until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

MotoGP

Bagnaia seals MotoGP title as Martin clashes with Marquez

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Ducati rider Pecco Bagnaia successfully defended his MotoGP title, securing the 2023 crown in a Valencia Grand Prix finale that he won and rival Jorge Martin crashed out of.

An early error had put Martin on the back foot and he then collided with Marc Marquez on the sixth lap of 27 while trying to fight back up the order - ending both riders' races on the spot and confirming Bagnaia's title there and then.

Bagnaia looked like he was going to settle for a podium after that, but once a KTM 1-2 ahead of him fell apart spectacularly, he withstood huge pressure late on to lead a Ducati 1-2-3.

Having inherited pole position after a penalty incurred by qualifying pacesetter Maverick Vinales in Sunday morning warm-up, Bagnaia led comfortably off the line - but Martin was immediately right behind him after overtaking the two factory KTMs through the first two corners.

Yet after shadowing his title rival over the first two laps, Martin tucked in close behind Bagnaia on the main straight - and just could not get his Ducati stopped in time in Bagnaia's slipstream.

Avoiding a big impact against Bagnaia's rear tyre by the narrowest of margins, Martin ran extremely wide into Turn 1 and rejoined the pack all the way down in ninth place.

He went past Alex Marquez for seventh on the following lap, and overtook Vinales for sixth after a couple of failed attempt.

But arriving at the back of a battle between Marc Marquez and Martin's Pramac Ducati team-mate Johann Zarco would be the undoing of Martin's race - as, coming through Turn 4, he had a look down the inside of Marquez that turned into a big collision.

The hit to Marquez's rear tyre launched the Honda rider off the bike and high into the air, with a painful landing following. Martin, meanwhile, rode further into the gravel before falling off there, marking the official end to his title challenge.

Martin's exit seemingly distracted Bagnaia, who was seen looking over his shoulder and then immediately allowed Brad Binder through into the lead - and Jack Miller into second shortly afterwards.

But neither KTM would stay ahead of Bagnaia for too long.

First, Binder made a big error at Turn 11, getting the braking wrong and effectively serving an unofficial penalty in the long-lap loop.

He emerged in sixth, then unceremoniously barged his way past Alex Marquez (who lost another position while remonstrating) and was then ordered to drop a place. He served this penalty by overtaking Vinales, going slightly wide to let him past and overtaking him again.

Meanwhile, with Bagnaia closing back in on Miller after settling himself, he was re-promoted into the lead as Turn 11 struck again for KTM, with Miller crashing out.

However, there would still be a blockbuster finish to the race - with Bagnaia having to soak up pressure from first Zarco and then an extremely fast Fabio Di Giannantonio.

The Gresini rider - the beneficiary of team-mate Marquez's remonstrations with Binder - then reeled in and overtook the  South African at Turn 11, before arriving at the back of Zarco and Bagnaia for the final two laps.

He picked off Zarco at Turn 4 on the penultimate lap, but finding a way past Bagnaia proved a bridge too far.

The champion held on by 0.176s over Di Giannantonio - who is expected to land a last-second VR46 Ducati ride for next year - and by 0.360s over Zarco - who will move to LCR Honda.

But Di Giannantonio's podium won't appear in the record books, as he was later given a three-second penalty for a tyre pressure infringement, meaning he drops to fourth behind Zarco and Binder.

Binder had finished a relatively lonely fourth on the road, while a charge by Raul Fernandez - amid the uncertainty surrounding the RNF Aprilia team - secured his first-ever top-five finish in the premier class.

Alex Marquez and Franco Morbidelli - in his Yamaha farewell - both finished within a tenth of Fernandez, while Aleix Espargaro, nursing a fibula fracture this weekend, ended up eighth and the Honda-bound Luca Marini bowed out of VR46 Ducati with ninth place.

Vinales, the sole rider in the field to run a soft rear tyre after having used the medium the day before, brought the bike home in 10th, followed by Fabio Quartararo - who has been ill, having sat out the morning warm-up with a fever.

LCR Honda's Takaaki Nakagami, RNF Aprilia stand-in Lorenzo Savadori and Tech3 Gas Gas rider Pol Espargaro completed the list of just 14 finishers.

This was despite Espargaro crashing and sliding down the road at some speed with three laps to go - the Spaniard remounting in what may be the final race of his full-time MotoGP career ahead of him being replaced at Tech3 Gas Gas by Moto2 champion Pedro Acosta next season.

In addition to the aforementioned crashes, there was an early exit for Marco Bezzecchi on lap one - which Marc Marquez had been investigated but swiftly cleared for - and crashes for Augusto Fernandez, Enea Bastianini and Alex Rins in his final LCR Honda race.

Race Result

PosNameCarLapsLaps LedTotal TimeFastest LapPitstopsPts
1Francesco BagnaiaDucati271440m58.535s1m30.386s030
2Fabio Di GiannantonioDucati270+0.176s1m30.266s024
3Johann ZarcoDucati270+0.360s1m30.461s017
4Brad BinderKTM278+2.347s1m30.145s022
5Raul FernandezAprilia270+4.636s1m30.517s011
6Alex MarquezDucati270+4.708s1m30.536s012
7Franco MorbidelliYamaha270+4.736s1m30.664s09
8Aleix EspargaróAprilia270+8.014s1m30.550s08
9Luca MariniDucati270+9.486s1m30.800s07
10Maverick ViñalesAprilia270+10.556s1m30.543s012
11Fabio QuartararoYamaha270+12.001s1m30.873s05
12Takaaki NakagamiHonda270+21.695s1m31.050s04
13Lorenzo SavadoriAprilia270+43.297s1m31.618s03
14Pol EspargaróKTM250+0.000s1m30.807s02
Alex RinsHonda190DNF1m31.084s00
Jack MillerKTM185DNF1m30.390s00
Augusto FernandezKTM90DNF1m30.747s00
Enea BastianiniDucati90DNF1m30.802s00
Jorge MartinDucati50DNF1m30.154s012
Marc MarquezHonda50DNF1m30.414s07
Marco BezzecchiDucati00DNF0s03
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