until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Martin wins opening MotoGP sprint, Bagnaia misses podium

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
2 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

MotoGP 2023 runner-up Jorge Martin continued his spectacular run of sprint race form to start the 2024 season, leading lights to flag in the campaign-opening sprint in Qatar.

Ducati debutant Marc Marquez finished fifth in his first race on the 2023-spec Desmosedici, while rookie Pedro Acosta's much-hyped debut ended with a respectable eighth place.

Martin, who won seven of the last eight sprints of 2023, protected his lead from pole and paced himself in the early stages of the 11-lap race before making a crucial mid-race breakaway.

It kept him out of reach of nearest rival Brad Binder, who had moved up to second off the line in the traditionally fast-starting KTM and hassled Martin in the early going before consolidating second.

The big battles were going on behind them, instead, with Aleix Espargaro losing out to Enea Bastianini early on but repassing him soon before being picked off by reigning champion Pecco Bagnaia three laps later.

He was then overtaken by a charging Marquez, too, but Marquez's error on the eighth lap while chasing Bagnaia allowed Espargaro back through.

And the Aprilia man then caught Bagnaia, first unsuccessfully lunging at him at Turn 4 on the penultimate lap (running wide and allowing Bagnaia back through) before getting the move done at the final corner.

Bagnaia had no answer for Espargaro, who found such late-race speed that he was just two tenths behind Binder at the chequered flag.

The reigning champion, meanwhile, dropped back, narrowly seeing off Marquez for fourth.

Bagnaia’s team-mate Enea Bastianini was the sixth rider in the six-man lead group, finishing 2.3s off the winner and eight tenths up on the next best rider - Marquez's Gresini team-mate and younger brother Alex.

It meant five Ducatis in the top seven, but the points-scoring top nine was completed by rookie Acosta (Tech3 Gas Gas) and Maverick Vinales (Aprilia), both fighting back after losing places at the start.

Like team-mate Binder, KTM's Jack Miller gained ground in the early going but was effectively a sitting duck for most of the race, pushed down from sixth to ninth on the second lap and then overtaken by Vinales, too.

Miller, who was one of just two riders to run the soft front instead of the medium front (the other being LCR Honda's Takaaki Nakagami), finished six seconds off the points but did hang on to 10th place over VR46 Ducati's Marco Bezzecchi.

Bezzecchi's team-mate Fabio Di Giannantonio was running seventh when he suffered an apparent highside coming out of Turn 10. Di Giannantonio, the sole crasher of the race, was winded by the impact but had been fortunate to avoid being hit by any of his pursuers.

Of the Japanese brands, Fabio Quartararo headed Yamaha's contingent in 12th, while Joan Mir was the lead Honda in 15th.

Sprint Results

1Jorge Martin
2Brad Binder
3Aleix Espargaró
4Francesco Bagnaia
5Marc Marquez
6Enea Bastianini
7Alex Marquez
8Pedro Acosta
9Maverick Viñales
10Jack Miller
11Marco Bezzecchi
12Fabio Quartararo
13Miguel Oliveira
14Raul Fernandez
15Joan Mir
16Johann Zarco
17Alex Rins
18Augusto Fernandez
19Takaaki Nakagami
20Franco Morbidelli
21Luca Marini
Fabio Di Giannantonio
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