The factory Ducati star had qualified on the front row in the dry, one place ahead of world championship leader Fabio Quartararo, then took a new set-up to the top of the warm-up timesheets.

“We had a new setting for the warm-up. Everything was perfect! My best warm-up in the dry. Everything was ready for a dry race,” Bagnaia said.

But after dodgy showers all weekend, MotoGP’s luck ran out when dark clouds drenched the track just before the Moto2 race.

Waves of rain followed, causing the Moto2 restart to be abandoned before a lull in the showers allowed the premier-class race to start one hour later than planned.

Pecco Bagnaia will win the title - THIS is why! | #MotoGP 2022

“When I saw it started raining, I was a bit nervous and it was in that moment that Jack [Miller] came to me and just said something about believing more in myself in those conditions," Bagnaia explained.

Asked what he had said, Miller replied: “I’m not going to claim that [it made the difference]. I just went and had a chat with him. He knows how to ride a motorcycle. That’s all there is to it. He’s a fantastic motorcycle rider, and he just needed it to be known that he is. A little bit of back-up.”

Bagnaia added: “I knew that my [real] potential in the wet wasn’t the one in Mandalika, or the one in Japan. Normally last year I was also competitive in the wet, at least to be in the top five.”

Bagnaia may not have welcomed the rain but it proved a blessing in disguise for his world championship aspirations. While the Italian held third behind Miller and eventual winner Miguel Oliveira (KTM) for almost the entire race, Quartararo sank to 17th.

“Today I think the angriness of Japan helped me to be more close to them,” said Bagnaia, who crashed out on the last lap at Motegi.

“Normally Miguel, Jack and Johann are the three fastest riders in the wet and I was sure that [staying] with them closely was a good idea. I was just struggling in the last part of the race with the front tyre, but I think it was the same situation for everybody.

“When Marc Marquez tried to overtake me, I saw that I was losing a bit of time in braking. So I just tried to improve in that area. I think it’s the reason why Johann [Zarco] didn’t have an attempt to overtake me.”

Aware of the title consequences for Ducati if anything went wrong during an overtake, Pramac’s Zarco - the fastest rider on track in the closing stages - later confirmed he had elected to remain behind Bagnaia.

As such, Quartararo’s title lead has been cut to just two points over Bagnaia heading into Phillip Island next weekend.

Bagnaia: Be smart, no mistakes

Bagnaia, who has won six races this season but also had to overcome five non-scores, plus the single point in Mandalika, said of the forthcoming title showdown:

“For sure, now it will be more intense. In these last three races I will have to be very, very intelligent and smart in all situations. I think our potential is very high, but I can't commit any mistakes, like Japan, or like I did before the summer break.

“Just be smart, trying to understand every situation. We know that in Australia the weather can be very cold, so we will have to adapt. In any case, I think we can be very competitive.”

Third in the standings, Aleix Espargaro also gained on Quartararo in Thailand to sit 20 points from the top.

Jack Miller: Title a long shot, I’ll keep trying

Enea Bastianini (-39), Miller (-40), Brad Binder (-65) and Zarco (-68) are the only other riders now in mathematical MotoGP title contention, with Miller scoring more points than any other rider in the last three races courtesy of his 5th, 1st and 2nd places.

“It’s a long shot,” Miller said of his title chances with 75 points remaining. “We’ll just keep plugging away at it. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. I’ll keep trying my best either way.

“Pecco did a fantastic job today with making big gains after what was a tough weekend in Motegi.

“It’s been an awesome day for the team. Can’t thank them enough. They haven’t taken their foot off the gas. They’re pushing for both us until the bitter end. Hopefully we can give them some sort of a reward for all their hard work.”