Pecco Bagnaia tipped to fight for ‘payback’ against Marc Marquez at COTA

“This was, for me, Bagnaia not wanting in the second race of the season to be beaten by someone who is coming to take his crown."

Marc Marquez
Marc Marquez

Francesco Bagnaia will seek to even the score with Marc Marquez at the Circuit of the Americas this weekend.

Their Portimao disaster left both riders in the gravel, then point-less and losing crucial ground in the championship fight.

Bagnaia caused them both to crash by trying to overtake Marquez into fifth.

The incident was due to Bagnaia wanting to stamp his authority on Ducati new boy Marquez, insists MotoGP commentator Matt Birt.

“People inside the paddock and fans around the world said that the sport is lacking the next big rivalry, and a bit of needle,” Birt said.

“We didn’t need to wait long until Marc was causing chaos in his second race at Ducati!

“Portimao was a classic example of two proper heavyweights flexing their muscles.

“They didn’t want to be beaten by each other.

“Unfortunately two heavyweights flexing their muscles… they both end up on the floor. Not good for the championship.

“Pecco says Marc was too aggressive closing the line. Marc says Pecco was too optimistic with the gap that was there.

“It is already a headache for Ducati management behind-the-scenes.

“It’s what we want as neutrals, two of the best riders going at it hammer and tongs!

“For me, it was the right call [a racing incident]. I’d go 60-40 in the blame game on Bagnaia.

“It has certainly spiced up this weekend…”

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The fall-out is that Ducati must manage relations between their star man and reigning MotoGP champion Bagnaia, and their esteemed newcomer Marquez.

The dominant Italian manufacturer will not want a repeat of their two riders ending each other’s hopes again.

“Potentially a humongous headache for Ducati,” Birt said.

“But they knew this when they signed Marc. They know the rider that he is. He’s all-in, very aggressive.

“This was, for me, Bagnaia not wanting in the second race of the season to be beaten by someone who is coming to take his crown.

“Pecco has been the undisputed top dog at Ducati. Then at round two, Marc has come in…

“They have different opinions on what happened. It is the kind of juicy rivalry that we’ve been waiting for.

“I can’t wait for this weekend because they’ll be fighting at the front in the sprint and in the grand prix.”

The MotoGP of the Americas in Texas is traditionally Marquez’s favourite track.

He has won seven times at this circuit with Honda, and now debuts on a Ducati in the third round of the 2024 MotoGP season.

“I would be gobsmacked if Marc doesn’t win at least the sprint or the grand prix,” Birt predicted.

“This is where Marc will truly understand where he’s at, and his potential on the Ducati.

“He’s never been a fan of Qatar, likewise Portimao.

“This is his manor. His back yard. This weekend is where we’ll see how explosive he can be.

“Can he produce the performance that he did for Honda back in the day?”

Bagnaia, however, will not want to sit back and let Marquez take all the glory at COTA.

He has a habit of replying strongly to adversity.

“Look at his record,” Birt said. “Bagnaia is the epitome of Mr Consistency.

“Yes he has dropped the ball a few times but he is fantastic at bouncing back. He doesn’t dwell on setbacks.

“Since the sprint era came in, Portimao was only the second time in the new format that Bagnaia hasn’t scored at least one podium in a weekend.

“He has said it’s time for redemption at the rodeo. It will be fantastic to see how he comes out swinging.

“He wants payback on his circuit. And he wants payback on the #93 as well!”

Marquez is 33 points behind championship leader Jorge Martin. Bagnaia is 23 points behind Martin.

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