Marco Bezzecchi has become MotoGP’s newest race winner after mastering the slippery conditions at Termas de Rio Hondo to claim a dominant Argentinian MotoGP victory.
Having fallen just shy of victory in Saturday’s MotoGP Sprint Race, the Italian put in an inch-perfect performance in the main MotoGP feature on the Mooney VR46 Racing to take a clear victory, the first in MotoGP for himself and Valentino Rossi’s satellite Ducati team.
He led home a Ducati 1-2-3 from Johann Zarco and pole sitter Alex Marquez, though there was disappointment for Pecco Bagnaia, the erstwhile championship leader losing a likely podium - and his place at the top of the standings - by sliding off track with eight laps to go.
With tricky wet conditions posing a test for the riders, the opening turns drew a ginger approach from the field, even if Franco Morbidelli’s lunge for the lead at Turn 1 did - as in the Sprint Race - send him wide.
Allowing Bezzecchi to nose ahead of pole man Marquez on the exit, from here the 2022 Rookie of the Year quickly set about making the most of the clear track ahead to establish a gap he’d steadily build on over the 25-lap distance.
With no rider making in-roads on the Italian’s margin, he was able to ease off in the closing stages and take the flag as a MotoGP race winner for the first time.
Indeed, it was double the celebration for Bezzecchi with his victory - coupled to Bagnaia’s failure to score - allowing him to leapfrog to the top of the MotoGP standings, nine points clear of his factory counterpart.
Having negotiated the busy opening few laps to join Marquez in breaking away in the battle for second, Bagnaia suffered a low-side at the penultimate corner in the closing stages. He remounted but took the flag just outside the points in 16th.
There was still celebration for Ducati though with Zarco’s late charge taking him past Marquez on the final lap for second on the Pramac Ducati, though the Spaniard could still take satisfaction from his first podium since taking second at Aragon in 2020 on the Repsol Honda.
Franco Morbidelli consolidated his return to form on the factory Yamaha as he secured a brace of fourth places from both races, while Jorge Martin completed the top five in a positive afternoon for the Pramac Ducati.
After Saturday’s heroics from Brad Binder - who secured a Sprint Race win from 15th on the grid - there was to be no repeat celebration for the South African when he crashed out on the opening lap.
Nevertheless, Jack Miller raised KTM’s mood with a solid run to sixth place, ahead of Fabio Quartataro, the Frenchman showing fighting spirit and scoring points - unlike Bagnaia - but again adrift of the lead fight.
Luca Marini completed the top eight to go with his podium in the Sprint Race, ahead of Alex Rins - the best placed Honda rider in ninth - and Fabio di Giannatonio, the Italian showing a strong turn of pace in the wet again to run as high as fifth initially en route to tenth, only his second top ten finish in MotoGP.
Rookie Augusto Fernandez closed on a maiden top ten with 11th on the sole GasGas, ahead of Maverick Vinales, who - together with Aprilia team-mate Aleix Espargaro in 15th - will curse the turn in the weather to scupper what had been excellent form in the dry on Friday.
Between them, Takaaki Nakagami and Raul Fernandez picked up points for 13th and 14th in a depleted field of just 17 riders, reduced by one more when Joan Mir was forced to withdraw due to an injury sustained in his accident during the Sprint Race, leaving both Repsol Hondas out of action.