2021 FIM MotoGP World Championship
Round 16 – Misano, Italy
Following the trip across the Atlantic for the previous round in Austin, Texas, the MotoGP Paddock are now back in Europe and set to return to the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli in Italy for the second time, to contest round 16 of the MotoGP World Championship, at the Gran Premio Nolan del Made in Italy e dell’Emilia-Romagna.
Known as the ‘San Marino Grand Prix’, the circuit’s location near to the coast and the city of Rimini, the circuit has been a permanent and popular fixture on the MotoGP calendar since its return in 2007. Following Covid health restrictions and a limited capacity of 10,000 last year and an increased number at the race in September this year, this second 2021 race will see up to 35,000 allowed through the doors each day to cheer on their racing heroes.
It’s a big weekend and for two big reasons: first, Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) could lift the crown and become the first French premier class World Champion, and second, it’s the final dance on home turf for Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) as the icon prepares to hang up his racing leathers at the end of the season.
First, the title fight. Quartararo is now 52 points clear after pipping Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) to second in Austin and the Frenchman also, in doing so, halted what had been some serious momentum for Pecco after back to back wins for the Italian. But now it’s the turf that saw the two so closely matched on our last visit, it could be a hard-fought duel for the race and, potentially, the crown. Fireworks? There may well be plenty, and the magic number is 50: if Quartararo is that far ahead – or more – by the flag, he is the 2021 MotoGP World Champion.
If he wins, he’s Champion. If he’s second and Bagnaia behind him, he’s champion. From there the gaps in the points awarded get smaller and the possibilities more varied, although it would seem unlikely they’d both finish and finish far from the podium. On the other side of the coin, if Bagnaia is far enough ahead and gets the gap to below 50 again, he stays in the game and the battle rages on to the Algarve GP. Does that guarantee a gloves off tussle for glory? It could be quite the showdown.
“Austin was really tough but rewarding. That second place was great for the championship, especially because we only have three GPs left. For this final part of the competition my mindset has changed a little. The last time we were in Misano, I was racing for the win and not thinking about the championship at all. Of course I will still do my best as always to get the best result possible this weekend, because that‘s what I enjoy most, but I will try to be smart about it.”
“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! 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“.
The other players who could play a big role in the race will likely come out guns blazing too, with the countdown on for a number of key battles this season. That includes Rookie of the Year, and given it’s Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) ahead and Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama) on his tail, the latter of whom had race-winning pace on our last visit and took his first premier class podium, it could be a pivotal weekend there too as they’re split by just 11 points.
It also seems likely, comparing the first GP we had at Misano and then Texas, that Marquez will feature in the fight for the top five once again as a minimum, even as he continues to get back to his full form.
“We come back to Misano in a better situation, each weekend we have been able to improve a little bit more. Now we start the last three races of the year so hopefully we can continue the trend of recent rounds and end the season well. Last race here I had a very funny battle with Miller and Mir so hopefully we can be fighting once again. Let’s see what will happen, conditions could be quite different even if it’s just a few weeks later.”
Like his Repsol Honda Team teammate, Pol Espargaro is eager to return to the circuit after two weeks away and put what he learned during the post-race test to use. Espargaro earned a solid seventh place finish on his previous visit to Misano and is aiming for more after a productive two days testing at the Italian circuit. With tenth place in Austin, Espargaro has so far taken eight top-ten finishes in his debut season for the Repsol Honda Team.
“It’s time to focus and end the season with a strong last three races. There’s some good potential going into Misano, especially after the test where we were able to try more things. Everyone else has also had a lot of time in Misano so it’s going to be a fast weekend from the start but I think going there a few weeks later could change the situation with the temperature and the weather. Like always, we need to work from Friday and have a good Saturday to be in a position to fight on Sunday.”
Reigning Champion – at the last Grand Prix this year where that phrase may be true – Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) has shown he’s pretty handy at the track too.
“It’s strange to come back to a circuit again so soon after riding it, but it’s also really nice that we’re returning to Misano World Circuit because it’s a place I like. During my campaign last year I got two podiums at this track and I’d really like to get back on the box this weekend because I think the atmosphere will be incredible. I feel like we can do well, so I’m ready to start.”
And what of Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team)? Last time out he looked to have searing pace before a tougher Sunday, and he’ll likely be playing the teammate game to perfection once again as Bagnaia faces what may be his final stand. One to watch, especially if he’s racing for red and not solely his own race result…
“I’m happy to be back racing at Misano again this year! 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“.
Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) is also on a solid, somewhat stealthy run of points. The South African is now sixth overall and has only one 0 on his scorecard in 2021, which is from way back at Jerez. Binder is only 10 points behind Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing), who is currently the rider placed fifth in the championship.
Andrea Dovizioso (Petronas Yamaha SRT) has been making marked steps forward on his return to Yamaha and, as he now does actually have recent experience at Misano on the Yamaha, there may well be even more coming.
“I think it will be very hard to be competitive enough to make it into the top-ten, but the improvements we have made since the first Misano race are huge. I’m really happy about that. After a good experience at that race and also in America, I’m looking forward to going back to Misano. This weekend will be a good opportunity to compare the bike and where we are now to where we were one month ago at the same circuit, although the conditions might be different. I think this will help me to be faster and I’m aiming to stay within the group. I’m really looking forward to being more competitive and fighting with the other riders.”
Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), despite still pushing to get back to full fitness, could feel the benefit of racing for the second time at the same track as he settles in on the 2021 M1.
“The race in Austin was really tough, mostly because the circuit was very demanding on my injured knee. The two weeks of no racing allowed me to give the leg a bit of rest, so we now start the next Grand Prix in a better shape than we finished the previous one. We made some good progress during the Misano Test in September. We made a big step and improved my feeling with the bike considerably at this track, so I am looking forward to continue working in that direction this weekend.”
This could be the last race for Danilo Petrucci on home turf and the Italian will be hoping to put on a good showing for his fans.
“Finally, we come back to the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli. Maybe this will be my last race in Italy and I want to be faster than last time there, where we faced a lot of difficulties. For sure, the temperatures and with it the overall conditions will be very different, as it’s quite cold now in Italy. So, we face a completely new challenge. I definitely want to perform the best I can for my home race. There will be even more fans around the circuit, so I can’t wait to ride my KTM again at my home track.”
There will be an extra Ducati on track this weekend also as Michele Pirro returns with the Ducati Test Team. The test rider of the Bologna-based manufacturer will take part in the Grand Prix as a wildcard, bringing to 60 his starts in MotoGP so far.
“I’m excited to be racing here at Misano again! 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!
Aprilia Racing Team Gresini will field three RS-GP bikes this weekend in the able hands of Aleix Espargaró, Maverick Viñales, and Lorenzo Savadori. For this round, Aleix and Maverick will have a substantial amount of data available, collected during the various tests on this circuit – a situation that both riders intend to exploit in preparing for the weekend. Lorenzo, who is recovering well after the injury he suffered in the Austrian GP which proved to be more troublesome than expected, will resume his development work with the Test Team, with an eye on performance in what will be his home race.
“I am arriving in Misano with decidedly positive sensations. During the first race here and especially in the tests following it, we made some significant steps forward, improving on all the RS-GP’s features. We’ve had time to recuperate our strength after the GP in Texas and I’m ready to tackle this season finale in the best possible way.”
“Coming back to race in Misano again is special for me. This is where I tested the RS-GP for the first time and began my relationship with Aprilia. The temperatures will be lower than they were in the first round on this track – a factor that I want to take advantage of because it lets me use a softer compound at the front. I can’t wait to get back in the saddle to continue our growth. We have great potential and a lot of things to try in order to build our performance lap after lap.”
“I really want to get back on the bike and race. I still can’t say that I’m at 100% physical fitness, but the situation has improved greatly. I’m sure the home fans will give me even more motivation. We have a lot of work to do on a track that we know well and that we’ll be tackling in conditions that are different than the ones we are usually accustomed to.”
And then, of course, there’s Valentino Rossi on the Petronas Yamaha. There may be three races left for the number 46 to shine the sun and moon in the premier class of Grand Prix racing, but the third to last event of the Doctor’s tenure will be extra special in its own way.
Home turf, at a venue likely no one on Earth knows better or has raced more, and in front of his final home crowd in gloriously uproarious yellow, it’s its own occasion. The end of an era for an area that has become defined first by what was the new kid on the block searing through the ranks with such charisma and style, and then the icon who has created one of the most successful academies in motorcycle racing, based just up the road.
His ranch adds some significant acreage to Rossi’s home village of Tavullia, just as his presence and legacy have added so much to the region and the sport. Emotional doesn’t quite explain it; it’s a point of no return for all those who’ve raced, watched and loved one of global sport’s biggest icons. On track, at least.
“It’s been good to have these two weeks without races, as we had some busy times – including travelling to the USA, which was a really demanding race. During this time I’ve been training hard at home to make sure we can face the final three races of this season in the best physical condition. This second race in Misano will be tougher than the first one because it is likely to be cooler than one month ago. We need to work to give our best, try to be a bit faster than in the last races and fine-tune the settings to be more competitive. The previous race in Misano was already a really emotional moment for me and, of course, this one will be a special race at home and I really hope the Italian fans can enjoy it.”
This weekend will mark a moment in time for Rossi and, potentially, for a new World Champion too…
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