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Martin makes a splash in rain-hit race in Japan

Monday, 2 October 2023

Ducati's Jorge Martin took a pole-Sprint-Grand Prix treble at Motegi, slashing Pecco Bagnaia's MotoGP™ world championship lead to just three points as rain stopped play in Japan.

Jorge Martin slashed Pecco Bagnaia's world championship lead to just three points with victory in a dramatic, rain-reduced Japanese Grand Prix, the Spaniard backing up his Saturday Sprint win with a main-race victory in a Grand Prix that was curtailed after just 12 of the 24 scheduled laps on Sunday.

The Pramac Ducati rider took his second Grand Prix win in the past three races – and his third Sprint win in succession – in Japan, further reducing what was a 62-point deficit to Bagnaia just four events ago in Austria with six weekends left this season.


Drizzle just before the lights went out to start Sunday's 24-lap Grand Prix soon gave way to a deluge before the first lap was completed, with the majority of the field pitting for wet-weather bikes and Martin falling to ninth when he ran wide in the wet at Turn 3 on the third lap as conditions worsened.

The Spaniard was unstoppable from there, scything his way into the podium places within two laps, and then passing Bagnaia and Aprilia's Aleix Espargaro to take the lead on lap six as the field slithered around in conditions that became more challenging by the lap.

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As Martin crossed the start-finish line to begin lap 13, race officials red-flagged the race, with a 20-minute delay ensuing. The field was then sent out for a 12-lap restart, but that too was red-flagged before the riders finished their warm-up lap, full world championship points awarded as the initial race had completed half the scheduled distance.

Martin took pole, won the Sprint and the Grand Prix proper for the second time in the past three events, doing likewise at Misano in the San Marino Grand Prix last month. The Spaniard has won five of the 14 Sprints held so far this season, more than any other rider.

The ever-consistent Bagnaia – he's now finished 21 of the 28 races this year inside the top three – held on to the championship lead by his fingernails, but the Italian hasn’t finished ahead of Martin since the Sprint in Catalunya in round 11.

Rounding out the podium at Motegi was Honda's Marc Marquez, the Spaniard making his first visit to a Grand Prix rostrum this season after podiums in the Sprints in Portugal in round one, and at last weekend's first visit by MotoGP™ to India.

Aussie watch

Jack Miller was left to wonder what might have been on a much brighter weekend for the Australian in Japan, a front-row start seeing him finish in sixth place when the race was red-flagged on Sunday.

Miller – who, along with teammate Brad Binder, used KTM's new carbon fibre chassis at Motegi – shone in qualifying to start in third place, his best showing since he was second on the grid for the British Grand Prix in August. He was shuffled down the order to ninth on lap two when the majority of the field pitted to discard their dry-weather bikes, but steadily recovered to be in sixth place when the race was red-flagged, frustrated that the race wasn't re-started.

Miller, who featured in the podium fight in a dry-weather 12-lap Sprint on Saturday before finishing fourth, snapped a barren run of results with 16 points in Japan, where he won in dominant fashion for Ducati a year ago. The 28-year-old had scored just 19 points in the four previous weekends before his haul at Motegi.

In Moto3™, Miller's compatriot Joel Kelso grabbed the final point on offer in the lightweight class by finishing 15th at Motegi, his first points finish since round eight at Assen in late June.

Starting from 18th after a three-place grid penalty for irresponsible riding in final practice, the 20-year-old fired his CFMOTO Racing PruestelGP entry into the points on lap four, and stayed there for the majority of the 17-lap distance to snap a five-race scoreless drought.

Senna Agius was back in action in Moto2™ for the Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP team, deputising for German Lukas Tulovic, who crashed last weekend in India and broke his left collarbone.

Agius, in his fifth appearance for the team this season, qualified 29th in the 30-bike field on a Kalex, and finished 21st, 34.103secs behind runaway race-winner, Thailand's Somkiat Chantra (Honda).

Surprise packet

It's not been an easy second MotoGP™ campaign for Fabio Di Giannantonio, who has struggled for form and results while having to endure constant speculation that his Ducati will be going the way of Marc Marquez for next season. But the Italian shone in whatever conditions Motegi threw at him, qualifying a season-best fifth and finishing eighth in both the Sprint and Grand Prix proper in Japan.

Nursing a left shoulder injury, 'Diggia' equalled his eighth-place results in Germany last year and France this year as his best showings in the premier class, while eighth in the Sprint represented his first Saturday points all season. Japan may not save Di Giannantonio's 2024 ride, but was a welcome step in the right direction on a day when several vastly more experienced rivals stumbled.

Number to know

141: Marc Marquez's 141st Grand Prix podium saw him surpass fellow Spaniard Angel Nieto for fifth on the all-time list; his 140th came when he finished second at last year's Australian GP, 349 days earlier.

Japanese Motorcycle Grand Prix: top 10

  • 1. Jorge Martin (Ducati) 24mins 06.314secs
  • 2. Pecco Bagnaia (Ducati) +1.413secs
  • 3. Marc Marquez (Honda) +2.013secs
  • 4. Marco Bezzecchi (Ducati) +2.943secs
  • 5. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) +3.181secs
  • 6. Jack Miller (KTM) +6.837secs
  • 7. Augusto Fernandez (GasGas) +7.587secs
  • 8. Fabio Di Giannantonio (Ducati) +8.602secs
  • 9. Raul Fernandez (Aprilia) +11.229secs
  • 10. Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) +12.244secs

Riders' championship standings (top 5)

  • 1. Pecco Bagnaia (Ducati) 319 points
  • 2. Jorge Martin (Ducati) 316 points
  • 3. Marco Bezzecchi (Ducati) 265 points
  • 4. Brad Binder (KTM) 201 points
  • 5. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) 171 points

What's next?

Round 15: Indonesia (Mandalika International Street Circuit, Lombok), Oct 13-15