Jorge Martin has risen to the summit of the MotoGP World Championship standings for the first time after charging to his sixth victory in seven races with a ruthless performance in the Indonesian MotoGP Sprint Race.
The Spaniard shrugged off a ragged qualifying that left him a modest sixth on the grid to get his head down at the Mandalika Circuit and clamour his way to the front of the field, relieving Maverick Vinales of the lead with five laps remaining before easing to the flag.
Extending a rich vein of form that has now yielded four consecutive Sprint Race wins, of greater significance is his surge right back into the 2023 MotoGP title fight against Pecco Bagnaia.
Having started the race three points in arrears of his Ducati counterpart, Bagnaia's anonymous afternoon run to eighth means a ten-point swing in the Pramac rider's favour, lifting him to the head of the standings with a seven-point advantage.
In an all-Ducati 1-2-3, Luca Marini and Marco Bezzecchi battled through the pain barrier of their respective collarbone injuries to complete the podium, ahead of Vinales and Fabio Quartararo.
Martin’s MotoGP title momentum kicks up another gear
Beyond the prestige of rising to the summit of the overall standings, there was much for Martin to take satisfaction from in a performance that extends a run of success that arguably sees him leapfrog Bagnaia for status as the new rider to beat in the title race too.
Indeed, though Martin has to date shrugged off the building pressure of his snowballing title bid, a ragged show during Q2 - which he began in the knowledge that Bagnaia would start down in 13th - suggested an increasingly nervy awareness of the higher stakes he is now facing up to.
However, if qualifying acted as a warning shot, Martin would take no heed of it once the lights were out, quickly working his way into an fifth early on before muscling his way past Brad Binder for fourth by the end of the opening lap.
Up the road, it was Vinales who led the field across the line for the first time, the Aprilia rider getting a move done on pole sitter Marini at Turn 2 and immediately getting the hammer down to open up a comfortable gap over the field behind.
Further back, Martin quickly asserted himself on Fabio Quartararo for third, even if his haste to dismiss the Yamaha rider led to multiple back-and-forths between the pair as the Ducati hurried up the inside, only to run wide and invite the Frenchman back ahead.
Nevertheless, Martin got the move done definitively before the end of lap three and immediately set about chasing down a half-second margin to Marini up ahead, who in turn was beginning to peg back the margin to Vinales up ahead.
Soon onto the VR46 bike’s tail, Martin wasted no time in dispatching of his Ducati counterpart with an aggressive overtake at Turn 12 on lap five, lifting him to second and at one end of a +0.6s margin to Vinales up ahead.
Having managed his pace up front since the opening lap, Vinales initially stabilised the gap to Martin behind but as the race entered its final third, it was evident the Aprilia RS-GP was struggling more for grip than rivals behind.
As Vinales shed corner speed around the faster turns, Martin - still being chased honestly by Marini and now Bezzecchi too - quickly gobbled up the gap ahead of him. Easing up to the rear of the Aprilia with five laps remaining, Martin struck for the lead, scything through at Turn 6.
Needing just the remainder of the lap to put more than half-a-second between himself and a Vinales now busy fending off two VR46 Ducatis behind him, Martin made victory a formality over the remaining laps.
Indeed, though Marini - who too used Turn 6 with four laps to go to grab second - briefly put up a spirited chase, he’d ease off to let Martin take the flag for his ninth win (six Sprint, three full-length GP) of the year and a maximum 12 points.
Behind him, Marini - on his return to action after injuring his collarbone in a collision during the Indian MotoGP - protected second place, while the similarly crocked Bezzecchi eventually got the better of an ailing Vinales to complete the rostrum spots.
A disappointing race all round for an Aprilia team that had come into the race considered as the probable favourites for victory, while Vinales clinged onto fourth, Aleix Espargaro failed to finish following a tangle with Brad Binder.
The Spaniard had been attempting to battle back from a poor start that dropped him from third to sixth when an untidy attempt to overtake the KTM rider at Turn 16 led to him folding the front of his RS-GP, wiping both himself and Binder out of contention.
Their exit released Quartararo to take fifth place, while Fabio di Giannantonio secured a solid sixth, the latest positive result in what has been an encouraging thread of form for the as-yet-unsigned for 2024 Gresini rider.
Bastianini proves a thorn for Bagnaia again
If it was a race to celebrate for Ducati’s satellite arms, the same couldn’t be said for the factory team as Bagnaia’s struggles from practice and qualifying failed to ease in race conditions as he laboured to a distant eighth.
To make matters all the more bitter, Bagnaia would find his race spoiled by factory team-mate Enea Bastianini, who - having already been the culprit that prevented him from from progressing out of Q1 - maintained a steadfast defence of seventh place that cost both time and, for the erstwhile championship leader, potential precious points.
It means Bagnaia cedes the overall lead in the standings for the first time since Round 4 in Spain.
Picking up the final point, meanwhile, was Jack Miller, who might have finished higher but for a mistake that dropped him out of seventh place and down to tenth. However, he’d get back past Miguel Oliveira to pick up the digit, the RNF Aprilia rider leading Takaaki Nakagami and Johann Zarco, in a point-less tenth, 11th and 12th.
In addition to Espargaro, who eventually pulled in to retire while Binder soldiered on at the back of the field, Marc Marquez suffered an early exit on the Repsol Honda after crashing at Turn 16 on lap one.
|2023 Indonesian MotoGP | Mandalika Circuit | Sprint Race Results | Round 15 of 20|
|1||Jorge Martin||🇪🇦||Prima Pramac Racing||Ducati GP23||13 Laps|
|2||Luca Marini||🇮🇹||Mooney VR46 Racing||Ducati GP22||+1.131|
|3||Marco Bezzecchi||🇮🇹||Mooney VR46 Racing||Ducati GP22||+2.081|
|4||Maverick Vinales||🇪🇦||Aprilia Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||+2.720|
|5||Fabio Quartararo||🇨🇵||Monster Energy Yamaha||Yamaha M1||+3.121|
|6||Fabio di Giannantonio||🇮🇹||Gresini Racing MotoGP||Ducati GP22||+4.203|
|7||Enea Bastianini||🇮🇹||Ducati Lenovo Team||Ducati GP23||+4.981|
|8||Pecco Bagnaia||🇮🇹||Ducati Lenovo Team||Ducati GP23||+5.465|
|9||Jack Miller||🇦🇺||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM RC16||+7.852|
|10||Miguel Oliveira||🇵🇹||CryptoData RNF Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||+8.942|
|11||Takaaki Nakagami||🇯🇵||LCR Honda IDEMITSU||Honda RC213V||+12.034|
|12||Johann Zarco||🇨🇵||Prima Pramac Racing||Ducati GP23||+14.015|
|13||Augusto Fernandez||🇪🇦||GasGas Factory Racing Tech3||KTM RC16||+14.823|
|14||Raul Fernandez||🇪🇦||CryptoData RNF Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||+15.699|
|15||Franco Morbidelli||🇮🇹||Monster Energy Yamaha||Yamaha M1||+23.331|
|16||Joan Mir||🇪🇦||Repsol Honda Team||Honda RC213V||+24.894|
|17||Pol Espargaro||🇪🇦||GasGas Factory Racing Tech3||KTM RC16||+27.169|
|18||Alex Rins||🇪🇦||LCR Honda Castrol||Honda RC213V||+28.980|
|19||Brad Binder||🇿🇦||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM RC16||+43.090|
|DNF||Aleix Espargaro||🇪🇦||Aprilia Racing||Aprilia RS-GP|
|DNF||Marc Marquez||🇪🇦||Repsol Honda Team||Honda RC213V|
|W||Alex Marquez||🇪🇦||Gresini Racing MotoGP||Ducati GP22|