HomeAmericaPecco Bagnaia: Wild victories, pop videos, and a famous mentor: why the...

Pecco Bagnaia: Wild victories, pop videos, and a famous mentor: why the Italian MotoGP’s rising star is

“My sister is only 20 months older than me,” the Italian from the US Media Center in the Austin circuit tells CNN. “When we were little, it was hard for her to call me ‘Francesco,’ so she kept calling me ‘Peco, Peco, Peco!’ Every morning, like this, and I loved it.”

It’s a name that is becoming more and more familiar in his home country, not least because one of Italy’s most admired and cherished stars is about to take his final bow on the MotoGP stage.

On November 14, Valentino Rossi will unveil a career that has redefined the sport. Rossi may be as irreplaceable as he is irreplaceable, but there are signs Italy may have stumbled upon his successor.

At the Aragon MotoGP last month, Bagnaya blew his Ducati into a dominant lead from pole position before Repsol Honda’s indomitable Marc Marquez began to catch him.

Three laps from the end, the Catalan dived in front of the young Italian, but Bagnia quickly regained the lead. A heart-in-mouth dogfight ensued before the Ducati rider crossed the line, just 0.673 seconds ahead of Marquez, to secure his first Premier Class win.

Marquez assessed Bagnia’s performance after the race. “I tried to analyze where he was fast, where his weaknesses [were]”, he told reporters. “But there were no weak points. He was fast in all the race tracks.”

A week later in front of a packed Marco Simoncelli circuit in Misano, Italy, Bagnia led the entire 27-lap race, winning in front of an enthusiastic partisan home crowd and crossing the line to consolidate second in the championship.

‘People shouting for me’

Winning a race on a Ducati in Italy is a memorable moment for an Italian rider.

“A win is always a win, and it’s special. The first win, in Aragon, was a big moment for me, very emotional, but it was a dream for me to do it in front of our fans,” says Bagania, smiling.

“When I saw the Ducati crowd in the Grandstand, I got very emotional. Because I could see that my mom, my brother, my friends were also there, and watching, all these people were screaming for me, was amazing.”

Bagnia’s double success was praised by Rossi himself, who called Aragon to win an “A-plus race” and commented that the future of MotoGP in Italy was “in good hands” with Bagnia and compatriot Franco Morbidelli.

Bagania competes during the San Marino MotoGP Grand Prix at the Misano World Circuit Marco-Simoncelli on September 19, 2021 in Misano Adriatico, Italy.

The 24-year-old is a graduate of Bagnia Rossi’s VR46 Academy and Ducati riders have known his role model for many years.

Recalls Baganiya, “I remember very well that I met him for the first time. “We were having dinner… and Vale came to the restaurant with our trainer. I was too nervous to meet my idol. It was awkward to have my idol in front of me and shake hands.”

This relationship has deepened in recent months.

“I think we’re good friends now, and we’re talking a lot about our championships,” Bagnia told CNN. “Over the past month, he has always spoken to me about always being the best and getting better every time.”

Bagania celebrates after winning the San Marino MotoGP Grand Prix.

favorite song

This summer Bagnia featured alongside singer-songwriter and rapper, Jovanotti, along with famed Italian crooner Gianni Morandi in a pop video for the song “Alegria”.

Shot at Rossi’s famed VR46 ranch, Bagnia is seen in the video ripping off a group of dancers in 1960s costumes on a motocross bike. It was a real experience for the young rider.

“I’m a big fan of Gianni Morandi and Jovanotti. Jovanotti is my idol from this world, and when he asked us to make the video, I got very emotional because my favorite song is one of Jovanotti, so it was weird That he was asking us to make a video like this.”

Recalling that day, Baganiya smiles.

“We started riding bikes, we were dancing, it was a really great day, I really enjoyed it. Gianni Morandi and Jovanotti are two incredible people, so it was very, very, very cool to do it.”

Bagnai watches during the press conference pre-event during the MotoGP in Italy in May.

Bagnaiya was also inspired to create a special helmet to commemorate the song, which he wore to the Misano race.

“I was thinking, what does Misano give you? And I say it’s like home, and home is fun, and ‘allegria’ (delight),” he explains. “It’s always a great feeling to run home, and put a smile on your face every day because you know everyone who comes along will be screaming for you, and that’s something you feel, that’s why I say ‘ The best thing is to dedicate ‘Allegria’ to it.”

Such traps of fame are still new to the spotless gardenia. MotoGP is a religion in much of Italy, but having grown up in the small town of Chivaso, close to Turin, he was not one of the hearts of the sport.

“In Turin, the only sport you can have ambition is either skiing or football,” he explains. “It wasn’t easy finding support in school because I would always go out for a run, and they would always call my mom and say, ‘Ah your son isn’t in school, what’s he doing?'”

Marc Marquez and Repsol Honda of Bagania Spain lead the team during the MotoGP of Aragon at the Motorland Aragon Circuit on September 12, 2021 in Alcaniz, Spain.

However, things are changing now. “If I had to guess, three years ago, two years ago, I was walking easily in my city, but now it is becoming more and more difficult,” he smiles. “Now everyone knows about MotoGP, and that’s great to see.”

Bagania was recently given a special award in Chivaso, given to its most important inhabitants. He now even has an official fan club, which has raised a huge banner in his name on the main square of the city.

‘I was always crashing’

His first two seasons in MotoGP were painfully punctuated with crashes and severely hampered by injury when he broke his leg during practice at the 2020 Czech MotoGP.

“I struggled a lot with the feeling of the front of the bike. I was always crashing, but without knowing why. So, it was hard to link the crash to something, and when that happens you just lose confidence. ,” he explains.

But things have clicked this season. “This year when I started, I decided to learn this year, improve myself. From the very beginning I learned a lot about managing the tyres, always being stable and fast, and not going over the limit ,” he tells CNN.

Bagnaia and Valentino Rossi are pictured together at the Italian GP at the Mugello Circuit on May 27, 2021 in Scarparia e San Piero, Italy.

Soft-spoken and thoughtful, Bagnia is also reflecting on the tragedies in motorcycle racing this year, in which three teenage racers lost their lives, most recently in similar crashes, Dean Berta Vinales, cousin of MotoGP star maverick Vinales.

“We’ve already lost three young riders this year. The last one was the same age as my brother, so if I’m thinking about it, that’s pretty incredible,” Bagnia told CNN.

“When you decide to run with a motorbike you also accept the fact that you are taking a risk. Now the run-off areas are huge and there are no walls on the track, so it’s safe for us. But The problem remains. When you crash, and you [remain] on track. It’s something you can’t manage.”

Bagnia believes that game administrators should take action.

“In this category, where Vinales lost his life, there are 40 riders, with bikes that are not that fast. When you are like that, this type of accident can happen more… in these other categories when you Growing up, riding in the first world championships, (riding less on the track) is an opportunity and a possibility.”

MotoGP and the world superbike administrator, Dorna, would not comment on recent events, but CNN has learned that new safety measures are already being planned from these latest tragedies, soon announced by the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme and Dorna. Will be done.

Fabio Quartaro, Marc Marquez and Bagania celebrate on the podium after the MotoGP Grand Prix of Racing America on October 03, 2021 in Austin, Texas.

goodbye valley

The Italian followed up his victories in Aragon and Misano with a third consecutive pole position in Austin, but could only manage third place in the race behind championship leader Fabio Quartaro in second and a resurgent Marc Marquez.

With only three races left, Bagnia realizes that their prospect of overhauling the Quartaro hangs by a thread.

With the end of winter, MotoGP has now returned to Misano before races in Portimao, Portugal and Valencia, Spain.

“Certainly repeating the victory (at Misano) will not be easy, because the conditions will be very different,” he tells CNN.

“October 24 is very cold in Italy, so let’s see what happens. I think with my feeling with the step we took this year, the cold won’t be a problem.”

“Portimao is another track that I love, I had a podium there and I was very competitive; but in Valencia I was never competitive, I always struggled a lot, it’s a track where I don’t feel good So this is the year that everything is about to change, because I really want to be at the forefront.”

One thing Bagania is resigned to losing is her retired idol, Rossi.

“It won’t be easy to accept the fact that he won’t race next year,” he says, softly. “From the first year I got into Moto3, he was there, and from 2014 we started sharing our day at home as well. I can’t think of next year because it’s too hard to accept. It would be so weird “

As Italian MotoGP fans turn the page on the Valentino Rossi chapter, there is a growing sense that the story of Peco Bagania has just begun.

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