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Bezzecchi keeps his cool as Bagnaia melts in India

Monday, 25 September 2023

Marco Bezzecchi was untouchable at the maiden Indian Grand Prix, the Ducati rider taking a runaway victory on a day when reigning MotoGP™ world champion Pecco Bagnaia opened the door to his title rivals with a costly crash from podium contention.

Marco Bezzecchi dominated a dramatic first visit by MotoGP™ to India, the Mooney VR46 Ducati rider leaving the rest for dust as he took a third career victory on a day that shook up the top of the championship table.

Pole-sitter Bezzecchi was elbowed down to third at the first corner by Ducati stablemates Jorge Martin and Pecco Bagnaia, but reclaimed the lead on the final corner of the first lap and kicked clear to win by over eight seconds, oblivious to the drama that was playing out behind him.


Fabio QuartararoAs it was last time out at the San Marino GP, the top three – Bezzecchi, Martin and Bagnaia – were in a class of their own and looked set to reprise their Misano podium until Bagnaia, having just repassed Martin for second, crashed out at Turn 5 with seven laps to go.

Martin then lost his grip on second place when he reached to re-zip his leathers that had come undone, falling into the clutches of Yamaha's Fabio Quartararo, and the pair had a ferocious last-lap fight that was settled in the Spaniard's favour by two-tenths of a second.

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A visibly distressed Martin, clearly affected by the searing 33-degree ambient temperatures in Delhi, wasn't able to ride his bike to parc ferme ahead of the podium ceremony, and needed medical attention to climb onto the rostrum to accept his second-place trophy.

Bagnaia's non-score – allied to Bezzecchi's victory and Martin's second place – means the reigning world champion's series lead has been slashed to 13 points; Bagnaia led by 62 points after winning in Austria four races ago, but two DNFs from the past three Grands Prix has blown the title race wide open with seven events remaining.

Quartararo's unexpected podium was his best result since the 2021 world champion finished third in round three in Austin, while just 16 starters saw the chequered flag in an attritional race that saw riders and machines pushed to their limits.

The Buddh grid on Sunday featured just 20 starters, with Ducati pair Alex Marquez (Gresini) and Luca Marini (Mooney VR46) the latest riders to be sidelined with injury.

Marini clattered into teammate Bezzecchi at the first corner of Saturday's Sprint and broke his left collarbone, while Marquez crashed heavily at the end of Q1 and broke three ribs. Both riders are considered unlikely to be fit for next weekend's event in Japan, joining regulars Enea Bastianini (Ducati) and Alex Rins (Honda) on the sidelines.

Martin dominated the Sprint after Bezzecchi fell to the back, with Bagnaia and Honda's Marc Marquez joining him on the podium after the 11-lap dash.

Aussie watch

A horror first lap put paid to Jack Miller's chances of salvaging big points from the sport's first outing at the Buddh International Circuit, the Australian recovering from last place on lap one to finish 14th.

Miller was caught out by yellow flags when he was on a lap good enough for second in opening practice, and admitted he "hit a bit of a wall" with bike set-up in the Friday afternoon session, falling to a third Q1 appearance in succession, and only qualifying 16th on Saturday.

Miller expertly avoided the first-lap carnage that eliminated a host of riders in Saturday's Sprint to finish seventh, but it was the same first corner that undid his chances on Sunday, running deep and wide as the field flicked right and ending up in 20th place after the first lap.

The KTM rider was able to quickly get back to 17th, but hit a roadblock when he encountered Marc Marquez on lap six, the Spaniard remounting after falling at Turn 1 when fighting for fourth place.

Miller finished 31.324secs behind race-winner Bezzecchi, but gained one place in the standings to ninth with 109 points after Alex Marquez was unable to take part.
In Moto3™, Joel Kelso's pointless run stretched to five races after the Australian high-sided out of the race on lap two when running in 18th place from 15th on the grid.

Kelso was declared fit after a post-crash visit to the circuit's medical centre, and is expected to take his place in next weekend's visit to the Twin Ring Motegi circuit in Japan.

Surprise packet

As surprising as Quartararo's third place was in India, it's another recent world champion – Honda's Joan Mir – who belongs in this section after the 2020 title-winner finished fifth, the first time he's scored a single point since the first Grand Prix of the season in Portimao in March.

Mir was a season-best fifth in qualifying and crashed in Saturday's Sprint while chasing Repsol Honda teammate and eventual podium finisher Marc Marquez, but stayed on the bike and stayed strong on Sunday, holding fourth for much of the race before dropping behind KTM's Brad Binder in the final laps.

Mir's 11 points for fifth place snaps a six-month drought where the Spaniard has missed four races with injuries from accidents, and has a grid-high 10 DNFs when he's been in action.

Number to know

: as in seconds – Bezzecchi's winning margin was the biggest all year, beating Bagnaia's 5.191secs win in Austria.

Indian Motorcycle Grand Prix: top 10

1. Marco Bezzecchi (Ducati) 36mins 59.157secs

2. Jorge Martin (Ducati) +8.649secs

3. Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) +8.855secs

4. Brad Binder (KTM) +12.643secs

5. Joan Mir (Honda) +13.214secs

6. Johann Zarco (Ducati) +14.673secs

7. Franco Morbidelli (Yamaha) +16.946secs

8. Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) +17.191secs

9. Marc Marquez (Honda) +19.118secs

10. Raul Fernandez (Aprilia) +26.504secs

Riders' championship standings (top 5)

1. Pecco Bagnaia (Ducati) 292 points

2. Jorge Martin (Ducati) 279 points

3. Marco Bezzecchi (Ducati) 248 points

4. Brad Binder (KTM) 192 points

5. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) 160 points

What's next?

Round 14: Japan (Twin Ring Motegi), Sept 29-Oct 1