Sunday, 14 November 2021

For the fourth time in 2021, Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) took victory as the Italian led home a historic Ducati 1-2-3 at the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana, Pecco once again perfectly-poised as this time he saw the flag just ahead of Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) and Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) for a Bologna lockout. The race will forever be remembered as Valentino Rossi’s (Petronas Yamaha SRT) last dance too, and The Doctor delivered a P10 in his farewell MotoGP™ appearance in front of a packed Circuit Ricardo Tormo crowd. Pecco also dedicated the win to his mentor.

Danilo Petrucci (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing) saw the chequered flag in P17 as the Italian premier class race winner also says goodbye to Grand Prix racing in an emotional Sunday in Valencia, and teammate Iker Lecuona heads for WorldSBK after scoring a final point of the year.

Rewinding to lights out and polesitter Martin grabbed the holeshot into Turn 1 as fourth place Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) got a great start to get the better of Bagnaia, with Miller slotting into second. Rossi made a good start and was up a place into P9, whereas World Champion Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) was P6. Up ahead, Miller then dived up the inside of Martin at Turn 1 on Lap 2 to take the lead, but it was short-lived. Martin and Mir cut through on Lap 2, and Miller down to third, then it was fourth, then fifth – the Australian was going backwards after briefly leading.

The Suzukis were charging though – hard. Mir was harassing Martin, before Pecco then used the GP21’s superior grunt to take P2 off the 2020 Champion. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) then snuck past Mir at Turn 6 on Lap 3, as the top four – Martin, Bagnaia, Rins and Mir – started to create a gap to now fifth-placed Quartararo. Miller was down to P6, seemingly struggling in the early stages.

The race then settled as the front runners held station, but Martin, Bagnaia and Rins were now 0.7s ahead of Mir. After a few laps of following the World Champion, Miller was back through on Quartararo and up to P5, as Rins set the fastest lap of the race. However, at Turn 6 on Lap 11 of 27, Rins then went down. The Spaniard tucked the front of his GSX-RR, handing teammate Mir third.

Rossi, meanwhile, was now 10th, 0.6s down on Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama) who, as things stood, was losing out on the Rookie of the Year crown with Martin leading…

Bagnaia was swarming all over the back of the race-leading rookie though and with 12 laps to go, at Turn 14, Pecco pounced. Now, with some clear air, what could the Italian do? The fastest lap, a 1:31.042, came next and the hammer was well and truly down. His mentor Rossi was still 10th with 11 laps to go, but VR46 Academy’s first World Champion and fellow Yamaha star Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) was right behind him…

Up front though, Martin was not letting Pecco pull clear. On two consecutive laps, the rookie was quicker than Bagnaia, and a second or so behind, Miller grabbed P3 off Mir at Turn 2. It was a Ducati 1-2-3 with eight laps to go, and history was on the cards for the Bologna factory. Miller wasn’t done yet either, the Australian 1.3s back when he passed Mir, but by five laps to go, he was just 0.7s off Martin.

With two laps of the season to go, Pecco was 0.8s clear of Martin and it seemed the battle would be for second. Miller was closer than ever to Martin, but the rookie was holding firm. Unable to make a move, Miller couldn’t quite make it a factory Ducati 1-2 as Bagnaia crossed the line to win for a fourth time in 2021, although Martin clinched the Rookie of the Year crown with a P2 – his fourth podium of the season. Miller, in third, helps Ducati make history with their first 1-2-3 in MotoGP™ with his fifth rostrum. In addition, Bagnaia’s P1 and Miller’s P3 helps Ducati take the Teams’ Championship, adding to their Constructors’ crown.

Mir held onto P4 by just 0.2s in the end as Quartararo homed in, but El Diablo takes P5 to cap off a title-winning season. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) was P6, Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was P7, with Bastianini’s P8 was not quite good enough for the Rookie of the Year title – nine points split the Italian and Martin in the end. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) struggled in the latter stages and slipped to P9, finishing one place ahead of The Doctor.

Valentino Rossi took P10, where he started, to bow out in style. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe the Italian’s glistening Grand Prix career, as one of the world’s biggest sporting icons bids a fond farewell to the sport he loves – and the sport that loves him. Grazie Vale, from millions of fans around the globe!

Morbidelli crossed the line less than a second away from Rossi as the Italian now aims to get fully fit for 2022, Andrea Dovizioso (Petronas Yamaha SRT) had a good final weekend of the season to finish in P12, and Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol), Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and WorldSBK-bound Lecuona take home the final points of 2021.

Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) joined Rins in suffering a DNF in Valencia, the Japanese rider was perfectly ok after his Turn 6 crash.

And that, as they say, is a wrap. The curtain comes down on 2021, as we say ciao to the icon that is Valentino Rossi. The number 46 will be missed immensely on and off track in 2022 and beyond, but MotoGP™ couldn’t be in a better place. The next generation is here, Rossi’s legacy will live on with his VR46 Academy and new MotoGP™ team, and Yamaha and Quartararo will be aiming to defend their title against a whole host of unbelievable bikes and riders. What a year! And #GrazieVale!

Francesco Bagnaia (#63 Ducati Lenovo Team) – 1st
“I’m thrilled with the victory today. To win wearing Valentino Rossi’s helmet was incredible and the best way to celebrate his last race. Today’s success was incredible, and now we know we are ready to fight for the riders’ title next year. During this season, we have improved the bike’s setup race after race, and at the end of 2021, the Desmosedici GP has become very strong, as well as its riders. We have a very good base for next year, and I hope to start as we finish. We have gained a lot of experience, and we have grown a lot! The team is unbelievable, and the atmosphere inside the garage is amazing! I’m really happy, and I thank Ducati for all this”.

Jack Miller (#43 Ducati Lenovo Team) – 3rd
“I’m delighted, even though I would have liked to have achieved something more today. Unfortunately, I lost some time at the start and had to recover to get back in the fight for the podium. It was a good race, and I had a lot of fun. Valencia is a track I really like, and it’s nice to finish the season like this. It’s the first time three Ducatis have finished on the podium, and it’s great to be part of this important achievement. I’m sure our bike will be even better next year, so I’m looking forward to the 2022 season and trying to fight for the riders’ title. This year we finish fourth, and it is my best result ever in the MotoGP Championship, so I hope to do even better next year.”

Valentino Rossi – PETRONAS Yamaha SRT, 10th

“I didn’t expect that it could be a weekend like this. I was very worried for this weekend because I didn’t know how I felt and there was a lot of pressure with many things to do. It was fantastic, I received a lot of positive energy from all the people in the paddock and I had a lot of great surprises: from seeing all my bikes on Thursday, to all the VR46 Academy riders with my helmets today. I’m also happy because I was able to be strong in both Qualifying yesterday and in the race today, finishing in the top-ten. I enjoyed it a lot and it was the best way to finish. I am in the top ten best riders in the world and it means everything, because this result will never change. I also enjoyed the celebrations after the race. It was a long career and I want to say thanks to everybody.”