How the VR46 Academy moulded Bagnaia into a MotoGP world champion

Finishing ninth at last Sunday’s Valencia Grand Prix, while title rival Fabio Quartararo finished fourth, Bagnaya ended Ducati’s 15-year wait to become the second-best player in the world. Second World Championship in MotoGP.

Bagnaia also made history by becoming the first driver to win a MotoGP title by registering five DNFs throughout the season and overturning a 91-point gap to clinch a 17-point victory over 2021 champion Quartararo.

The Italian is a product of MotoGP legend Rossi’s VR46 academy, which he founded in 2014 to help nurture young talent from his homeland during a period when few Italians lead in Grand Prix.

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

Bagnaia’s 2022 MotoGP title is the academy’s first in the top division and the overall title after the 2018 Ducati driver (representing Rossi’s VR46 team) and 2017 Morbidelli’s Moto2 title.

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After winning the 2022 championship, Bagnaia talks about how the “professional” academy setup has helped him become a rider, and Morbidelli’s success in 2020 — when he won three times and finished runner-up in the points standings at Petronas SRT — performance as a reference.

“It’s not just Valentino’s influence, but other people who work for us from home,” Bagnaia begins when asked how the VR46 Academy contributed to his championship.

“In the beginning it was a completely different academy, which was definitely a big help. But at 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

Photography: Ducati Corsica

“We can say, ‘Today I want to have a small bike on the track, a pocket bike,’ and they’ll arrange everything to do it. We want to go to Portimao for testing before the season, and they’ll arrange everything to do it.

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“The help they’ve provided is unbelievable. They’ve given us all the possibilities, all their lives and passions, it’s unbelievable.

“This is the Academy’s first title in MotoGP. This is Moto2’s first overall win with Franky and me.

“If we look at the performance of every rider in the academy [in other classes] Unfortunately, this year we ran into some minor issues.

“However, if we analyze the performance of MotoGP, we can clearly see that all the riders in the academy are unbelievable and very fast because at home we push each other to improve ourselves.

“I realized that when I saw Frankie in 2020, finishing second in the championship with three wins, getting on the podium, it was like a reference to me, something to beat. It also helped me improve myself.”

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Bagnaia said on Sunday he had only “an hour” of confidence in winning the 2022 title following a crash at the German Grand Prix in June, putting him 91 points behind Quartararo.

Morbidelli said Bagnaia remained “mentally stable” during this period, credited to the VR46 Academy.

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

Photo by Gold and Goose/Motorsport Images

“Peco has had a fantastic season,” Morbidelli said. “He’s a great, great rider, he’s a super right guy, he’s a super polite and gentle guy [person]he is always fair.

“He’s a champion, he has the intelligence of a champion. He deserves the title, he’s made a great comeback.

“He’s mentally stable. I think it’s also due to the environment of the academy.

“We were always together, we were always challenging each other, we were always playing. But, he was consistent, he was still very focused and always believed.”

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