Jorge Martin has taken another bite out of Pecco Bagnaia’s dwindling 2023 MotoGP World Championship lead after claiming a comfortable pole-to-flag victory in the Japanese MotoGP Sprint Race.
The in-form Spaniard reeled off his third consecutive Sprint Race victory and fourth win in five races with another comprehensive performance on the Prima Pramac Ducati, well ahead of Bagnaia, who could only muster a distant third.
It means the factory Ducati rider retains a modest eight point lead over his stablemate heading into Sunday’s more lucrative full length feature, a race Martin will likely start as hot favourite following his Saturday romp.
Indeed, in a fairly low-key Sprint Race for the entire field, Martin got his job done on the run down to the first corner with a good start from pole position giving him the hole-shot and a lead that wouldn’t be troubled thereafter.
Bagnaia, on the other hand, could do nothing to stop both factory KTM riders from getting the jump on him into Turn 1 with Jack Miller making the most of his front row start to grab second, while Brad Binder on the new carbon fibre chassis RC16 squeezed into third.
The South African proceeded to then launch some friendly fire at team-mate Miller by muscling past under braking for the tricky downhill 90-degree right-hander before the end of the opening lap.
From here, Binder set off in pursuit of Martin but though he’d prove a competitive foe for the Spaniard with a margin that’d remain honest to the flag, at no point was the Spaniard challenged for position.
With victory to be assured up front for his rival, attention turned to whether Bagnaia could limit the damage to his lead from an early position of fourth place. Losing ground during the initial laps that put him under pressure from Marc Marquez behind, Bagnaia soon got to work on shadowing Miller - a race winner at Motegi for Ducati last season - in third.
While Miller has shown a tendency to ask too much of his tyres this season, the Australian would prove a stubborn foil for his former team-mate, the Ducati’s advantage in a straight-line over the KTM negated by an apparent lack of confidence on the brakes.
As Miller repeatedly rebuffed Bagnaia’s best efforts, eventually it’d take a small error from the Australian at the 90-degree corner for the Italian to nip past on the exit with just over two laps to go.
Earning Bagnaia an extra digit for his efforts, the defending champion crossed the line in third position, almost six seconds adrift of his title rival taking the flag as the winner from Binder.
Despite the late attentions of Johann Zarco on the second of the Pramac Ducatis, Miller held onto fourth place to complete a strong Saturday for KTM, while the Zarco in fifth means Pramac Racing have strengthened its grip on the MotoGP Teams’ standings lead.
In sixth, Marco Bezzecchi saw his slim title hopes take another hit on an eventful day that saw him crash heavily during the morning session before then reportedly getting hurt again in a freak incident when the scooter he was jumping onto the back of moved off before he’d sat down.
It was a similarly action-packed Sprint Race, the Italian forced to get back into contention after a poor start, only to then lose ground again when the staunch defence of Marc Marquez’s sixth place on lap eight just sent both wide and down the order.
However, he’d claw his way back to sixth at the expense of Marquez in seventh, while Fabio di Giannantonio made the most of his second row starting position to collect two points for eighth. Maverick Vinales picked up the ninth and final point, albeit at the expense of Aleix Espargaro, who was the only retiree after encountering technical issues.
|2023 Japanese MotoGP | Twin Ring Motegi, Japan | Sprint Race Results | Round 14 of 20|
|1||Jorge Martin||🇪🇦||Prima Pramac Racing||Ducati GP23||12 Laps|
|2||Brad Binder||🇿🇦||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM RC16||+1.390|
|3||Pecco Bagnaia||🇮🇹||Ducati Lenovo Team||Ducati GP23||+5.279|
|4||Jack Miller||🇦🇺||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM RC16||+6.194|
|5||Johann Zarco||🇨🇵||Prima Pramac Racing||Ducati GP23||+6.315|
|6||Marco Bezzecchi||🇮🇹||Mooney VR46 Racing||Ducati GP22||+8.919|
|7||Marc Marquez||🇪🇦||Repsol Honda Team||Honda RC213V||+9.298|
|8||Fabio di Giannantonio||🇮🇹||Gresini Racing MotoGP||Ducati GP22||+10.189|
|9||Maverick Vinales||🇪🇦||Aprilia Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||+12.404|
|10||Raul Fernandez||🇪🇦||CryptoData RNF Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||+15.366|
|11||Pol Espargaro||🇪🇦||GasGas Factory Racing Tech3||KTM RC16||+15.473|
|12||Augusto Fernandez||🇪🇦||GasGas Factory Racing Tech3||KTM RC16||+15.592|
|13||Joan Mir||🇪🇦||Repsol Honda Team||Honda RC213V||+17.052|
|14||Miguel Oliveira||🇵🇹||CryptoData RNF Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||+18.092|
|15||Fabio Quartararo||🇨🇵||Monster Energy Yamaha||Yamaha M1||+19.333|
|16||Franco Morbidelli||🇮🇹||Monster Energy Yamaha||Yamaha M1||+19.645|
|17||Takaaki Nakagami||🇯🇵||LCR Honda IDEMITSU||Honda RC213V||+21.862|
|18||Cal Crutchlow||🇬🇧||YAMALUBE RS4GP||Yamaha M1||+26.026|
|19||Michele Pirro||🇮🇹||Ducati Lenovo Team||Ducati GP23||+27.911|
|20||Stefan Bradl||🇩🇪||LCR Honda Castrol||Honda RC213V||+28.178|
|DNF||Aleix Espargaro||🇪🇦||Aprilia Racing||Aprilia RS-GP|
|W||Alex Rins||🇪🇦||LCR Honda Castrol||Honda RC213V|