MotoGP Misano: injury and substitution rundown

A few names are missing from MotoGP Misano this weekend, and those coming into replace them might not be the most expected, if they're there at all.

Francesco Bagnaia, 2023 MotoGP Catalan Grand Prix. - Gold and Goose

MotoGP has had its fair share of injuries this year, and that trend continued last weekend in Barcelona. Only five days later, the paddock has transitioned from Catalunya to the Rimini Riviera for the San Marino Grand Prix, and the field is once again reduced.

The major story leaving Barcelona was World Championship leader Francesco Bagnaia. Uncertainty remains over the cause of Bagnaia’s high side on the exit of turn two on the opening lap of the red-flagged Catalan Grand Prix, and whether it was an issue with the bike or simply an error by the #1. Back in 2013, Jorge Lorenzo put his Dutch TT practice crash, that led to a broken collarbone (which was famously fixed in time for him to race to fifth place on Saturday), down to overconfidence. 

This was the theory preferred by Marc Marquez with respect to Bagnaia. Certainly, the Italian was in a rich vein of form following his demolition of the field in Austria, and his challenging of the Aprilias in the Barcelona Sprint, something no one else could do. 

On the other hand, Bagnaia reported that he felt something strange in terms of grip already from the warm up lap in Barcelona, so maybe there was something contributing to his crash.

Either way, Bagnaia was relatively fortunate in Catalunya, as - despite having his legs run over by Brad Binder’s KTM - he left hospital without any fractures and was able to immediately head home to Italy. Additionally, he only lost 16 points to his nearest championship rival, Jorge Martin; while third placed Marco Bezzecchi scored only four points in 12th; and the aforementioned Binder retired with bike problems from the restarted race.

That means Bagnaia left Barcelona still with a 50-point advantage, meaning if he were forced to miss his home race in Misano he would still be guaranteed a points lead before the beginning of the Asian tour in India later this month.

But, that is not a problem Bagnaia has to consider, because he has been declared fit in Misano, and will at the very least be able to judge for himself whether he is fit enough to complete the weekend. A winner of two of the last three races in Misano, he is a favourite even with a sub-optimal physical condition.

Things are more complicated on the other side of the factory Ducati garage, that usually occupied by Enea Bastianini.

Having broken his shoulder blade in Portugal at round one, Bastianini has never been able to show the kind of speed that took him to four Grand Prix victories last year in the Gresini team.

His year got worse in Barcelona, where he sustained a broken metacarpal and fractures in his ankle. Those injuries will keep him out until at least Indonesia in the middle of October.

Of course, that means there is a space in the factory Ducati garage this weekend. Michele Pirro replaced Bastianini in Texas back in April, but he is wildcarding this weekend with the Ducati test team, so budget has been spent and there are things to test, keeping Pirro from replacing Bastianini.

Danilo Petrucci replaced Bastianini in France back in May, but he is in Magny-Cours this weekend for the ninth round of WorldSBK, as are many of the other candidates that might ordinarily be on the shortlist to replace Bastianini, such as Alvaro Bautista. As a result, Bastianini is not being replaced this weekend.

It has been a similarly complicated situation at LCR Honda, where Alex Rins remains injured.

Stefan Bradl is testing this weekend as a wildcard for HRC. The testing for both Bradl and the aforementioned Pirro is important over the course of the race weekend in Misano because of the official one-day test on the Monday after the Grand Prix. Their work on the weekend can allow the race riders’ work on Monday to be more effective, by giving baseline data to work from, or even discarding new items that don’t work as expected.

For Bradl specifically, though, the work is of particular importance, because of the current disaster Honda is is facing in MotoGP, and the necessity of it exiting that disaster if it is to convince Marc Marquez to stay even to the end of his current contract that expires at the end of next year.

So, Bradl could not drop his wildcard to replace Rins. Iker Lecuona, who replaced Rins in Silverstone, Austria, and Barcelona, is unavailable, too, because of the same reason as Petrucci: WorldSBK.

Unlike Ducati, though, Honda was prepared to look deeper for a replacement for Rins, and it came up with Takumi Takahashi, who has been an integral part of HRC’s back-to-back Suzuki 8 Hours wins in the last two editions. Takahashi’s most recent MotoGP appearance was at the 2015 Japanese Grand Prix, where he wildcarded for HRC and finished 12th.

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