Bagnaia survives 'worst race of the year' to end long wait for Italian Ducati champion

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Francesco Bagnaia broke down in tears after withstanding an issue with his Ducati to become MotoGP world champion on Sunday, ending a 50-year wait for an Italian to win the title on an Italian bike.

Bagnaia needed only two points at the Valencia Grand Prix to hold off 2021 champion Fabio Quartararo and clinch his first championship.

But the 25-year-old has done things the hard way this year, recovering from a slow start to surge to the top of the standings, and the season-ending race was far from straightforward.

Although Bagnaia enjoyed a strong start to the race to keep the pressure up on Quartararo – who needed to win even if his rival failed to finish – contact between the pair saw the championship leader lose part of his right wing.

It was a struggle then for the former Moto2 champion to get to the finish in one piece, meaning he was in an emotional state after crossing the line in ninth and sealing the title.

"It was the worst race of the year, for sure, maybe of my life, because I was there, fighting with my bike," Bagnaia told BT Sport.

"At the start, everything went well, everything was okay. But after losing my wing, I started struggling a lot – a lot, a lot, a lot. It was very difficult to manage everything.

"I just tried to arrive in the last laps with a bit of calm. Finally, when I saw on the pit board I was world champion, I started to cry a lot. It's something incredible."

Valentino Rossi had been the last Italian MotoGP champion in 2009, while Casey Stoner was the last man to triumph with Ducati in 2007.

Not since Giacomo Agostini took the title with MV Agusta in 1972 had an Italian won on an Italian bike.

"To be world champion is the main thing for every rider in MotoGP," Bagnaia added. "To be world champion with Ducati as an Italian is something unbelievable.

"I'm very happy. It's difficult to share with you my happiness in this moment. I'm very emotional, so it's difficult to say what I really want to say."