Jorge Martin has halved the gap ahead to title rival Pecco Bagnaia in the standings after taking a timely eighth Sprint Race win of the season in the Qatar MotoGP at the Lusail International Circuit.
The Spaniard put in a determined performance to muscle his way to the front of the field by the half-way point before resisting a spirited challenge from Fabio di Giannantonio to take the flag by three tenths of a second.
Earning himself the full 12 points for his efforts, with Bagnaia unable to manage any better than fifth place, the margin between the pair has halved from 14 points to seven with three races of the season remaining.
Having lost ground to his rival in Malaysia last weekend, Martin quickly showed he was in no mood to allow the Italian a chance to eke his advantage out further as he muscled his way past into Turn 1 at the start.
Though a wide moment further round the opening lap allowed both Bagnaia and Marc Marquez through ahead of him, Martin quickly recovered ground on lap two with another tight overtake - and some light contact - into Turn 10.
From here, Martin only had eyes on a front two comprising Luca Marini - who held his place from pole position to lead at the end of lap one - and Alex Marquez.
With the GP22-equipped duo pulling a gap on the chasing pack behind initially, eventually they’d be reeled in by Martin after two failed lunges for the lead by Marquez cost them time.
Indeed, after Marquez nosed ahead of Marini for the lead into Turn 1 on lap five, his wide exit would give Martin the opportunity to pounce for second on the Gresini rider. From here, Martin wasted no time in getting the better of Marini, relieving him of the lead with a neat pass into the final corner.
The Prima Pramac Ducati rider wouldn’t be headed again thereafter, even if he did come under pressure in the latter stages from a determined di Giannantonio.
Still seeking a ride for 2024 after being ousted by Marc Marquez at Gresini Racing, the Italian put himself front and centre of the shop window again despite losing ground at the start to drop from second to sixth on the opening lap.
However, an aggressive fight back through the Ducatis ahead of him would see him up to second by lap six before steadily reeling Martin in too.
Though he’d run out of time to make a play for the win, second place marks his best-ever MotoGP result, an improvement on the third he achieved in the Australian MotoGP last month.
Despite missing out on the chance of a first win in MotoGP, Marini brought it home safely for third place, ahead of Alex Marquez, who had the measure of Bagnaia in fifth.
The defending champion never looked at ease on the factory Ducati as he came under attack from Martin and then di Giannantonio early on, falling off the back of the lead pack into a fifth place spot he’d hold to the flag.
Maverick Vinales emerged as the best of the non-Ducati riders in sixth place in an otherwise dismal race for the Aprilia quartet after Raul Fernandez slipped from running as high as eighth early on to take the flag in 14th, while Aleix Espargaro - already reeling from his FP2 fracas with Franco Morbidelli, which led to a grid penalty and fine - was eliminated with Miguel Oliveira in a collision on the opening lap.
Brad Binder upheld KTM honours in seventh place, albeit at the expense of Marc Marquez, whom he barged out of the points as he came through on lap three, while Fabio Quartararo made gains from 14th on the grid to take eighth on the Yamaha.
In a fierce battle for the final points’ paying position in ninth, Augusto Fernandez came through for the single digit on the GasGas Tech3 KTM in ninth, leaving Johann Zarco, Marquez, Jack Miller and an out-of-sorts Marco Bezzecchi without any points in tenth down to 13th.
Qatar MotoGP, Lusail International Circuit - Sprint Race Results
|2023 Qatar MotoGP - Lusail International Circuit - Sprint Race Results - Round 19 of 20|
|1||Jorge Martin||🇪🇦||Prima Pramac Racing||Ducati GP23||11 Laps|
|2||Fabio di Giannantonio||🇮🇹||Gresini Racing MotoGP||Ducati GP22||+0.391|
|3||Luca Marini||🇮🇹||Mooney VR46 Racing||Ducati GP22||+2.875|
|4||Alex Marquez||🇪🇦||Gresini Racing MotoGP||Ducati GP22||+3.370|
|5||Francesco Bagnaia||🇮🇹||Ducati Lenovo Team||Ducati GP23||+3.957|
|6||Maverick Vinales||🇪🇦||Aprilia Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||+4.239|
|7||Brad Binder||🇿🇦||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM RC16||+5.761|
|8||Fabio Quartararo||🇨🇵||Monster Energy Yamaha||Yamaha M1||+6.454|
|9||Augusto Fernandez||🇪🇦||GasGas Factory Racing Tech3||KTM RC16||+8.285|
|10||Johann Zarco||🇨🇵||Prima Pramac Racing||Ducati GP23||+8.314|
|11||Marc Marquez||🇪🇦||Repsol Honda Team||Honda RC213V||+9.596|
|12||Jack Miller||🇦🇺||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM RC16||+10.173|
|13||Marco Bezzecchi||🇮🇹||Mooney VR46 Racing||Ducati GP22||+10.646|
|14||Raul Fernandez||🇪🇦||CryptoData RNF Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||+11.117|
|15||Franco Morbidelli||🇮🇹||Monster Energy Yamaha||Yamaha M1||+12.163|
|16||Pol Espargaro||🇪🇦||GasGas Factory Racing Tech3||KTM RC16||+12.745|
|17||Iker Lecuona||🇪🇦||LCR Honda Castrol||Honda RC213V||+19.285|
|18||Takaaki Nakagami||🇯🇵||LCR Honda IDEMITSU||Honda RC213V||+26.238|
|19||Joan Mir||🇪🇦||Repsol Honda Team||Honda RC213V||+28.446|
|20||Enea Bastianini||🇮🇹||Ducati Lenovo Team||Ducati GP23||+35.553|
|DNF||Aleix Espargaro||🇪🇦||Aprilia Racing||Aprilia RS-GP|
|DNF||Miguel Oliveira||🇵🇹||CryptoData RNF Racing||Aprilia RS-GP|