Aragon Grand Prix winner Francesco Bagnaia says he benefited from a pre-race pep talk from mentor Valentino Rossi, and paid tribute to Rossi’s VR46 academy.
Bagnaia is the second protege from the VR46 programme to have taken a MotoGP win, with soon-to-be Yamaha factory rider Franco Morbidelli having recorded a trio of wins last year.
Ducati rider Bagnaia’s maiden triumph came about in spectacular fashion, as he saw off Marc Marquez in a nail-biter late duel at Aragon.
“This victory is for the academy, for sure,” Bagnaia told MotoGP.com’s After The Flag show. “Because you’re working every day, trying to be every day better.
“They helped us a lot, every day they asked us what to do better and we tried, we thought to be better every day. And Vale yesterday night was saying to me, was telling me, that today was my day, because he was looking at my pace, I was strong, he said that Marc was the fastest one but also that I was the second one with the best pace.”
Bagnaia also revealed that Rossi instructed him not to stray from the conventional tyre choice from the race – a hard front and soft rear.
The only rider to deviate from this was Pramac Ducati’s Johann Zarco, and he ended up out of the points, having gone with a medium front.
“I have to give a hug to him now because he said to go in the race with hard-soft, yesterday when I was going away from his motorhome he was saying ‘hard-soft, hard-soft, hard-soft, hard-soft’, because last race I changed the front tyre [late on] and in Austria, the first Austria [race], my tyre choice was different [before the red flag]. He was saying that.
“And they help us a lot – Uccio [Salucci], Gianluca [Falcioni], Vale and Albi [Tebaldi], are always with us. So, this victory is also for them.”
Bagnaia had led as many as 57 laps in MotoGP before Aragon, and had a few likely shots at victory squashed.
He described the win as a “great liberation”.
“I was not expecting to be so strong in this track. Last year I struggled a lot,” said Bagnaia, who didn’t score in either Aragon race in 2020.
“From FP1 I didn’t touch anything on the bike, and everything was okay, was perfect. To win today was incredible, I’m so happy.”