations, to which Ducati has been able to adapt perfectly, will not change before 2027. In MotoGP, the technical regulations are the result of tight negotiations between the manufacturers, the teams and Dorna, the championship promoter. It is adopted for five years and can only be modified if all stakeholders agree.explains Carmelo Ezpeleta, the boss of Dorna Sports.

In the paddock, some believe however that this domination harms the suspense of the championship. Not only because the Ducati riders are favored by the power of their engine, but also by the aerodynamic fairings invented by the Bologna firm – now copied by all the teams – which make overtaking difficult. “It’s a bogus trial.believes however Claude Michy. It happened in the past that Honda and Yamaha equally dominated the championship and no one was offended! »

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For the organizer of the Grand Prix de France, the hegemony of Ducati is called to be called into question by the progress of other manufacturers. “In motorsport, things can change very quickly, he said. In qualifying, there was often only four to six tenths of a difference between the top ten this season. And all manufacturers have won at least one Grand Prix. MotoGP competition has never been so tight, the show is guaranteed! »

In fact, despite its more limited means, Aprilia has managed to compete with the Ducati throughout the 2022 season. For its part, Yamaha is pinning great hopes on its new motorcycle, the 2023 YZR-M1, which will enter service in 2023. Until then, Fabio Quartararo can still deprive the Italian team of the driver’s title. All it takes is a “miracle”.

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