The champion’s number returns after more than a decade to MotoGP with Pecco Bagnaia announcing that the number one plate will adorn his Ducati Desmosedici GP23.
Francesco “Pecco” Bagnaia will bring the champion’s number one back to MotoGP on his blood red Ducati Desmosedici. The Italian, who came from a record 91 points behind Fabio Quartararo by the half-way point of the season to win the 2022 MotoGP World Championship, will forgo his customary number 63 as he faces a new onslaught from inside his own garage with Enea Bastianini replacing Jack Miller with his eyes firmly on Bagnaia’s prize.
The announcement of Bagnaia’s race digit was made in Madonna di Campiglio during the traditional Ducati preseason Campioni in Pista (Champions of the Track) ceremony, where it was also announced that Alvaro Bautista will adorn the number one on his Ducati Panigale V4 R in WorldSBK, marking the first time in Ducati’s history they will have the number one on both MotoGP and WorldSBK bikes in the same season.
“I could not decide whether to continue using the number 63 or switch to the number one, and in the end, I decided on the latter,” Bagnaia said. “Seeing it on the bike is beautiful, and now my goal will be to do everything to keep it.”
Bagnaia becomes the first rider to wear the number one in the class of kings since Casey Stoner did so back in 2012, his swansong season on the Repsol Honda. Over the last 30 years, the number one has been worn by Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo, the late Nicky Hayden, Kenny Roberts Jr., Alex Criville, Mick Doohan and Wayne Rainey.
Incredibly, it was only Rainey and Doohan who defended the number one plate in the proceeding years, with Rainey a three-time consecutive champion between 1990 and 1992 and Doohan a five-time consecutive champion from 1994 to 1998.
The trend of not wearing the number one, at least in the last 50 years, was started by the late Barry Sheene, who despite winning the 1976 and 1977 500cc World Championship stuck with his traditional number seven for the entirety of his career.
Sheene would later be the inspiration for the most famous rider of all time, Valentino Rossi, who famously shunned the number one on nine separate occasions to run his trademark number 46 across a 21 year career in grand prix racing.
Add to that list Marc Marquez, the eight time champion across 125, Moto2 and MotoGP who has never run anything other than number 93. More recently, 2020 champion Joan Mir stuck with his number 36, while 2021 champion Fabio Quartararo has publicly stated he will never run anything other than his number 20 even if he wins the title again.
The number one has been more commonplace over in WorldSBK, where champions Bautista, Toprak Razgatlioglu, Jonathan Rea, Sylvain Guintoli, Tom Sykes and Max Biaggi all wore the champ’s digit.
We, here at SportBikes Inc, are pleased to see Bagnaia bring back the number one to MotoGP for a number of reasons. The number one puts a pecking order on the field, with everyone in no doubt as to who the current master is, which is great for casual observers of the sport who may not know who the champion is. It’s also great for the factory Ducati team, who now have a few bragging rights in the uber-large ego-driven world of MotoGP. And, it just looks plain badass on any factory MotoGP machine.
Can Bagnaia defend the title? It’s been a quarter of a century since the number one plate was defended but he’s got as good a chance as the last rider to do so, Mick Doohan in 1998, given the current strength of the Ducati Desmosedici GP23 underneath him.
The 2023 MotoGP World Championship kicks off with the Sepang test in Malaysia on February 10-12.