The number 1 returns to the MotoGP grid | Sports

Since 1998, no rider with the number 1 on the fairing has managed to revalidate his crown in the premier category of motorcycling. The Australian Mick Doohan, who treasured the digit of the champions for five consecutive seasons, was the last able to proclaim himself champion wearing a figure that since then carries an aura of curse and several marketing arguments against it. In the MotoGP era, launched in 2002, no one has managed to win with the 1, but Pecco Bagnaia (Turin, Italy, 26 years old), champion in 2022 with Ducati Corse, has decided to rescue the figure after more than a decade of ostracism.

“As a child, I remember admiring and respecting those who wore that number. Our sport has not seen number one for a long time, and it seems to me a way of paying homage to everything achieved together with the team last year, it is the right and important thing to do”, explains the Turin native from Madonna di Campiglio, where the Italian brand has presented its project for 2023 in the midst of heavy snowfall. He hesitated a lot and didn’t make up his mind until he saw the digit printed on his motorcycle during the photo session prior to the presentation on Monday. He had both options ready, and it was difficult for him to discard the 63 that he will still wear on his cap and helmet. “Before it was an honor to wear the 1, but in recent years it has been associated with bad luck, which is something I don’t believe in. We are delighted with Pecco’s decision. It is his right and an honor to be able to wear this number, and I don’t understand those who didn’t”, comments Davide Tardozzi, team manager and former driver in the eighties. Ángel Nieto, Giacomo Agostini or Doohan himself were some of the great references in building the mythology of 1.

“It’s great to be able to see the number 1 on track again. The curse thing is nonsense, it’s just a number”, says the former Australian champion. “Winners rarely make excuses. Taking the championship is not easy, and retaining it is even more difficult, but it has nothing to do with bad luck”, says the five-time 500cc champion. Casey Stoner, in 2012, was the last world champion to wear the 1 after winning the title. The following year he would retire after finishing third in the championship and handing over the crown to Jorge Lorenzo, who preferred to keep 99 after having tried with 1 in 2011, the year after his first title. Beyond superstition, neither with one nor with the other did he manage to chain championships. Barry Sheene’s 7, in 1977, was the forerunner of this trend that ended up being consolidated in the 21st century with Valentino Rossi.

The two winners prior to Bagnaia explained at the time the decision to continue with their numbers of a lifetime. “There is the curse of 1, but I don’t think it influenced my decision much,” said Joan Mir, 2020 champion. “36 is a number to work with, 1 more to show off. I believe that I have to keep working to continue winning titles like this one”, settled the then Suzuki driver, now Marc Márquez’s new teammate at Honda. Fabio Quartararo, a winner with Yamaha in 2021, made the following reflection when he stood firm with his 20: “20 is the number with which I started and with which I will end my career. It’s not worth changing, and I prefer to keep things simple. Today I am not even close to that number one, and the best example for me is Rossi. He won the World Cup nine times and never used the 1 ″.

Il Dottore, the great myth and the goose that laid the golden eggs of MotoGP for two decades, was the main promoter of the identification of a specific number as a hallmark of the pilot. His 46 is, even after his retirement, an unmistakable symbol of his dominance over discipline. Márquez, the other great dominator of the championship – between them they have won 12 of the 20 titles at stake since 2002 – also chose to remain faithful to 93, the figure he chose to coincide with the year of his birth. Finally it will be Bagnaia, 11 years after Stoner’s last attempt, who will abandon Rossi’s paradigm, his mentor, to try to break the spell. “The 1 represents who you are, but you don’t have to think that you are the champion, because then you can relax. You have to work as always ”, settles the defender of the crown. The MotoGP World Championship will start on March 26 in Portimao (Portugal) and will end on November 26 in Valencia.

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