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Martin makes his move after storming San Marino

Monday, 11 September 2023

Ducati's Jorge Martin dominated the Misano weekend to hack into Pecco Bagnaia's championship lead, while the Italian brand locked out the Sprint and main race podiums on home soil.

Pramac Ducati rider Jorge Martin was in a class of his own at the San Marino Grand Prix, the Spaniard setting a circuit record in qualifying before winning the Sprint and Grand Prix proper to reduce the gap to Pecco Bagnaia to 36 points at the top of the MotoGP™ standings.

Martin's third Grand Prix victory and second double of the season – he also won both races in Germany in round seven – came after he led for all 13 laps of Saturday's Sprint and all 27 laps of Sunday's Grand Prix, taking advantage of an injury-compromised Mooney VR46 Ducati rider Marco Bezzecchi and reigning world champion Bagnaia, who finished second and third respectively in the two races as Ducati locked out both podiums.


Bezzecchi (left hand) and Bagnaia (right leg) both carried significant injuries into Misano after their separate first-lap accidents in Catalunya seven days previously, Bagnaia barely able to stand up after the race as the top three riders in the championship showcased their speed on a scorching-hot Sunday.

Martin managed the gap to his two Italian rivals on their home track before pulling the pin on lap 17, extending his lead to 1.1secs before taking another eight-tenths of a second out of Bezzecchi on the next lap, eventually easing up to win by 1.350secs.

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Martin set up his pair of wins on Saturday with an extraordinary pole lap of 1min 30.390secs, obliterating the previous circuit record set by Bagnaia two years earlier by 0.675secs.

Fourth – in both races – was KTM wildcard Dani Pedrosa, the 37-year-old Spaniard showing his class in his second appearance of the year at the track where he won for Honda in 2010 and 2016.

With Brad Binder (KTM) crashing out of fourth place early in the race – the South African remounted to recover to 14th – it's only Martin and Bezzecchi who are within 100 points of Bagnaia's 283 points with eight race weekends remaining in 2023, seven of those to be held outside of Europe before the Valencia season finale in November.

Aussie watch

Jack Miller had his third non-scoring weekend in 12 rounds this season after a miserable few days at Misano, the Australian qualifying a season-worst 18th on Saturday and crashing out on lap 10 of Sunday's race in an incident with Ducati wildcard rider Michele Pirro.

The KTM rider, on pole at Misano for Ducati 12 months ago, was just 17th on the timesheets after Friday practice to find himself in Q1 for a second straight weekend, and had to fight his way back to 15th in Saturday's Sprint after spending the first third of his opening lap tumbling through the field after his front ride-height device failed to disengage.

In Sunday's Grand Prix, Miller gained two places on the opening lap and then moved up to 14th on lap eight when teammate Binder crashed at Turn 14, but hit the deck with Pirro at Turn 4 two laps later to add to scoreless weekends earlier this season at Le Mans and Assen, the Australian falling one place to 10th in the world championship standings.

In Moto3™, Joel Kelso showed his one-lap prowess once again by dragging his CFMOTO Racing PruestelGP machine into Q2 from Q1 for the fourth time this season, but faded after advancing from 11th on the grid to eighth on lap three, the Australian ending up 19th in the lightweight class.

Kelso spent the first seven laps inside the points before falling out of the top 15, but gained two places on the final lap from 21st as his points-scoring drought extended to four races.

Senna Agius was back on fill-in duty in Moto2™ for a second straight weekend for the Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP team, regular rider Darryn Binder still sidelined after surgery in Spain this week to remove a metal plate from his right hand.

Agius, who also deputised for the South African at Jerez and Le Mans earlier this year before coming back in for Catalunya last weekend, qualified 20th at Misano and gained two places on the opening lap, but crashed out on lap three to be the race's first retirement.

Surprise packet

Pedrosa's glittering CV makes a fourth place – despite his occasional status these days – only a moderate surprise, while there was some surprise that both Bezzecchi and Bagnaia could defy their physical restrictions to score podiums on Sunday in testing temperatures that nudged 30 degrees at circuit adjacent to the Adriatic Coast.

Impressive as that trio was, the riders who finished seventh and eighth were the biggest shocks on Sunday in San Marino.

Marc Marquez – on a weekend where rumours over his Honda future chopped and changed by the hour – finished seventh for Honda after taking a gamble with a soft rear tyre and holding on for dear life at the end. The result was the six-time premier-class champion's best since the penultimate event of last year in Malaysia, which came a race after his most recent podium at Phillip Island last October.

Just half a second behind Marquez at the chequered flag was Spaniard Raul Fernandez, the 2021 Moto2™ runner-up having his strongest MotoGP™ weekend to date. The Aprilia rider made Q2 for the first time on Saturday, beat teammate Miguel Oliveira in the Sprint, and finished a career-best eighth in his 29th Grand Prix start.

Number to know

22: as in seconds, the gap Marc Marquez had over the next-best Honda over 27 laps of Sunday's race (wildcard Stefan Bradl, who finished 18th).

San Marino Motorcycle Grand Prix: top 10

1. Jorge Martin (Ducati) 41mins 33.421secs
2. Marco Bezzecchi (Ducati) +1.350secs
3. Pecco Bagnaia (Ducati) +3.812secs
4. Dani Pedrosa (KTM) +4.481secs
5. Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) +10.510secs
6. Miguel Oliveira (Aprilia) +12.274secs
7. Marc Marquez (Honda) +13.576secs
8. Raul Fernandez (Aprilia) +14.091secs
9. Luca Marini (Ducati) +14.982secs
10. Johann Zarco (Ducati) +15.484secs

Riders' championship standings (top 5)

1. Pecco Bagnaia (Ducati) 283 points
2. Jorge Martin (Ducati) 247 points
3. Marco Bezzecchi (Ducati) 218 points
4. Brad Binder (KTM) 173 points
5. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) 160 points

What's next?

Round 13: India (Buddh International Circuit), Sept 22-24