Francesco Bagnaia is the 2018 Moto2 World Champion, taking the title at Sepang after eight wins, 12 podiums and six pole positions over an incredible season. Arriving 36 points up in the Championship, his third place in the race – paired with a second for title rival Miguel Oliveira – was enough for the Italian to secure the crown.
Making his debut on the world stage in 2013 with team Italia FMI in Moto3, Bagnaia then switched to Sky Racing Team VR46 the year after – but it wasn’t until 2015 that he finally took his first podium. That was at Le Mans, but riding a Mahindra; a marque whose history ‘Pecco’ would become an even bigger part of the following season.
After podium finishes at Losail, Jerez and Mugello, Bagnaia finally took both his first Grand Prix win and the first win for Mahindra after a stunning ride at the TT Circuit Assen. His favourite track, the layout of which he even has as a tattoo. It wasn’t a one off in that impressive season either, with Bagnaia taking another win, this time at Sepang, to put him fourth overall in the standings.
At the end of the season Bagnaia got his first taste of a MotoGP machine at the Valencia test, owing to a bet made with his team. They’d said that, if ‘Pecco’ were to win a race that season, they’d let him try the then-Aspar liveried Ducati.
Before he made that a full-time switch, however, Bagnaia’s next challenge was Moto2 – in the same Sky Racing Team VR46. His first podiums didn’t wait long to arrive, as the Italian took to the rostrum in Jerez, Le Mans, Germany and at Misano; enough to put him fifth overall and see him take the title of Rookie of the Year.
His stellar first season in the intermediate class was more than just awards and success – it also penciled him in as a key favourite for the 2018 crown. Starting the year on the top step with a first Moto2 win in the season opener in Qatar, ‘Pecco’ then ceded the points lead next time out in Argentina, but he was back on it in Texas.
A key rival then began to appear: Oliveira. The Portuguese rider won in Mugello from outside the top ten on the grid, and that brought him to within a single point of Bagnaia at the top. But the Italian responded at Assen, winning at his talisman track once again. In Germany there was some drama, however, as Bagnaia was forced into avoiding action after a crash for compatriot Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) and crossed the line in P12.
Oliveira then struck gold in Czechia to win another race, but Bagnaia was quick to hit back once again as he took the victory in Austria to begin a run of top results: a win at Misano, a P2 at MotorLand and then another victory in Thailand – the 800th for Italy – to really pull the pin. Second on the road at Motegi, he was later promoted to the win after the disqualification of Fabio Quartararo (MB Conveyors – Speed Up Racing) for a technical infringement – making the gap that much bigger as the paddock arrived at Phillip Island. There, he had his first match point but it wasn’t to be after a more difficult weekend, so the battle rolled on to Malaysia.
There, it was mission accomplished after a stunning season in the intermediate class and another podium to secure the crown. After one more race and now as reigning Moto2 World Champion, Bagnaia will then be getting on a MotoGP bike once again – this time for good as he moves up to partner Jack Miller at Alma Pramac Racing in 2019.
• Francesco Bagnaia is the second Italian rider to win the Moto2 title, following Franco Morbidelli last year. This is the first back-to-back world title with two different Italian riders in the intermediate category since Loris Capirossi (1998) and Valentino Rossi (1999).
• Bagnaia is the 15th different Italian rider to clinch to title in the intermediate category. Bagnaia’s title is also 24th in the class for Italian riders and the 77th in Grand Prix racing.
• At 21 years and 294 days old, Bagnaia is the ninth youngest rider to clinch the title in the intermediate category and the fourth youngest Italian rider to do so after Marco Melandri (20 years 74 days), Valentino Rossi (20 years 250 days) and Marco Simoncelli (21 years 273 days).
• Bagnaia has won eight races so far this year, equalling Johann Zarco in 2015 and Franco Morbidelli last year which is also the second-highest number of Moto2 wins in a season after Marc Márquez in 2012 (9).
• Bagnaia equals Andrea Iannone and Franco Morbidelli, who both stands in the first place on the list of Italian riders with most wins in the class.
• Bagnaia has stood on the podium 12 times this season so far and 16 in the Moto2 class, equalling Mika Kallio, who stands in 10th place on the list of riders with most podium finishes in the class.
• With 16 podium finishes, Bagnaia is now in third place on the list of Italian riders with most podium finishes in the Moto2 class.
• With his pole position at Motegi – his 6th of the season so far – he equalled Franco Morbidelli in 2nd place on the list of Italian riders with most pole positions in the Moto2 class, two less than Mattia Pasini.
• Bagnaia is only the second Italian rider who has won back-to-back races in the Moto2 class along with Franco Morbidelli.
• Bagnaia has scored points in the last 29 successive races. The last time he failed to score points was in Italy last year when he crashed on the final lap. Only Dominique Aegerter (33) and Mika Kallio (31) and have scored points in more than 29 successive races in Moto2.
• Since he stepped up to Moto2, Bagnaia has always reached the finish line and only failed to score any points twice, in the Americas and Italy last year.
• At 21 years and 63 days old on race day in Qatar, Bagnaia became the sixth youngest rider to lead the Moto2 World Championship since its introduction back in 2010, and the youngest Italian rider.
MCNEWS.COM.AU is a specialist on-line resource that provides motorcycle news for motorcyclists. MCNews covers all areas of interest for the motorcycling public including news, reviews and comprehensive racing coverage.