ROME: Francesco Bagnaia (pix) is not interested in comparisons with Valentino Rossi as he makes his bid to become the first Italian since the motorcycling legend to win the sport's biggest prize.
Ducati rider Bagnaia is 10 points behind MotoGP leader Fabio Quartararo with five Grands Prix remaining after winning four of the last five races and coming second in the most recent Aragon GP.
The 25-year-old is in a strong position to win Italy's first title since Rossi in 2009 and Ducati's first since Casey Stoner two years before, as French reigning champion Quartararo has struggled in recent races, crashing out in two of the last five.
“There can never be an heir to Valentino Rossi. Everyone needs to walk their own path,“ said Bagnaia in an interview with AFP.
“The most important thing for Ducati is to win, and it’s no different whether it’s an Italian, Frenchman or Spaniard doing it.”
After winning the San Marino MotoGP -- his fourth straight win -- earlier this month Bagnaia said that he would only think about winning the championship once he was “10 or five points away”.
Now he can't avoid the title talk after slashing a points gap between him and Quartararo which five GPs ago stood at 91.
“We’re all starting from scratch as of now. We know that in general the coming tracks are good for us,“ says Bagnaia.
“The important thing is to continue doing a good job, everything else will follow from that... We know we are good, but we still have 10 points to recover and it needs to be done as intelligently as possible.”
A first title for Bagnaia would also give Ducati just their second crown in the MotoGP class in a year in which they have dominated.
- 'The best man wins' -
The Italian constructor has won 10 of this season's 15 race and all of the last five, with Enea Bastianini from satellite team Gresini pipping Bagnaia on the final lap in Aragon.
“If you ask me Ducati’s supremacy come from the riders. The bike is fast but the riders are all very good,“ says Bagnaia.
“In reality the difference in speed isn’t even that big, we’re only talking about two or three kilometres an hour. But at Yamaha the situation is very different as Fabio is the only one capable of riding their bike.”
Bastianini's win at the weekend hushed rumours that he had been ordered to let Bagnaia win at Misano three weeks ago, when the pair were almost alongside each other when they crossed the line.
“Right now we’re in the situation where the best rider wins. The people on the paddock know this,“ says Bagnaia.
“It doesn’t affect me very much because people like to open their mouths even when they don’t know anything.”
Bastianini sits fourth in the standings having won four races this season and is making the step up to the Ducati factory team next year, replacing Australia's Jack Miller.
“We managed to get good results with Jack because we did a great job together. I don’t see why that would change with Enea,“ says Bagnaia.
“It won’t change anything in the races -- the best man wins.” -AFP