Marco Bezzecchi and Jorge Martin have surged right back into 2023 MotoGP title contention after finishing 1-2 in the inaugural Indian MotoGP, while Pecco Bagnaia sensationally crashed out at the Buddh International Circuit.
Bezzecchi reeled off his third full-length GP victory of the season after taking his chances early on to get ahead of a simmering tussle between primary title contenders Bagnaia and Martin, but it was the factory Ducati rider’s dramatic exit with eight laps to go that was the main talking point.
The Italian had just reclaimed second place from Martin with an authoritative pass around the banked Turn 8, but his race would last just one further lap when he suffered a high-speed low-side off track at Turn 10.
An incident that significantly changes the complexion of this year’s title race, Martin kept his focus - despite having to fasten the zipper that had descended on his leathers - to finish second behind Bezzecchi in a result that means the Spaniard has cut the overall gap down to Bagnaia to 13 points. Bezzecchi’s win, meanwhile, puts him 44 points off the top spot.
Bezzecchi keeps his cool as MotoGP title race gets spicy
Dramas behind notwithstanding, it was an otherwise imperious display from Bezzecchi up front in a race so hot and gruelling it would prompt some riders to shuck their gloves and unzip their leathers on the warm-down lap in an effort to calm their bodies down.
For Bezzecchi, it was a fine statement of intent from the sophomore rider, leading from the end of the opening lap after regrouping from a tardy getaway that left him third initially.
Indeed, after rising a spot at the expense of Martin around Turn 4, when the Spaniard ran too deep in trying to defend his initial advantage, the VR46 Ducati rider then scurried up the inside of Bagnaia at the last turn to lead across the line for the first time.
From here Bezzecchi wouldn’t be challenged again, the Italian putting the frustrations of the Sprint Race - when he was forced to fight back from last to fifth after being rear-ended by team-mate Luca Marini - behind him to multiply his advantage over the shortened 21 lap race distance, crossing the line some +8.6secs clear.
If things were easy up front, then the same couldn’t be said for those directly behind him as Martin and Bagnaia engaged in an occasionally gnarly tussle over second place. Bagnaia held the spot initially, but Martin an aggressive late braking block pass at Turn 4 on lap five - one that forced the defending champion up in response - would see him back into second.
On the flip side, the awkward pass had the effect of doubling Bezzecchi’s lead to more than two seconds, giving him the edge to keep adding to his advantage and leaving Martin to fight a rear-guard action from Bagnaia. It was one that nearly ended with Bagnaia striking that rear guard when he out-braked himself on lap eight.
However, as the conditions took their toll, it was clearer that Martin was suffering more than Bagnaia, who simply capitalised with a surprise pass around Turn 8 with nine laps to go. Alas for Bagnaia, it was a false dawn as he was soon barrelling through the gravel trap for his fourth full-length MotoGP race DNF of an otherwise metronomically valuable and consistent 2023 season.
With Bagnaia down and out, Martin resumed in second place, but the sight of him having to unzip his leathers down seemingly in an effort to cool himself for a couple of laps - a move that could earn him a rebuke or penalty - was a sure sign that things were getting strenuous on the Pramac Ducati.
A solid margin back to Fabio Quartararo in third place though meant he still looked on course for a comfortable second place finish. That was until he wandered off course at Turn 4 on the final lap, a moment that took him well wide of the asphalt, the mistake duly invited Quartararo back into the reckoning with the Frenchman striking past.
Spurred on by the Yamaha coming past him, Martin pounced back with a gritty overtake on the outside entry coming into Turn 10. Undeterred, Quartararo attempted to fight back but couldn’t forge a clean pathway past the Ducati, the Frenchman forced to cede the fight at the final corner and release Martin into a potentially pivotal second place finish.
Despite missing out on a season’s best finish, third place still represents only Quartararo’s second main GP podium of the year in what is a welcome boost for the embattled Yamaha squad.
Joan Mir back to best with first Repsol Honda top five
On a tough weekend for KTM, Brad Binder brought some smiles with a typically hard fought run to fourth. The South African had been lucky to keep going beyond the first corner when he was given a whack by an errant Aleix Espargaro at the first turn, but after composing himself, won out in a battle with Joan Mir for another solid haul of points.
Mir, meanwhile, stayed on for a confidence-boosting fifth place finish, by far and away the 2020 MotoGP World Champion’s best result since joining Repsol Honda. In a year beset by myriad crashes and multiple injuries, this was only the second time Mir had bothered the points all season, his previous best of the 2023 coming with an 11th place at the opening round in Portugal.
He even ran fourth for much of the race, albeit after team-mate Marc Marquez suffered a tip-off up ahead at Turn 1 on lap six as he worked to get into the podium fight with Martin and Bagnaia.
Nevertheless, he was able to remount and fight back to ninth place, Marquez coming home just behind Pramac Ducati’s Johann Zarco in sixth, Franco Morbidelli - scoring one of his best results of the season - in seventh and Maverick Vinales, who clawed his way back to eighth after also being a victim of Espargaro’s Turn 1 faux pas at the start.
Though he struggled to turn single lap pace into strong race form, Raul Fernandez made the most of retirements ahead for a third top ten finish in five races, ahead of Takaaki Nakagami, Miguel Oliveira, Pol Espargaro, Jack Miller - who made an early mistake that dropped him to last - and Stefan Bradl picking up points as the remaining riders to reach the flag.
|2023 Indian MotoGP | Buddh International Circuit, India | RACE Results | Round 13 of 20|
|1||Marco Bezzecchi||🇮🇹||Mooney VR46 Racing||Ducati GP22||21 Laps|
|2||Jorge Martin||🇪🇦||Prima Pramac Racing||Ducati GP23||+8.649|
|3||Fabio Quartararo||🇨🇵||Monster Energy Yamaha||Yamaha M1||+8.855|
|4||Brad Binder||🇿🇦||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM RC16||+12.643|
|5||Joan Mir||🇪🇦||Repsol Honda Team||Honda RC213V||+13.214|
|6||Johann Zarco||🇨🇵||Prima Pramac Racing||Ducati GP23||+14.673|
|7||Franco Morbidelli||🇮🇹||Monster Energy Yamaha||Yamaha M1||+16.946|
|8||Maverick Vinales||🇪🇦||Aprilia Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||+17.191|
|9||Marc Marquez||🇪🇦||Repsol Honda Team||Honda RC213V||+19.118|
|10||Raul Fernandez||🇪🇦||CryptoData RNF Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||+26.504|
|11||Takaaki Nakagami||🇯🇵||LCR Honda IDEMITSU||Honda RC213V||+28.521|
|12||Miguel Oliveira||🇵🇹||CryptoData RNF Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||+29.088|
|13||Pol Espargaro||🇪🇦||GasGas Factory Racing Tech3||KTM RC16||+29.728|
|14||Jack Miller||🇦🇺||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM RC16||+31.324|
|15||Stefan Bradl||🇩🇪||LCR Honda IDEMITSU||Honda RC213V||+35.782|
|16||Michele Pirro||🇮🇹||Ducati Lenovo Team||Ducati GP23||+49.242|
|DNF||Fabio di Giannantonio||🇮🇹||Gresini Racing MotoGP||Ducati GP22|
|DNF||Pecco Bagnaia||🇮🇹||Ducati Lenovo Team||Ducati GP23|
|DNF||Aleix Espargaro||🇪🇦||Aprilia Racing||Aprilia RS-GP|
|DNF||Augusto Fernandez||🇪🇦||GasGas Factory Racing Tech3||KTM RC16|
|W||Luca Marini||🇮🇹||Mooney VR46 Racing||Ducati GP22|
|W||Alex Marquez||🇪🇦||Gresini Racing MotoGP||Ducati GP22|