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How the VR46 Academy moulded Bagnaia into a MotoGP world champion

MotoGP world champion Francesco Bagnaia has credited Valentino Rossi’s VR46 academy for helping him become a title winner in 2022.

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team, Valentino Rossi

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team, Valentino Rossi

MotoGP

Finishing last Sunday’s Valencia Grand Prix in ninth while title rival Fabio Quartararo was fourth, Bagnaia ended a 15-year wait for Ducati to become just its second world champion in MotoGP.

Bagnaia made history also by becoming the first rider to win a title in MotoGP having registered five DNFs across the season, and overturned a deficit of 91 points to ultimately win by 17 over 2021 champion Quartararo.

The Italian is a product of MotoGP legend Rossi’s VR46 academy, which he set up in 2014 to help nurture young talents from his homeland during a period when there were few frontrunning Italians in grand prix racing.

On the current MotoGP grid, there are four VR46 Academy riders in Bagnaia, Franco Morbidelli and VR46 team duo Luca Marini and Marco Bezzecchi.

Bagnaia’s 2022 MotoGP title is the first for the academy in the premier class and the third overall, following Moto2 titles for the Ducati rider in 2018 (riding for Rossi’s VR46 team) and Morbidelli in 2017.

After winning the 2022 title, Bagnaia spoke of how the “professional” academy set-up has aided his development as a rider and how Morbidelli’s successes in 2020 – when he won three times and was runner-up in the standings for Petronas SRT – acted as a reference.

"It's not only Valentino's influence, but all the others who work for us at home,” Bagnaia began when asked about how the VR46 Academy contributed to his title win.

“At the start it was a totally different academy, it was a big help for sure. But in this moment, I think we are very professional. We have everything.

MotoGP world champion Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

MotoGP world champion Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

Photo by: Ducati Corse

“We can say, ‘today I want to go with the minibikes, the pocket bikes in a track,’ they will organise everything to do it. We want to go to Portimao to have a test before the season, they organise everything to do it.

“It’s incredible the help they are giving. They are giving all the possibilities, all of their life, passion to us and this is incredible.

“This is the first title in MotoGP for the academy. It’s the third in general with Moto2 with Franky and my one.

“If we look at the performance of every rider in the academy [in other classes] unfortunately this year we had some little problems.

“But, if we analyse the performance in MotoGP we can see clearly that all the riders in the academy are incredible, are incredibly fast, because at home we push each other to improve ourselves.

“I recognise that when I look at Franky in 2020, doing second in the championship with three wins, podiums, it was like as a reference to me as something to beat. This helped me a lot to improve myself also.”

Insight: The key moments that led to Bagnaia’s historic maiden MotoGP title

Bagnaia said on Sunday he only lost faith in winning the 2022 title “for one hour” following the crash out of the German GP which left him 91 points behind Quartararo back in June.

Morbidelli says Bagnaia remained “solid mentally” during this period, crediting the VR46 academy for this.

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

“Pecco did a wonderful season,” Morbidelli said. “He’s a great, great rider, he’s a super correct person, he’s a super polite and gentle [person], he’s always fair.

“He is a champion, he has the intelligence of a champion. He deserves this title, he did a great comeback.

“He stayed solid mentally. I think this is also thanks to the academy environment.

“We are always together, we are always challenging each other, we are always racing. But, he stayed solid, he remained really focused and kept believing.”

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