At the first of two back-to-back Misano races, Petronas Yamaha’s Franco Morbidelli took his first premier class win.
He joins teammate Fabio Quartararo, Portuguese rider Miguel Oliveira and rookie Brad Binder in seizing a debut trophy this year.
Leading the way from start to finish, Morbidelli proved to be the dark horse of the Sepang Racing Team. Having seen Frenchman Quartararo fight for the podium several times last season and become ‘Rookie of the Year’, the number 21 rider was all the more encouraged to prove his own talent.
“Fabio sprung up like a mushroom – so quickly! He was riding super-fast laps, great performances and great results; unbelievable! Now I’m working my arse off to be prepared to give battle in 2020, not just to Fabio but to everybody on the grid.”
At his home circuit, the 2017 Moto2 World Champion didn’t disappoint. Morbidelli had a smooth and consistent ride without mistake. But more important than just having a smooth riding style, Morbidelli ensured that his M1 was the fastest machine on the circuit, getting away first and gradually leaving Valentino Rossi behind.
“It’s true that on paper, I’ve always been a smooth rider, and on paper, the Yamaha has always been a smooth bike, so it looks like we are best mates. But we need to be fast. My aim is isn’t to be smooth but to be fast, so I do whatever it takes to be fast.”
Fellow Italian rider, Francesco Bagnaiai (who was unbelievably still recovering from a broken leg) overtook Rossi to secure second, followed by Spaniard Joan Mir on the last lap. So the home crowd favourite just missed out on his 200th MotoGP podium and the completion of an all-Italian podium too, finishing in a strong fourth considering the age gap.
But the infamous number 46 still took pride in Morbidelli’s victory, who was his first protégé at the age of 13. The satellite Yamaha rider moved from Rome to Tavullia in 2008 to train at The Ranch, and became the first member of the VR46 Riders Academy five years later. He then became the first VR46 rider to win a World Title, before becoming the first to race in the premier class in 2018.
“I’ve learned everything I know from Vale. Now I try to develop everything I’ve learned in my way, in my style. He can see the things I’ve learned from him and maybe he takes things from me that he can use for himself. It’s a pretty unique thing – we are still opponents, but we are great friends.”
Another long-remaining contender of MotoGP, Andrea Dovizioso, also missed out on a podium spot at Misano, but did move six points ahead of Fabio Quartararo (who crashed out of the race) to lead the overall standings.