Francesco Bagnaia said his second MotoGP championship success ‘doesn't get any better' after he won a dramatic final race at Valencia to retain the premier class crown in style.
Bagnaia became champion during the race when sole title rival Jorge Martin, who went into the last race of 2023 trailing the Italian by 14 points, crashed out after tangling with Repsol Honda's Marc Marquez on Lap six of 27.
The incident came after Martin almost wiped out Bagnaia after clipping the rear of his factory Ducati when he made a mistake on the brakes going into Turn 1 at the start of the third lap, running off the track and dropping back to eighth place.
Australia's Jack Miller later crashed out of the lead leaving Bagnaia to battle with KTM's Brad Binder, Johann Zarco (Pramac Ducati) and Fabio Di Giannantonio, who mounted a late charge on the Gresini Ducati.
Binder's challenge faded as Di Giannantonio took the fight to Bagnaia on the final two laps, but the Ducati Team rider never put a foot wrong as he defended his lead and held on for victory to clinch the title in style.
“Amazing, I don't have many words now,” said Bagnaia, who becomes the third rider to secure back-to-back titles since the MotoGP era began in 2002, along with Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez.
“It was a long race, 27 laps of struggle because I didn't feel good in the front.
“I let the KTM riders past and then the feeling became better, maybe because the pressure or the temperature changed.
“From that moment I was able to push, but in the last few laps I was completely without tyres, but we did it,” added Bagnaia, who was wearing three gold rings on his fingers representing his two MotoGP championships and one Moto2 title win in 2018.
“It was quite tough, but we did it. We won the title, we won the race, it's impossible to get any better than this.”
Bagnaia's 18th premier class success on Sunday at the Ricardo Tormo circuit has lifted him to second on the list of most wins achieved with Ducati, second only to Aussie Casey Stoner, who chalked up 23 victories.