According to some, this is the greatest MotoGP ever, because there have never been so many riders and bikes really close to each other. Tenths, sometimes hundredths, of a second decide a victory or a defeat. For others, instead, there's something missing. A bit of rivalry. They twist their noses up to comments that are too politically correct and not only want pats on the back but more unsportsmanlike behavior.
In fact, the duel between Bagnaia and Quartararo in 2022 had always been at a distance. The only exception was in Valencia when Pecco sought a melee with Fabio during the first laps, so he could waste time and prevent him from reaching the leading group. But the real reason they didn’t battle it out wasn’t due to a lack of combativeness between the riders but rather because, when the French rider was doing better, the Italian struggled and vice versa. So Bagnaia’s comeback can be seen more as a challenge against himself than against Quartararo. Then there was Aleix Espargarò who focused more on consistency and, apart from the accident caused by Fabio in Assen, he never came into his own.
Not all championships are the same, but there are those who complain, remembering the dualisms of the past. In this sense, Valentino is the most striking of cases, capable of becoming impulsive with practically any rider on the track, whether it was Biaggi, Capirossi, Stoner, Lorenzo, Pedrosa, or Marquez … and so on and so forth. Although always calm off the track, even the head-to-head between Marc and Dovizioso thrilled many, and some of their duels are a must for fans.
So now what? Carmelo Ezpeleta is correct in saying that the “MotoGP doesn’t need athletes who disdain each other in the garage”, and it’s not clear if that fateful 2015 (yes, again) did more good than bad for motorcycling. In the meantime, we continue to talk about it. But, as someone once said, it doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad, as long as they’re talking.
And yet, if we take a close look, there was a clear-cut dualism last year, even if it didn’t help decide the World Championship. It was between Bagnaia and Bastianini. Fate (or, rather, their merit) wanted them as teammates. And not just in any team but in Ducati. Italian, like them, and, above all, the current reference point of the championship.
Pecco and Enea have known each other since childhood, since the days of pocketbikes, and they respect each other. They’re different, both in character and riding style, but both are really fast. Last year, they both won the most, and no one likes to be behind the other. Le Mans, Misano, Sepang, their paths have already crossed, and it's always been entertaining. Also, sharing the same nationality makes it all the more exciting.
“Dealing them? That’s a problem I don’t complain about,” Dall’Igna said smiling, and often did so with those who like the the two roosters in the coop, as long as they keep their heads on their shoulders (in reference to the Argentine GP, the incident with Iannone and Dovizioso is obvious).
We’ll beat you to it: “Here are the usual journalists who have nothing to write and create non-existent rivalries.” But it’s the riders themselves who already perceive the electricity in the air. Bagnaia said of Bastianini: “It’s a healthy rivalry, so it’s great. We’ve known each other for a long time, and we know that waging war in the garage would lead to nothing. In the race, everyone will think for themselves, and the greatest battles this season have been with Enea. But there are also other fast Italians. Bezzecchi, Marini, Morbidelli could also win. It reminds me of the era of Rossi, Biaggi, Capirossi, Melandri. The five of us grew up together, and it would be nice to battle it out against each other.”
Pecco evoked a magical period for Italians and for all fans. The one when the Italian flag often waved on all the steps of the podium. Referring to the past is always pleasant, but making comparisons is useless. Pecco, Enea, Marco, Franco, and Luca aren’t and will never be Valentino, Max, Loris, and Marco. They’re different riders and people, and that’s why the competition is wonderful. They grew up together. In some cases, they’re also friends, but never on the track.
So this year could begin a new era in which new rivalries will be created, and that’s what we’re hoping for. Not only for Italian fans but for all fans everywhere.