It will be something different: Reigning champ Bagnaia on Indian MotoGP
From fans of the sport to the organisers and promoters, everyone is excited as the world’s oldest established motorsport world championship is coming to India
We are less than 60 hours away from the first race of the 2023 MotoGP season. We are also exactly six months away from the maiden Grand Prix of India that will be held at the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) on September 24 – precisely a decade after the exit of Formula 1 from the country.
From fans of the sport to the organisers and promoters, while everyone is excited as the world’s oldest established motorsport world championship is coming to India, no one is more enlivened than reigning world champion Francesco Bagnaia.
“It will be something different, something new. Normally I like new things. I like to go to new tracks so let’s see. India will be a new country for me as I have never been there. Years ago when I was racing for an Indian manufacturer Mahindra I had the possibility to come to India but unfortunately, it didn’t happen. But in any case, I am very happy to discover a new country, a new track and looking forward to riding there. India has a really great history and it will be important to race there," the 26-year-old said over a video call from Portimao, Portugal, where he will be racing in the year’s first race this weekend.
For two seasons (2015 and 2016), the Ducati biker rode a Mahindra during his Moto3 days before making a move to Moto2. Though Bagnaia has not done any simulation run of the 5.12km track in Greater Noida, the Italian said that he and his colleagues like the layout of BIC which was used for three Formula 1 races from 2011 to 2013.
"In the (MotoGP) safety commission (meetings) we talk about new ideas of racing when we saw the layout of the Indian track. We were speaking about it and are all happy to go there. We would like to have great safety on the track and I know that will be at the maximum level. I hope to have great fun there," said Bagnaia, who has been nominated for the Laureus Awards in the World Comeback of the Year category.
MotoGP fans were witness to a sensational season last year when Bagnaia overcame an incredible deficit of 91 points – the biggest comeback in MotoGP history – to become the first Italian world champion since the legendary Valentino Rossi. The 26-year-old rider was also the first riders’ champion for Ducati since Casey Stoner in 2007, becoming the first Italian to win the title on an Italian bike since Giacomo Agostini in 1972.
The 2023 season is expected to be no less riveting with the introduction of sprint races on Saturdays and the traditional feature races on Sundays for all 21 GP weekends – the longest MotoGP season – out of which India will be the 14th round. Bagnaia will be challenged not just by rivals from other teams but also fellow riders from Ducati, who will have eight bikes on the grid.
"I feel great for this season because we started better with the test (than last year). Everything went perfectly. But let's see as it is always difficult to understand the level of others during a test. We have to see this weekend where we start. In last year’s first race... we were so behind and (despite that) we won (the championship). So the true level of everyone will be out in 3-4 races,” said Bagnaia, the first from VR46 Academy – Rossi's academy set up in 2014 to nurture young talent – to win a world title in the premier class.
“Our main rivals this year will be (2021 world champion Fabio) Quartararo, (six-time world champion Marc) Marquez. In Ducati there is (Enea) Bastianini, (Jorge) Martin, (Marco) Bezzecchi and (Luca) Marini. So a lot of riders. Aprillia are fast too. But if I had to choose three names I would say Quartararo, Marquez and Bastianini.”