Features 10 Nov 2022

Countdown: Key moments of MotoGP 2022

Detailing pivotal moments in this year's world championship.

The 2022 MotoGP World Championship is in the books, with Pecco Bagnaia completing the greatest comeback in the sport’s history to secure his first premier-class crown. With the title fight going right down to the final round at Valencia, CycleOnline reflects on a mix of key moments throughout the season this year in this Countdown.

Image: Supplied.

9. Disaster for Ducati in the desert:
Arguably one of the biggest surprises at the opening round of the 2022 MotoGP World Championship in Qatar was Bagnaia. Off the back of a strong end to 2021, the Ducati Lenovo Team rider qualified a lowly P9 by his standards, before a poor start relegated him to P14 in the opening lap of the race. Bagnaia charged through to reach 10th by lap three, then made a move past Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) on lap nine. Catching pole-setter Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) over the next three laps, the number 63 attempted a move up the inside on the brakes into turn one, unfortunately folding the front and taking himself and Martin down and out of the race. A devastating blow for both riders towards their 2022 title aspirations.

8. Espargaro and Aprilia get the job done in Argentina:
In his 200th start, Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) secured a long-awaited maiden MotoGP victory and the first for Aprilia in the modern era at Termas de Rio Hondo. Espargaro experienced a near-perfect weekend in Argentina, fastest in shortened practice, qualifying and warm-up before converting that pace to a race win, 0.807s clear of Prima Pramac Racing’s Jorge Martin. While that was the only time the number 41 was able to stand on the top step this year, 2022 was by far Espargaro’s strongest season to date in the premier class as the Spaniard kept himself in the title fight until the finals round where unfortunately misfortune meant he dropped to fourth in the standings.

7. Still fight left in Marc Marquez:
In what was sadly another injury-impacted season for Marc Marquez, there is light at the end of the tunnel for the Repsol Honda Team rider regarding his physical condition. After stepping to the sidelines following the Italian GP for what was his fourth operation on his right humorous – first injured at Jerez 2020 – Marquez returned on-track the San Marino test in September before lining up at Aragon later in the month. While the number 93 was unable to win any races this year, he was by far the strongest Honda rider across the final five rounds and managed to stand on the podium at Phillip Island, with his riding style looking more like it did previously before he was hurt. To say Marquez will win next year’s championship is heavily dependent on whether Honda can improve its platform, however, the number 93 displayed across the final races this season that he still has plenty of fight left him.

6. Dominance from Miller in the land of the rising sun:
Ducati Lenovo Team’s Jack Miller utterly dominated the Japanese GP in what was a display of his true MotoGP potential, with the Australian later sharing that the outing at Motegi was ‘100 percent’ the race of his life. Miller showed great pace throughout the limited dry running in Japan, topping FP1 and maintaining great pace on the hard option tyres in Sunday’s warm-up to consistently lap in the 1m45s bracket. Despite qualifying P7 in wet conditions, Miller swiftly made his way to the front during the race and translated his pace shown in practice on the hard tyres to continually stretch out the advantage over second-placed Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing). The number 43 extended his lead to over five seconds throughout the bout and took the chequered flag with a 3.4s buffer ahead of future teammate Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) after easing in the closing stages.

5. All hope seemed lost for ‘Pecco’ following Sachsenring:
Following round 10 at the Sachsenring at the halfway point of the season, many had written Bagnaia off as a title challenger for 2022 after he crashed out at the German venue and lost another 25 points to defending champion, Quartararo. The fall marked his fourth DNF of the season and saw him drop to sixth in the championship standings, 91 points from the Monster Energy Yamaha rider who had won three races and scored in every race up that point. Bagnaia admitted that for a brief period after the race that even he lost hope that he could be this year’s champion.

Image: Supplied.

4. Suzuki Sayonara on top at Valencia:
It was a fairytale ending for Suzuki’s time in MotoGP, drawing a close at Valencia to their stint in the premier class with one last victory from Alex Rins. It was a clinical performance by the number 43 at round 20 who launched from P5 on the grid to lead every lap en route to taking the chequered flag first. The achievement followed his win less than a month earlier at Phillip Island, where Rins stormed to the top in what was arguably the best rides of the season. With the Hamamatsu factory taking two out of the last three victories of the year, there’s a sense of a bittersweet feeling for all involved as the manufacturer withdraws for the pinnacle of grand prix motorcycle racing.

3. Breakthrough for Bastianini:
After a relatively quiet start to his debut MotoGP campaign in 2021, Enea Bastianini stormed onto the scene showing immense race pace to claim two podium finishes in the second half of the season. With only one top 10 qualifying position last year, Bastianini impressed in Qatar when he slotted his year-old Gresini Racing Ducati GP21 into second on the grid, later claiming the season-opening race victory under the lights at Lusail. While Bastianini was at times inconsistent throughout the rest of the year, 2022 certainly was a breakthrough season for the former Moto2 world champion in the premier class, scoring a total of four race victories (Qatar, COTA, Le Mans and Aragon) and six podium finishes on his way to third in the championship. With a factory ride with the Ducati Lenovo Team in 2023, the Italian will certainly be one to watch.

2. Eight points in four races for defending champion Quartararo:
If someone had told Quartararo that Bagnaia would bridge his deficit after Germany, surely the Frenchman would have had at least a tinge of disbelief. However, a collision with Aleix Espargaro at the Dutch TT resulted in a DNF for ‘El Diablo’, and a long lap penalty for the following race at Silverstone. Unfortunately, that was only the beginning of the misfortune for the number 20, who was brought down in a collision with Marquez at Aragon, then failed to score in rain-drenched conditions and Buriram before crashing out of contention at Phillip Island which saw him relinquish the championship lead, having only scored eight points across four important races after finishing P8 at round 16 in Japan.

1. Comeback king Bagnaia completes rise as champion:
Entering the final race at Valencia with a 23-point advantage after picking up the penultimate round win in Malaysia, ninth place was enough for Bagnaia to secure his first MotoGP World Championship and end Ducati’s 15-year title drought in the category. However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Italian at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit, who lost a wing in the early stages while battling with championship rival Quartararo. Ultimately, Bagnaia was able to keep his composure and complete what was the greatest comeback in MotoGP history that saw once a 91-point deficit, end with a 17-point advantage at the conclusion of the season.