until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


What Ducati can still salvage from a bittersweet MotoGP year

by Simon Patterson
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Last weekend saw the number one prize in motorcycle racing slip away from Ducati yet again, as Fabio Quartararo lifted the 2021 MotoGP championship at Misano following a crash for Pecco Bagnaia that ended his own aspirations.

But, with two rounds of the season left, is there still a chance for Ducati to salvage success from 2021?

The most obvious example of what that success can be is the easiest goal left to Bagnaia at Portimao and Valencia; defending second place in the championship race to 2020 winner Joan Mir.

Going into this weekend’s penultimate round at Portimao with a 27-point lead, both the Italian’s relative consistency (despite crashing last time out) and Mir’s lack of race-winning pace this year suggests that that goal is doable, handing Ducati its fourth second place in the championship in the past five years.

However, following a similar crash to his team-mate Bagnaia for Jack Miller at Misano, one goal that looks beyond them now is locking out the championship podium behind Quartararo. Not just extending the gap to Mir but allowing satellite Ducati rider Johann Zarco to ghost past him in the points table, Miller is now 26 points behind Mir and three off his fellow Ducati rider in fourth.


But while Zarco might be somewhat the bane of Miller’s life right now as the factory rider struggles to regain his spot of at lowest second-placed Ducati, it’s the success of satellite riders like Zarco who have left Ducati with its greatest opportunity to turn the 2021 season into something of a success.

That’s because thanks in large part to its incredible depth of field on the current MotoGP grid, Ducati is now within touching distance of clinching the manufacturers’ title. Enjoying a lead of 12 points over Yamaha with two races left, it’s looking increasingly likely that that title will go its way.

Coming thanks to its numbers as much as its equipment, it’s impressive that five of Ducati’s six riders have on occasion finished as the brand’s top bike. Early in the season, it was Zarco racking up the points with Pramac Racing, while rookie team-mate Jorge Martin’s sensational win in Austria added further to the points tally.

Beyond that, it’s been fellow rookie Enea Bastianini who’s been most impressive of late, with the reigning Moto2 world champion there to pick up the pieces last time out in Misano when both the factory bikes crashed out in front of him.

There’s also the business of the team prize still to play for as well. Major credit must be given to new champion Quartararo because Monster Energy Yamaha currently occupies the top spot in that race, and that’s impressive given the internal turmoil that the Japanese manufacturer has seen the past year.

Yamaha’s top scorer at all but three races of the year and chalking up 267 of Yamaha’s 364 points in that particular race, following the dramatic departure of Maverick Vinales and replacement Franco Morbidelli’s slow recovery from injury, it means that he goes into the final two races of the year with an almost single-handed lead of 13 points.

Of course, had both Bagnaia and Miller managed to stay on their bikes last weekend and brought home a likely 36 points, that race would be almost sewn up now as well as the constructors’ title – and that’s exactly why it’s hard to see achieving even both those goals as anything but a bittersweet success for Ducati.

The simple fact of the matter is that they had perhaps its best chance of title success this year since Casey Stoner took its first and so far only title in 2007 – and it’s been the inconsistency of their riders that have thrown it away.


The coveted triple crown was on the table this year, a feat achieved by Stoner and Loris Capirossi 14 years ago, and it’s especially frustrating, given that it’s been far from plain sailing at times for Quartararo.

Yet with arguably the best bike on the grid and inarguably the greatest depth of rider talent of any of the series’ six manufacturers, two of those three crowns looks set to slip away from them not because of factors outside its control but because of rider errors.

Thankfully, there’s light at the end of the tunnel thanks to Bagnaia, in particular, looking more consistent year by year – but both he and his Italian bosses could well be left in years to come rueing the chance at missing what was arguably an open goal this season.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email
  • More Networks