until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Martin halves Bagnaia's MotoGP lead with hard-fought sprint win

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
3 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Pramac Ducati rider Jorge Martin took a substantial step towards the 2023 MotoGP title by halving Pecco Bagnaia's points lead with an assured Qatar sprint win.

Martin, who twice got his elbows out fighting Bagnaia and then fought off Fabio Di Giannantonio late on, is now trailing by seven points only instead of 14.

This also means that the MotoGP title will definitely go to the Valencia finale instead of being decided in Sunday's Qatar Grand Prix, as had been possible coming into the weekend.

There was aggression between the title contenders right away to start things off, Bagnaia trying to work his way around the outside of Martin into the first corner and getting nudged wide.

Both of them, however, moved up past a slow-starting Di Giannantonio in the meantime - and Martin set about chasing after the leading duo of poleman Luca Marini and Alex Marquez, only to make an error later in the lap that invited not just Bagnaia but Marc Marquez through.

But Martin dealt with the elder Marquez on the main straight at the end of the opening lap, and on lap two he effectively barged his way past Bagnaia at the Turn 10 right-hander, this opening the door for Di Giannantonio to overtake the championship leader as well.

The leading duo had hardly broken away at that point, Alex Marquez challenging Marini down the inside on the second lap but washing out wide.

Three laps after that, with Martin right behind them, the Gresini rider drew alongside Marini into Turn 1 but again couldn't keep the line tight enough to complete the overtake down the inside.

That was it for Marquez's sprint victory bid, as Martin overtook him shortly thereafter, and he then slipped behind team-mate Di Giannantonio as well.

But where the younger Marquez had struggled to get past, Martin made quick work of Marini, getting a move done at the final corner shortly after the halfway point in the 11-lap event.

It wasn't easy from there, though, as while Marini didn't have the pace to threaten Martin, the resurgent Di Giannantonio did - quickly overtaking the VR46 rider and forcing Martin to soak up pressure over the final laps.

Martin, though, held on by an eventual 0.391s, celebrating his sixth win in the last seven sprints.

Behind them, Marini - who is all set to join Honda next year - fought off Alex Marquez by half a second to secure third place.

It was a very quiet showing for Bagnaia in the end after he'd got roughed up by Martin, the points leader unable to do much with Alex Marquez dropping back towards him, and instead having to focus on defending fifth place from Aprilia's Maverick Vinales.

He did so successfully, but will be alarmed to have finished four seconds behind Martin in the 11-lap event.

The final sprint points went to KTM rider Brad Binder, Yamaha's Fabio Quartararo and Tech3 Gas Gas rookie Augusto Fernandez. Fernandez, who has only scored two other sprint points this season, fought off Johann Zarco by 0.029s for the valuable ninth place.

Marc Marquez was only 11th in the end, first barged out of the way by Binder and then making an error at Turn 1 that cost him any shot at bagging points. He was still, however, six places and nearly 10 seconds up on the next-best Honda rider - LCR Honda stand-in Iker Lecuona.

There was only one crash all race but it removed three riders from contention, as an opening-lap scuffle featured Aprilia's Aleix Espargaro, RNF Aprilia's Miguel Oliveira and Ducati's Enea Bastianini.

Oliveira was too fast coming into the Turn 6 left-hander and slammed into fellow Aprilia rider Espargaro, whose RS-GP the luckless Bastianini was then unable to avoid.

Both Oliveira and Espargaro sustained injuries - shoulder blade damage for Oliveira and a small ankle fracture for Espargaro.

Sprint Results

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