Ducati Lenovo’s Pecco Bagnaia claimed a sensational San Marino victory for four in a row at Misano on Sunday.
A dramatic late-race battle with Gresini’s Enea Bastianini saw the home pair split by just 0.034s at the line with Aprilia’s Maverick Viñales completing the celebrations on the Adriatic Coast.
Special liveries were on show as the San Marino Grand Prix prepared. Both Mooney and Gresini Racing presenting colourful editions for their home event with VR46’s ‘Mad Dog’ artistic representation contrasting with the retro 125cc Fausto Gresini dedication.
Jack Miller headed the Ducati lockout of the front row as Bastianini and Marco Bezzecchi joined the Australian for their home GP. Bagnaia dropped to fifth following his FP1 penalty for irresponsible riding with title rivals Fabio Quartararo and Aleix Espargaro further back on row three. WithU Yamaha’s Andrea Dovizioso lining up for his final World Championship race from 18th.
All but one rider opted for hard Michelin front tyres as the grid prepared, Suzuki Ecstar stand-in Kabuki Watanabe going rogue with a medium, while the majority agreed on medium rear rubber apart from the second Suzuki of Alex Rins, Monster Energy Yamaha’s Franky Morbidelli and the two Gresini men - the quartet later changing their minds to the favoured choice.
Lights out for 27-laps and Bagnaia was immediately up to third as his teammate kept control out front. A triple crash at the opening corner finding Prima Pramac’s Johann Zarco, Aruba.it Ducati’s Michele Pirro and Repsol Honda’s Pol Espargaro in the gravel. Aprilia and VR46 battling for position as Maverick Viñales headed Bezzecchi, Aleix Espargaro and Luca Marini with Quartararo behind for eighth.
Miller’s impressive weekend came to a dramatic early end with a crash at turn four on lap two. Bezzecchi suffering a similar fate six corners later with Espargaro running wide. Bastianini saving his own scare next time around after collecting the lead from the fallen, but remounted, Ducati until Bagnaia took charge.
Morbidelli and Fabio Di Giannantonio were the next to succumb to the hot and greasy track as Viñales struck for second. Teammate Espargaro completing the top five from Quartararo, Jorge Martin and Rins with LCR’s Alex Marquez heading the KTM duo of Miguel Oliveira and Brad Binder while Dovizioso rose to 12th in the chaos.
Bagnaia took a look behind him as lap five fired up, the RS-GP hot on his wheels with Bastianini battling Marini for the final podium place behind. Two seconds covered the top eight riders as Rins remained in check. Marquez holding up the RC-16’s as the South African’s pace began to threaten.
Quartararo was through on Espargaro next time around as the Spaniard went wide, the pair coming close to contact as the move completed, with eight-tenths the gap to the first of the leading Ducatis out front.
Released into clear air, the reigning champion set his best lap of the race so far as he set his sights on the podium battle. Marini responded as he looked to defend his position while Viñales took his first look at the leader.
Rins made moves to seventh over Martin as Oliveira did likewise on Marquez just behind. Tech3’s Remy Gardner and the LCR man both getting track limits warning after 11 laps of action with Marquez demoted further, this time by Binder, two laps later.
Bagnaia increased the pace out front as he looked to consolidate his hold at the halfway stage. Viñales maintaining his attack from second with Bastianini just over a tenth back in third.
The leading pair swapped fastest lap records as the second half began, their pace just two-thousandths of a second apart until they both pushed harder next time around. Bastianini took the record on lap 18 with a 1’31.895 as he looked to regroup, an earlier moment having given Marini a look before the two Italians continued the fight.
The Gresini rider was back in second with eighth to go as he took a shot at Viñales. Bastianini’s late-race-pace coming into its own once again as he immediately gapped the frustrated Aprilia before hooking on the wheels of next year’s teammate two laps later.
The fallen Ducatis were bickering further back as Bezzecchi bettered Miller for 17th, the pair dispatching Gardner with Darryn Binder a full 15 seconds ahead on the edge of the points.
The fight out front intensified as Bastianini continued to hassle the title challenger. Bagnaia defending hard with two to go as Oliveira picked up a long lap penalty for track limits.
The final lap gave the number 63 breathing space as Bastianini ran wide before regrouping for a final sector thriller. 0.034s separating the pair for a photo finish in front of the delighted home crowd as Bagnaia became the first Ducati rider to claim four victories in a row. Viñales secured his third podium on the RS-GP as Marini led Quartararo home by half a second for the top five.
Espargaro met the flag in sixth from Rins, Binder, Martin and Marquez. Oliveira dropped to 11th after his late-race penalty with Dovizioso bowing out on an illustrious career from 12th while Raul Fernandez, Stefan Bradl and Takaaki Nakagami claimed the final points on offer.