World SuperBike champion Neil Hodgson warned Francesco Bagnaia will miss out on his first MotoGP World Championship title if he ‘drives tight’.
‘Pecco’ is bidding to become the first Italian to win the prestigious motorcycling championship since Valentino Rossi himself. The Ducatti rider goes into the Valencian Grand Prix with a 23 point lead over Yamaha ace Fabio Quartararo.
Bagnaia needs a P14 finish to complete a sensational comeback which began with him trailing the Frenchman by 91 points earlier in the season. However, with the odds now stacked firmly in his favour, Hodgson warned he cannot afford to rest on his laurels.
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“The biggest danger for him is riding tight,” Hodgson said in an exclusive interview with Daily Star Sport. “What happens when you ride tight, is that you ride nervous and you find yourself holding your breath more. Then you lose feel for the motorcycle, then you are riding slower; you think ostensibly that will be safer, but it’s not.
“You’re not quite pushing the tyres properly and if he’s riding around in 10th place or 12th place thinking ‘oh, this will do’ bizarrely, it’s easier to make a mistake. If I was his team manager, I would be telling him to try and attack more, ride your normal race, keep your head down, and at half-race distance, let's evaluate it then.
“But if you try to ride carefully and try not to hit someone, it’s almost like being a footballer, when you go in for a tackle – if you pull out of the tackle, the player who pulled out of it will get hurt more.
“If you half-a**e a tackle you will get studded. It’s a bit like that in motorcycling.” While Bagnia finds himself in control, he has crashed out of the Grand Prix in Qatar, France, Catalunya, Germany, and Japan.
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And this reality will likely play in the minds of both Bagnaia and Quartararo, particularly as the drivers speed into turn one at Valencia. “If I am Franceso Bagnaia now, I am nervous even though I have one hand on the world title, your lifetime dream, but it is not over til it's over. The two questions you need to ask yourself is ‘can Francesco Bagnaia make a mistake?’
“Well, he’s crashed out of five so far this year so the answer is yes. And ‘Can Fabio Quartararo win?’ yes he can. It’s still possible.
“There will be some nervous people in that Ducatti garage. When you head to the first corner of every motorcycle race, a lot of what goes on is out of your hands.
“As you can imagine when you watch the races, someone can crash in front of you, you would have nowhere to go, someone could hit you, you could go down, mechanical issues, there will be a lot of anxiety.
“He will not be sitting there on that grid thinking, ‘this is easy, no problem at all’.”
BT Sport is the home of MotoGP. Watch all the action from MotoGP Valencia live on BT Sport 2 from 4-6 November. Find out more at bt.com/sport/motogp
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