LOMBOK: Italy’s Francesco Bagnaia won the Indonesia MotoGP on Sunday with a spectacular ride that took him back to the top of the championship standings after rival Jorge Martin crashed out.
Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) came in a close second behind the 26-year-old Ducati star, with Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) in third at the Mandalika circuit on the Indonesian resort island of Lombok.
Bagnaia made a mesmerising surge from 13th to the top spot after rising to the podium places within the first four laps, refusing to let Pramac’s Martin punish him further for a poor performance in practice and qualifying.
It was set to be another dream double weekend for Martin after winning Saturday’s sprint and taking the lead from the green light, up from sixth, to dominate the early stages of the race.
But it quickly turned into a nightmare for the 25-year-old Spaniard when he crashed on lap 14 of Sunday’s main event, a potentially huge moment in the title race.
Vinales put the pressure on Bagnaia in the late stages after being overtaken, coming to within four-tenths of a second of the pack leader.
But the Italian, known for his phenomenal defence, saw out the race to turn the tables on Martin, opening up an 18-point gap with just five race weekends left and prompting wild celebrations in his garage.
“I think we were deserving a race like this,” Bagnaia told reporters.
“(I was) doing the maximum I could then when I saw Martin going, I said to myself ‘take care of the tyres’ and that was the correct thing. I am very, very happy.”
He later told a news conference that he was frustrated before Sunday’s race because he had been “struggling a lot” on new tyres, and worked into the night with his team.
Martin, who was several seconds clear when he crashed, said handing the title advantage to Bagnaia had not affected him.
“It happens. I was still pushing… and still focused on being fast,” he said.
“I did an amazing race until that point. I have to be calm, (there’s) still 10 races to go, still a long way.”
Frenchman Quartararo said he was unhappy with his speed but content with his spot on the podium.
“To be back in the podium, from Austin to India was a long time, now from India to here was shorter so really happy,” he told reporters.
It was a superlative weekend for Italian Marco Bezzecchi, the Mooney VR46 rider who surprised by riding just a week after surgery on a broken collarbone.
Starting from ninth on the grid, he produced a heroic ride to fifth behind Fabio Di Giannantonio.
That kept him 63 points behind in the title race, which he still has a slim chance of winning.
The race was marred by a series of crashes in hot and humid conditions, with only 14 riders out of 21 finishing the race.
Marc Marquez’s race ended when he slid off the track in lap eight, with the Spaniard shouting to the sky as he left his Honda bike after a dismal weekend in which he also failed to complete Saturday’s sprint race.
Marquez will join Gresini Racing for the 2024 season.
Luca Marini, who immediately lost his pole position to Martin from the green light, saw his day go from bad to worse when he went down at turn 10 after being nudged by Brad Binder, sliding off the track.
Bagnaia, Martin and Bezzecchi will head to Australia with just five race weekends left to see who can come out on top in one of the closest MotoGP battles for years.
In the Moto2 race, Pedro Acosta took first place to increase his lead in the championship standings, cruising to victory more than two seconds in front of Aron Canet. Brazil’s Diogo Moreira won the Moto3 race for his first win after a last-lap scrap with Daniel Holgado, who closed the gap on second-placed Ayumu Sasaki in the overall standings.