Pecco Bagnaia has rebounded to the top of the 2023 MotoGP World Championship standings after taking full advantage of title rival Jorge Martin sensationally crashing out of a dominant lead in the Indonesian MotoGP.
In another twist to a MotoGP title fight that has come alive during the second-half of the season, Martin had looked well on course for a seventh win in eight races to swell a championship lead he’d only assumed for the first time 24 hours earlier.
However, that all came crashing down when he low-sided out of a comfortable lead mid-way through the race, a mistake compounded by a determined Bagnaia charging from 13th on the grid to take an opportunistic victory and move back ahead in the overall reckoning once again.
With five rounds remaining, Bagnaia heads to next weekend’s Australian MotoGP both back in the lead and armed with an 18-point advantage over Martin.
In what would prove to be a gruellingly eventful race all-round, Bagnaia led home Maverick Vinales in second place, with 2021 MotoGP World Champion Fabio Quartararo completing the podium.
Martin burns bright but too fast as Bagnaia reasserts authority
World Champion or not, you’d have gotten unusually long odds on Bagnaia ending a head-scratcher of a weekend with possibly the most satisfying victory of his career.
Having started the day staring up at another rider in the overall points’ table for the first time since Round 4, you'd have forgiven Bagnaia for having already turned his attentions towards Phillip Island in a few days time, such was the chasm in momentum between himself and Martin.
Indeed, with six wins from the last seven races having already spurred him to the summit of the standings, his quest for a seventh in eight to extend his newfound lead couldn't have started better... literally, the Pramac Ducati surging from sixth to first before the field had even reached the braking zone for Turn 1.
Having had to work hard for victory on Saturday, Martin capitalised on having a clear track ahead to quickly find his rhythm, taking only Vinales with him in an escape from a chasing pack being bottled up behind the Yamaha of a fast-starting-turned-hard defending Fabio Quartararo in third.
Despite one half of his worst case scenario being in progress as Martin stretched out in front, the Ducati Lenovo Team rider was at least also making good gains, quickly moving from 13th to eighth on the opening lap before taking advantage of scuffles around him to run third by lap three.
He got his elbows out too amid an occasionally physical top ten scrap but continued to make progress without rubbing bodywork. The same couldn't be said for pole-winning stablemate Luca Marini, whose injuries were tested again after being thumped off by Brad Binder in the early melee.
Earning the KTM rider a long lap penalty as a result, it was the first of two the South African would go on to receive after also rudely directing Miguel Oliveira off course with his RC16's front-wing later in the race.
Up ahead, Bagnaia had dismissed Quartararo for third, bringing Aleix Espargaro through with him, though it would ultimately be a race of two halves for the Aprilia man, one dictated by an erroneous soft compound choice that led to a protracted decline down the order in the latter stages.
Bagnaia's progress notwithstanding, there was still no indication of anything other than another victory for Martin, now more than three seconds clear of Vinales, the Aprilia rider steadily slipping into the clutches of Bagnaia.
On lap 11 of 27 though, Martin’s day, event and run of superior form came to a most abrupt end in a hail of gravel stones at Turn 11, the Pramac Ducati having folded with little warning as he rounded the right-hander. Throwing the title initiative right back to Bagnaia, it would take a dumbfounded Martin several laps to accept his situation and tear his eyes away from a race that had looked firmly within his grasp.
Martin’s DNF came during a frenzied handful of laps up and down the field, particularly among the Spanish contingent with Marc Marquez, Joan Mir, Pol Espargaro and Augusto Fernandez also coming down within a few minutes of one each other, while Johann Zarco rubbed salt into Pramac’s open wounds by suffering an almost identical crash to his team-mate five laps later.
Bagnaia capitalises, regains MotoGP advantage
Bagnaia’s work was far from done though, Martin’s exit having promoted Vinales into the lead just ahead of him but with a factory Ducati GP23 on his tail.
Taking stock of the incidents around him, Bagnaia eased up the tempo initially before mounting a fast attack on the Aprilia ahead, rapidly bridging the half-second margin before scything through at Turns 8/9.
Coming with eight laps remaining, the pass released Bagnaia into an unexpected, yet familiar spot out front. As such, Bagnaia resumed what he knows best by managing his advantage into the closing stages, giving him just enough in hand to stay clear of an advancing Vinales, who was forced to pick up his pace upon coming under threat from Quartararo late on.
However, they couldn’t get on terms with Bagnaia, the Italian savouring his tenth MotoGP victory (four Sprint, six full-length) of the 2023 season, a full Sunday haul to swing him right back to the top of the standings with room to spare.
Though less than a second short of becoming the first rider to have won a MotoGP race with three different manufacturers, he held on for second place, just ahead of former Yamaha team-mate Quartararo, the Frenchman taking his third podium of the year.
With an attrition rate of five DNFs compounded further by various issues for those still running at the back, those who stayed out of trouble as best they could landed notable results, chief among them Fabio di Giannantonio.
The Italian, who is still without a ride for the 2024 MotoGP season, kept it clean in the heat of battle to take the flag in a career-best finish of fourth, his progress having taken him past a fading Jack Miller late on.
A sore Marco Bezzecchi joined his Ducati counterpart in leapfrogging the KTMs in the closing stages to finish fifth, while Brad Binder brushed off a second long lap penalty handed down for biffing Miguel Oliveira into the litter on lap ten, to lead KTM team-mate Jack Miller in sixth and seventh respectively.
Enea Bastianini completed his comeback weekend with a solid eighth place finish, despite having to serve his long lap penalty from the Catalunya MotoGP, while Alex Rins kept it steady to record his first top ten result since returning from a long injury lay-off.
Aleix Espargaro rounded out the top ten having run as high as fourth in the early stages, the Spaniard paying the price for an erroneous tyre compound choice that slowed his pace during the latter stages, while Takaaki Nakagami, Raul Fernandez, Oliveira and Franco Morbidelli reached the flag to secure points for their efforts.
|2023 Indonesian MotoGP | Mandalika Circuit | RACE Results | Round 15 of 20|
|1||Pecco Bagnaia||🇮🇹||Ducati Lenovo Team||Ducati GP23||27 Laps|
|2||Maverick Vinales||🇪🇦||Aprilia Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||+0.306|
|3||Fabio Quartararo||🇨🇵||Monster Energy Yamaha||Yamaha M1||+0.433|
|4||Fabio di Giannantonio||🇮🇹||Gresini Racing MotoGP||Ducati GP22||+6.692|
|5||Marco Bezzecchi||🇮🇹||Mooney VR46 Racing||Ducati GP22||+11.111|
|6||Brad Binder||🇿🇦||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM RC16||+11.228|
|7||Jack Miller||🇦🇺||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM RC16||+12.474|
|8||Enea Bastianini||🇮🇹||Ducati Lenovo Team||Ducati GP23||+22.540|
|9||Alex Rins||🇪🇦||LCR Honda Castrol||Honda RC213V||+30.468|
|10||Aleix Espargaro||🇪🇦||Aprilia Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||+30.823|
|11||Takaaki Nakagami||🇯🇵||LCR Honda IDEMITSU||Honda RC213V||+36.639|
|12||Miguel Oliveira||🇵🇹||CryptoData RNF Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||+42.864|
|13||Raul Fernandez||🇪🇦||CryptoData RNF Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||+2 Laps|
|14||Franco Morbidelli||🇮🇹||Monster Energy Yamaha||Yamaha M1|
|DNF||Johann Zarco||🇨🇵||Prima Pramac Racing||Ducati GP23|
|DNF||Jorge Martin||🇪🇦||Prima Pramac Racing||Ducati GP23|
|DNF||Joan Mir||🇪🇦||Repsol Honda Team||Honda RC213V|
|DNF||Augusto Fernandez||🇪🇦||GasGas Factory Racing Tech3||KTM RC16|
|DNF||Marc Marquez||🇪🇦||Repsol Honda Team||Honda RC213V|
|DNF||Luca Marini||🇮🇹||Mooney VR46 Racing||Ducati GP22|
|DNF||Pol Espargaro||🇪🇦||GasGas Factory Racing Tech3||KTM RC16|
|W||Alex Marquez||🇪🇦||Gresini Racing MotoGP||Ducati GP22|