Enea Bastianini returned to winning ways in emphatic fashion with a commanding first victory in factory Ducati colours in the Malaysian MotoGP at Sepang.
The Italian made the most of title rivals Pecco Bagnaia and Jorge Martin taking one another wide as they disputed the hole-shot into Turn 1 to snatch a lead he’d go on to control to the flag from Alex Marquez.
After losing touch with their Ducati stablemates ahead, Bagnaia and Martin’s personal tussle was decided in the former’s favour, his third place finish earning him a small extension of his championship lead to 14 points over the Spaniard.
However, the day ultimately belonged to Bastianini, who concluded a strong return to form over the weekend with a dominant victory, his fourth in the premier class.
Though initially pressured by Marquez during the early laps, a series of strong laps before the mid-way stage would ultimately give Bastianini the breathing room he needed to complete a clear win over his successor at Gresini Racing.
A significant first win for Bastianini since being promoted to the factory team, it comes towards the end of an otherwise embattled season hindered by injuries sustained at the top of the year during the Portimao opener and then again at the start of the Catalunya MotoGP.
Chasing him home was Marquez, the Sprint Race winner completing his strongest weekend of the season with a second place finish, just over +1.5s adrift of his Ducati counterpart.
Behind him, Bagnaia got the better of Martin in a straight fight for third to regain the upper hand in the title fight with just two rounds of the season remaining.
Though a fast-starting Martin made a lunge for the inside at Turn 1 to briefly nose ahead, he’d take both himself and Bagnaia wide on the exit, opening the door for Bastianini and Marquez to get through.
Martin rallied briefly during the early stages with an overtake attempt into Turn 14, only to run wide on the exit to allow Bagnaia through. He’d attempt to pass again at Turn 4 on lap four, but Bagnaia was wise to it as he held position again.
It’s a move that would prove decisive, Bagnaia putting distance between himself and Martin to finish a comfortable third, leaving Martin to make do with fourth as he completed a Ducati 1-2-3-4.
In fifth place, Fabio Quartararo enjoyed one of his and Yamaha’s most competitive races for a second consecutive top five finish, winning out in a battle with Marco Bezzecchi, while Franco Morbidelli consolidated Yamaha’s positive day in seventh.
Jack Miller led the KTM challenge in eighth, the Australian saving face for the Austrian team after Brad Binder crashed out at Turn 10 on lap 12, while Fabio di Giannantonio and Luca Marini rounded out the top ten on their respective Gresini and VR46 Desmos.
On a tough day for Aprilia, Maverick Vinales was the factory team’s lone finisher in 11th place after Aleix Espargaro dropped his RS-GP on lap ten, while Miguel Oliveira was also downed in a tumble on lap five on the satellite RNF machine.
Australian MotoGP winner Johann Zarco followed in 12th and Marc Marquez flew the flag as the highest-placed Honda representative in 13th, while the final points’ paying positions were assumed by Augusto Fernandez on the GasGas Tech3 machine and his team-mate Pol Espargaro.
Meanwhile, Alvaro Bautista's first MotoGP outing since 2018 ended with a 17th place finish for the double WorldSBK Champion
|2023 Malaysian MotoGP | Sepang International Circuit | Warm-Up Results | Round 18 of 20|
|1||Fabio Quartararo||🇨🇵||Monster Energy Yamaha||Yamaha M1||1m 59.218|
|2||Brad Binder||🇿🇦||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM RC16||1m 59.243|
|3||Enea Bastianini||🇮🇹||Ducati Lenovo Team||Ducati GP23||1m 59.322|
|4||Alex Marquez||🇪🇦||Gresini Racing MotoGP||Ducati GP22||1m 59.352|
|5||Aleix Espargaro||🇪🇦||Aprilia Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||1m 59.435|
|6||Pecco Bagnaia||🇮🇹||Ducati Lenovo Team||Ducati GP23||1m 59.570|
|7||Franco Morbidelli||🇮🇹||Monster Energy Yamaha||Yamaha M1||1m 59.643|
|8||Jack Miller||🇦🇺||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM RC16||1m 59.668|
|9||Johann Zarco||🇨🇵||Prima Pramac Racing||Ducati GP23||1m 59.688|
|10||Pol Espargaro||🇪🇦||GasGas Factory Racing Tech3||KTM RC16||1m 59.753|
|11||Luca Marini||🇮🇹||Mooney VR46 Racing||Ducati GP22||1m 59.756|
|12||Marco Bezzecchi||🇮🇹||Mooney VR46 Racing||Ducati GP22||1m 59.811|
|13||Marc Marquez||🇪🇦||Repsol Honda Team||Honda RC213V||1m 59.996|
|14||Maverick Vinales||🇪🇦||Aprilia Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||2m 00.067|
|15||Miguel Oliveira||🇵🇹||CryptoData RNF Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||2m 00.073|
|16||Jorge Martin||🇪🇦||Prima Pramac Racing||Ducati GP23||2m 00.073|
|17||Raul Fernandez||🇪🇦||CryptoData RNF Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||2m 00.110|
|18||Fabio di Giannantonio||🇮🇹||Gresini Racing MotoGP||Ducati GP22||2m 00.134|
|19||Joan Mir||🇪🇦||Repsol Honda Team||Honda RC213V||2m 00.267|
|20||Takaaki Nakagami||🇯🇵||LCR Honda IDEMITSU||Honda RC213V||2m 00.334|
|21||Augusto Fernandez||🇪🇦||GasGas Factory Racing Tech3||KTM RC16||2m 00.368|
|22||Alvaro Bautista||🇪🇦||Aruba Racing||Ducati GP23||2m 00.701|
|23||Iker Lecuona||🇪🇦||LCR Honda Castrol||Honda RC213V||2m 01.383|