until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

MotoGP

Martin cuts Bagnaia's MotoGP points lead in Thai GP sprint win

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Pramac Ducati MotoGP rider Jorge Martin took a significant chunk out of rival Pecco Bagnaia's points lead with a win in the Thailand sprint.

It marked Martin's fourth consecutive sprint win - with Australia's having been cancelled last week due to weather - and, coupled with Bagnaia only managing seventh place, represented a substantial boost to his championship credentials.

As poleman, Martin looked to have got a mediocre launch off the line, but still fought off VR46 Ducati rider Luca Marini to keep the lead - something that ensured the race unfolded for him exactly as he would have wanted.

Crucially for the title race, Bagnaia wasn't too rapid out of the blocks from sixth place either, and that cost him on the run to Turn 1 - as he got boxed in on the outside, with Marc Marquez and Alex Marquez working their way through.

An aggressive Turn 7 divebomb from Martin's team-mate Johann Zarco then cost Bagnaia another spot, and he was lunged at by Fabio Quartararo, too, but did fight off the Yamaha attack.

In the meantime, Martin established an early buffer out front and his lead only grew from there, with the headline battle unfolding for second place instead.

With Marini in the second spot, Brad Binder positioned himself as his biggest threat by pulling off a gorgeous move at the hairpin-like Turn 3 on the second tour - showing a move around the outside of Aleix Espargaro before quickly cutting back to make the overtake work.

Dealing with Marini, however, wouldn't prove as easy for the South African, but after a sixth-lap dive down the inside ended with Binder washing out wide and Marini retaking the spot, an elbows-out final-corner move on the next lap finally got the job done just as Espargaro was bearing down on the pair.

Marini stayed with Binder over the next few laps but ultimately had to accept defeat, with the South African's pace holding up impressively well - to the point that he'd closed back to less than a second off Martin by the chequered flag.

Marc Marquez secured a fighting fourth place for Honda after a last-lap battle made suddenly possible by Espargaro making a mistake while trying to fight past Marini.

It allowed Marquez to draw alongside him at Turn 3 and squeeze him to the outside on corner exit. And while Esparagro responded, successfully sending his Aprilia down the inside of Marquez at Turn 7 after the change of direction took Marquez slightly wide, the Honda man kept the duel going.

Arriving into the final corner, where Marquez had already overtaken Marco Bezzecchi a handful of laps earlier, the six-time champion did the same to Espargaro to consign him to fifth place.

Right behind them, Bagnaia clearly pondered a move on Bezzecchi but had to back out of it.

Having run ninth after the opening lap, he picked up two places when Alex Marquez dropped into the clutches of Zarco and then made a final-corner lunge that compromised both and allowed Bagnaia to pick them off on exit.

But that would be the full extent of Bagnaia's recovery ride, and - while his solid pace in the closing stages of the sprint will come as encouraging - his lead over Martin is now back to a not-so-secure 18 points.

Alex Marquez and Zarco would indeed complete the points-scoring top nine, while behind them KTM's Jack Miller narrowly fought off Quartararo for 10th.

Espargaro's Aprilia team-mate Maverick Vinales couldn't get his RS-GP stopped at Turn 3 on the opening lap and dropped to the back, only recovering to 13th before a long-lap penalty for repeated track limits infringements relegated him to 18th at the flag.

That was still one place ahead of LCR Honda's Takaaki Nakagami, the team's sole representative with Alex Rins out this weekend due to a (now surgically-addressed) hernia in his previously-fractured right leg.

Nakagami crashed at the final corner, so ended up finishing a very lonely race 15 seconds behind the pack after remounting. Augusto Fernandez (Tech3 Gas Gas) also crashed at the same corner, though his race didn't continue.

Joining Fernandez on the list of retirements was Gresini Ducati's Fabio Di Giannantonio, who pulled into the pits with an apparent mechanical issue.

Sprint Qualifying Results

PosName
1Jorge Martin
2Brad Binder
3Luca Marini
4Marc Marquez
5Aleix Espargaró
6Marco Bezzecchi
7Francesco Bagnaia
8Alex Marquez
9Johann Zarco
10Jack Miller
11Fabio Quartararo
12Joan Mir
13Enea Bastianini
14Raul Fernandez
15Franco Morbidelli
16Pol Espargaró
17Miguel Oliveira
18Maverick Viñales
19Takaaki Nakagami
Fabio Di Giannantonio
Augusto Fernandez
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