“If the first step to becoming a sporting icon is a distinctive moniker, rising MotoGP star Francesco 'Pecco' Bagnaia got a helping hand from birth”.- CNN.
"My sister is only 20 months older than me," Pecco Bagnaia says at the centre of Austin's Circuit of The Americas. "When we were young, calling me 'Francesco' was difficult for her, so she was calling me 'Pecco, Pecco, Pecco!' every morning, like this, and I liked it."
It is a name that is becoming ever more familiar in his home country, not least because one of Italy's most lauded and cherished stars is about to take final bow on the MotoGP stage.
On November 14, Valentino Rossi will draw the curtain on a career that has redefined the sport. Rossi may be as inimitable as he is irreplaceable, but there are signs that Italy may have stumbled on his successor.
Last month at the Aragon MotoGP, Bagnaia blasted his Ducati into an imperious lead from pole position, before Repsol Honda's indomitable Marc Marquez began to haul him in.
Three laps from the end, the Catalan dived in front of the young Italian, but Bagnaia immediately took back the lead. A heart-in-mouth dogfight ensued before the Ducati rider seared across the line, just 0.673 seconds ahead of Marquez, to score his first ever premier class win.
Marquez assessed Bagnaia's performance after the race: "I tried to analyse where he was fast, where his weak points were, but there weren't any weak points. In all the race track he was fast."
A week later in front of a packed Marco Simoncelli Circuit at Misano, Italy, Bagnaia led for the entire 27-lap race, crossing the line to win in front of a rapturously partisan home crowd and consolidate second in the championship.
For an Italian rider, winning a race in Italy on a Ducati is a moment to be cherished.
"A win is always a win, and it's special. The first win, in Aragon, was a big moment for me, very emotional, but doing it in front of our fans was a dream for me," says Bagnaia with a smile.