“My sister is only 20 months older than me,” the Italian told CNN at the media center of the Americas Circuit in Austin. “When we were young, it was difficult for her to call me’Francesco’, so she called me’Peco, Peco, Peco!'” Every morning, like this, I like it. “
The name is becoming more and more familiar in his home country, especially because one of Italy’s most acclaimed and cherished stars is about to make his last bow on the MotoGP stage.
On November 14, Valentino Rossi will kick off the redefinition of the sport’s career. Rossi may be unique or irreplaceable, but there are signs that Italy may have discovered his successor by accident.
At the Aragon Motorcycle Grand Prix last month, Baniaia gave his Ducati a violent lead from pole before Repsol Honda’s indomitable Marc Marquez started pulling him.
With three laps to the end, the Catalans swooped down in front of the young Italian, but Bagnaya immediately regained the lead. There was a fierce scuffle before the Ducati driver crossed the finish line, only 0.673 seconds ahead of Max, winning his first ever top league championship.
Max evaluated Banya’s performance after the game. “I tried to analyze where he is fast and where is his weakness [were]”, he told reporters. “But there is no weakness. On all the tracks, he runs very fast. “
A week later, in front of the Marco Simoncelli circuit in Misano, Italy, Baniaia led the entire 27-lap race, crossing the finish line in front of a fanatical party home audience to win the championship and consolidate the championship. Second place.
‘People scream for me’
For Italian drivers, driving Ducati to win the race in Italy is a moment worth cherishing.
“Victories are always victories and they are special. The first victory in Aragon is an important moment for me, very exciting, but it is a dream for me to do it in front of our fans,” Banya said with a smile.
“When I looked at the Ducati crowd in the stands, I was very excited. Because I saw my mother, my brother, and my friends also there. It’s so amazing to see all these people screaming for me. It’s amazing.”
The praise for Banya’s double success came from Rossi himself, who said that Aragon had won an “A+ race” and said that the future of the Italian Motorcycle Grand Prix is similar to that of Banya and compatriot Franco Mobidelli. “In the hands”.
The 24-year-old Bagnaia graduated from Rossi’s VR46 Academy. Ducati drivers have known his idol for many years.
“I clearly remember the first time I saw him,” Baniaia recalled. “We are having dinner… Vale and our coach came to the restaurant. I was nervous to see my idol. My idol shook hands in front of me, which is weird.”
In recent months, this relationship has become closer.
“I think we are good friends now, and we often talk about my championship,” Banya told CNN. “In the past month, he has been telling me that it is always the best, and that it gets better every time.”
This summer, Bagnaia appeared in the popular video of the song “Allegria”, where legendary Italian singer Gianni Morandi collaborated with singer-songwriter and rapper Jovanotti.
Filmed at Rossi’s famous VR46 ranch, Bagnaia can be seen riding a cross-country motorcycle, tearing around a group of dancers in 1960s costumes. For this young rider, it was a surreal experience.
“I am a big fan of Gianni Morandi and Jovanotti. Jovannotti is an idol in my world. When they asked us to make a video, I was very excited because my favorite song was a song by Jovanotti, so it was strange that he asked us Make a video like this.”
Bagnaia recalled that day with a smile on her face.
“We started cycling, we danced. It was a really good day and I had a great time. Gianni Morandi and Jovanotti are two amazing people, so doing this is very, very, very good.”
Bagnaia was even inspired to create a special helmet to commemorate the song he wore in the Misano game.
“I was thinking, what will Misano give you? I said it’s like home, home is fun, and it’s’allegria’ (happy),” he explained. “It’s always a good feeling to play at home. You have a smile on your face all the days because you know that everyone who arrives will scream for you. This is what you feel, so I say’allegria’ dedication. It is the best thing.”
For the humble Bagnaia, such a reputation is still fresh. MotoGP is a religion in most parts of Italy, but he grew up in Chivasso, a small town near Turin, and he is not at the center of the sport.
“In Turin, the only sport that can give you aspirations is skiing or football,” he explained. “It’s not easy to get support at school because I always go to competitions, and they always call my mother and say,’Ah, your son is not at school, what is he doing?'”
However, now the situation is changing. “If I want to, three years ago, two years ago, it was easy for me to walk in town, but now it’s becoming more and more difficult,” he said with a smile. “Now everyone knows about MotoGP and it’s nice to see it.”
Bagnaia recently won a special award in Chivasso, awarded to its most important residents. He now also has an official fan club, which has just hung a huge banner in his name in the main square of the town.
‘I always crash’
He was painfully interrupted by a crash in the first two seasons of MotoGP, and broke his leg during the 2020 Czech MotoGP practice.
“I struggled a lot with the feeling on the front of the bike. I always crash, but I don’t know why. Therefore, it is difficult to associate a crash with certain things. When you encounter this situation, you lose confidence. ,” he explained.
But this season things have happened. “At the beginning of this year, I just decided to learn and improve myself this year. From the beginning I learned a lot about how to manage tires, always keep it constant and faster, instead of going beyond the limit,” he told CNN.
Bagnaia spoke softly and thoughtfully, and has been thinking about the tragedy that happened in the motorcycle race this year. Three young racers were killed in similar accidents. The most recent was Dean Berta Viñales, cousin of MotoGP star Maverick Viñales.
“This year we have lost three young drivers. The last one is the same age as my brother, so if I think about it, this is very incredible,” Banya told CNN.
“When you decided to ride a motorcycle race, you also accepted the fact that you were taking risks. Now the runoff area is very large and there are no walls on the track, so it is safer for us. But the problem still exists. When you crash, you [remain] On Tracks. This is something you cannot manage. “
Bagnaia believes that the managers of this sport must take action.
“In this category where Viñales lost their lives, there are 40 riders whose bikes are not that fast. When you are like this, more accidents of this type can happen…in these other categories In, when you grow up, it is an opportunity and a possibility to participate in the World Championship (with fewer drivers on the track) before.”
MotoGP and World Superbike administrator Dorna will not comment on the recent incidents, but CNN understands that new safety measures that have been planned before these latest tragedies will soon be announced by the International Motorcycle Federation and Dorna
The Italian won Austin’s pole position for the third time in a row at Aragon and Misano, but could only finish third in the race, falling behind champion leader Fabio Quartararo and Renaissance Marc Marquez (Marc Marquez).
With only three games left, Banya knows that his chances of completely changing Quartararo are slim.
With winter approaching, MotoGP is now returning to Misano before the games in Portimão, Portugal and Valencia, Spain.
“Of course, repeating the victory (in Misano) is not easy because the conditions will be very different,” he told CNN.
“It’s very cold on October 24th in Italy. Let’s see what happens. I think that as we take a step forward this year, with my feeling on the front lines, the cold will not be a problem.”
“Portimão is another track that I like. I have been on the podium there. I am very competitive. But in Valencia, I have never been competitive. I always struggle. I don’t feel good on the track, so this is a year where everything must change because I really want to stay ahead.”
One thing Baniyaa does not want to lose is his retiring idol Rossi.
“It is not easy to accept the fact that he will not participate in the competition next year,” he said thoughtfully. “From the first year I joined Moto3, he was there. Since 2014, we have also started to share our day at home. I can’t think of next year because it’s hard to accept. It will be weird.”
With Italian MotoGP fans turning over a page of the Valentino Rossi chapter, more and more people believe that the story of Pecco Bagnaia has just begun.