until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Why Ducati’s 2023 MotoGP pick passed on being a Rossi disciple

by Simon Patterson
3 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

The news that Enea Bastianini will join Pecco Bagnaia as Ducati’s second factory rider for 2023 cements the three-time race winner as one of MotoGP’s biggest stars. However, what makes him stand out from his fellow fast Italians in the current generation is the way he got to the top – by rejecting the help of seven-time MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi and his VR46 Academy.

On paper, that’s a very strange set of circumstances, given that Bastianini hails from Rimini, only minutes from Misano and just down the road from Rossi’s home town of Tavullia.

However, with Bastianini’s ride to stardom perhaps taking a little longer than expected, it’s easy to forget just how long he’s been in Grand Prix racing: so long, in fact, that it almost predates the founding of the academy. And, making his Moto3 debut in 2014 (the same year that Rossi launched his own team in the class), the youngster had already by that point been taken under the wing of another Italian.

Enea Bastianini Jorge Martin Red Bull Rookies Cup

Coming into the lightweight series after a successful race-winning year in the Red Bull Rookies Cup (pictured above, Bastianini running just ahead of his 2023 seat rival Jorge Martin), the Italian was snapped up by Fausto Gresini, the two-time 125GP world champion turned team boss.

And with Bastianini spending his first three seasons in Moto3 as part of Gresini’s squad, based only up the road from Rimini in Imola, that role of father figure that Rossi has become to so many of the Italians in the MotoGP paddock was instead taken on by the team boss. With that and the fact that Bastianini is someone who prefers to train alone rather than in a group, the end result was that it was Gresini not Rossi who guided his career.

That’s something reflected in his words following Gresini’s tragic death in 2021, when the then-Moto2 rider referred to him as a second father.

Enea Bastianini Fausto Gresini Moto3 MotoGP

“It’s a very sad day, but I want to remember him like a winner,” Bastianini said at the time. “He was a person who never gave up. He had a very strong character.

“He helped me a lot in my first years in the world championship. He was like a dad in the paddock. It’s a great loss.”

Feb 23 : Paying tribute to Fausto Gresini

That’s not to say that an offer was never extended from the Rossi camp, mind you, with the academy project having reached out to Bastianini after his career in Moto3 started to take off. But self-admittedly stubborn and already under the wing of both Gresini and personal manager (and paddock legend) Carlo Pernat, he went his own way instead.

Ironically that’s a path that, despite a brief split, took him full circle for his MotoGP career.

Enea Bastianini Gresini Ducati MotoGP

After graduating to the premier class in 2021 with the Avintia Ducati squad, Bastianini transferred over to Gresini’s newly independent team – which had before that spent seven years running Aprilia’s factory effort.

And while the return was somewhat bittersweet, the combination winning an emotional first race together just over a year after Gresini’s death, in many ways it marked a beautiful epitaph for the way in which he managed Bastianini to the top.

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