Marco Bezzecchi wins inaugural Indian MotoGP race
VR46 Racing’s Italian pole-sitter won the 21-lap race at the Buddh International Circuit before almost 60,000 fans who returned to India’s former F1 venue
For 10 long years, the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) was in hibernation. Following the unceremonious exit of Formula 1 in 2013, the country’s grandest motorsports became a ghost of the facility that used to reverberate as the best tuned cars in the world zoomed around its track, a forgotten landmark on the expressway to the Taj Mahal from the national capital.
On Sunday, the 4.96km circuit was alive again with the roar of engines as MotoGP – the world’s premier motorcycle racing championship – made its India debut with VR46 Racing’s Marco Bezzecchi winning the race on his Ducati here.
The 24-year-old Italian won the 21-lap inaugural Indian Grand Prix in 36 minutes and 59.157 seconds to bag 25 points in front of approximately 59,000 fans who had turned up despite the temperature hovering around 33 degrees Celsius.
“I really liked this place from the day I landed. I like to celebrate with the fans. I would like to give my heart to the fans. In this part of the world, they are very loud, and I really like to hear the crowd. They enjoyed it. Next year, they will have even more fun. For me it was fantastic,” said Bezzecchi, who narrowed to 44 points the gap with championship leader Francesco Bagnaia.
“It's a track that I liked the first time I rode on it. Overall, it has been good for me. There was some hard braking, but also some fast parts and chicanes. Physically I felt better with the head, so change of direction was not a problem, like it was in Misano. Sector 3 was fantastic to ride.”
Second place went to primary title challenger Jorge Martin, who won the sprint on Saturday. The Spaniard finished 8.649 seconds behind Bezzecchi following an epic battle with reigning world champion Francesco Bagnaia.
Both Pramac’s Martin and Ducati’s Bagnaia overtook pole-sitter Bezzecchi at the start, leaving the Italian in third. Bezzecchi, however, regained the lead as the two main title rivals fought each other. Thereon, the VR46 rider (team owned by the sport’s legend Valentino Rossi) surged ahead, completely unaware of the drama unfolding behind him.
Bagnaia and Martin got engaged in a nail-biting battle with the two overtaking each other at every opportunity they got. But after world champion Bagnaia made a scintillating move on Martin in the cambered parabola section to go second, the championship leader skidded on to the gravel at Turn 5 of Lap 14, suffering his second DNF (did not finish) in four races.
The crash opened up the title fight as Martin’s 20 points closed down the gap to Bagnaia to 13 points with seven rounds left in the season.
Martin was exhausted due to the heat, gesturing to his team to bring water the moment he enters the pits after the chequered flag. Instead of celebrating, he fell on his knees, collapsing. He poured water inside his suit to cool off after an extremely hot and humid race. The Spaniard was taken to the medical centre after the podium ceremony and did not attend the press conference.
Honda, who have struggled throughout the year, came alive at BIC with six-time world champion Marc Marquez looking good for fourth, but the Spaniard skidded on Lap 6 to the dismay of the thousands of fans who had come solely to see their favourite rider in action. Marquez got up and fought back to ninth, finishing with seven points.
Bagnaia’s fall came as a blessing for 2021 world champion Fabio Quartararo, who got the last step on the podium as a gift for his perseverance, especially since Yamaha have suffered in terms of performance compared to the Ducatis, KTMs and Aprilias.
KTM’s Brad Binder finished fourth and Honda’s Joan Mir was fifth.