On November 15, 2016, Pecco Bagnaia, then 19 years old, got on a Ducati Desmosedici for the first time, taking advantage of the MotoGP test that took place at the Valencia circuit two days after the last grand prix of the season. What was he doing there, after finishing his fourth season in Moto3? Simply taking advantage of a winning bet on your team.
At that time, the Aspar team was registered in the premier category as well as in the lowest in the world. His manager, Gino Borsoi , had agreed to enter into a pact with the young Italian driver, then in search of his first victory. “I won a bet that if I won two races with the Mahindra they would give me the opportunity to ride a MotoGP. They said yes!” Bagnaia recalls on the official MotoGP website.
After winning Assen and Sepang, the Turin driver won his bet and received that very special award at the end of the season. After Álvaro Bautista and Karel Abraham, the team’s new signings for the 2017 season, he was able to get on the Ducati to have fun.
“I was very, very scared,” he admits. However, despite being told that the bike carried enough fuel to complete three laps of the track, Bagnaia rode his new toy for nine laps, refusing to go down. “They gave me a signal to pit after three laps and I kept on turning. I thought if I ran out of gas I would do it for one lap, but I didn’t want to stop. Although I also remember doing it after nine laps and when I finished I was gutted, very tired in terms of muscles.
“Gino said to me, ‘Let’s make another bet, you’re not going to go full throttle on the first lap!’ So to beat him, I came out of the pitlane and went full throttle. I was scared, because it had nothing to do with Moto3. The day before I was riding Moto3 and it was incredible to accelerate and brake with a MotoGP. Until then, the fastest bike I had ridden a standard R6 at Misano, just for a few laps, but when I tried this it was amazing,” recalls Bagnaia.
Pecco Bagnaia in the Valencia test, on November 15, 2016
“That also made my move to Moto2 easier, because two or three days later I was riding a Moto2 for the first time and, in the first few laps, I told myself that I wasn’t going very fast!” smiles the Italian rider, aware at the time of that there was still a long way to go before he could fully reach the pinnacle of motorcycling. “I was pushing to get there one day, but it was difficult to imagine, because you have to go to Moto2 first. And then my first experience in Moto2 was not very easy, because the level is very high.”
“It was an amazing day!” maintains Pecco Bagnaia , who then continued on his way to the intermediate category. He was first fifth in the 2017 championship, and won the title in 2018 before moving up to MotoGP, again on a Ducati . But that memory still has a special place in his career: “Maybe that season  gave me the motivation to get here. First wins… The Aspar team is a great team.”