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Bagnaia goes back-to-back after Martin mistake

Monday, 27 November 2023

Pecco Bagnaia won his second MotoGP™ crown in succession in a dramatic season finale, when Jorge Martin threw his chances away and Jack Miller squandered victory.

Pecco Bagnaia retained his MotoGP™ world championship crown after a wild season finale at the Valencia Grand Prix, the Italian taking victory after title rival Jorge Martin crashed out on lap six after plummeting back through the field.

After Martin won the 13-lap Saturday Sprint in Spain to narrow Bagnaia’s lead to 14 points, the Pramac Ducati rider needed to win Sunday’s 27-lap decider and have Bagnaia finish no better than fifth to take the title.


Bagnaia, from pole after Aprilia’s Maverick Vinales was penalised three grid positions for irresponsible riding in the Sunday warm-up, led off the start but was immediately joined by Martin at the front as the tension mounted.

Martin almost ran into Bagnaia at the first corner on lap three, continuing in seventh place after careering across the tarmac run-off, but would only last three more laps before rear-ending Marc Marquez (Honda) at Turn 4, the clash sending the six-time world champion into a huge high-side and Martin’s bike clattering into the air fence.

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With Bagnaia’s championship assured as Martin fell, KTM duo Brad Binder and Jack Miller swept past the circumspect Italian to run 1-2 before Binder ran wide on lap 14 to hand the lead to Miller, who looked set to become the first rider in history to win with three different manufacturers before he crashed out of the lead at Turn 11 on lap 19.

Bagnaia inherited the lead but faced increasing pressure late in the race from Ducati’s Fabio Di Giannantonio, who beat Bagnaia for his maiden win in Qatar just seven days previously. Bagnaia prevailed on a thrilling last lap by 0.176secs, but Di Giannantonio was later penalised three seconds for a tyre pressure breach, Johann Zarco (Pramac Ducati) and Binder inheriting the podium positions in an attritional race where just 14 riders finished.

Aussie watch

Sunday’s crash was a brutal way to end the season for Jack Miller, who looked odds-on to record his first win for KTM before his late-race spill when in control of the race.

It was a bruising weekend for Miller before Sunday’s race – he had two heavy crashes in practice on Friday, injuring his shoulder and feet after a monster high-side at Turn 4 – but he dusted himself off to qualify in fourth place. His launch control failed on the grid for Saturday’s Sprint, though, and he plummeted back to last before his ride-height device disengaged before storming back to finish 12th.

Promoted to third on Sunday’s grid by Vinales’ penalty, Miller sat behind Binder as Bagnaia fell back to third immediately after Martin’s crash ensured the title was his, but the South African’s run-off on lap 14 dropped him to sixth, opening a path for the Australian to win before his own mistake and crash.

In Moto3™, Miller’s compatriot Joel Kelso finished seventh in Sunday’s 20-lap lightweight-class race, the 20-year-old continuing his strong end-of-season form that began when he finished third at Phillip Island in October.

In his final race for the CFMOTO Racing PruestelGP team, which is departing the sport at the end of the season, Kelso qualified fourth and was part of a seven-bike breakaway at the front of the race, eventually finishing 4.623secs behind race-winner Ayumu Sasaki (Husqvarna).

Surprise packet

It’s been tough going for Raul Fernandez in his two MotoGP™ seasons, the former Moto2™ front-runner struggling alongside former intermediate-class teammate Remy Gardner in 2022 before his move to Aprilia this season, where he’d managed just four top-10 finishes before coming home fifth on Sunday.

The Spaniard’s best premier-class showing yet owed itself to a smattering of good fortune, but on a day where race-winners and title-contenders didn’t see the chequered flag, the 23-year-old kept his head to finish just 4.6secs behind Bagnaia on a day where so much went so wrong for so many others.

Number to know

0: Bagnaia’s victory on Sunday ensured we had no back-to-back Grand Prix winners in 2023. The only other time that’s happened was in the very first season of the championship in 1949 – when there were just six races.

Valencia Motorcycle Grand Prix: top 10

  1. Pecco Bagnaia (Ducati) 40mins 58.535secs
  2. Johann Zarco (Ducati) +0.360secs
  3. Brad Binder (KTM) +2.347secs
  4. Fabio Di Giannantonio (Ducati) +3.176secs
  5. Raul Fernandez (Aprilia) +4.636secs
  6. Alex Marquez (Ducati) +4.708secs
  7. Franco Morbidelli (Yamaha) +4.736secs
  8. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) +8.014secs
  9. Luca Marini (Ducati) +9.486secs
  10. Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) +10.556secs

Riders' championship standings (top 5)

  1. Pecco Bagnaia (Ducati) 467 points
  2. Jorge Martin (Ducati) 428 points
  3. Marco Bezzecchi (Ducati) 329 points
  4. Brad Binder (KTM) 293 points
  5. Johann Zarco (Ducati) 225 points

What's next?

Round 1, 2024: Qatar (Lusail International Circuit), Mar 8-10