MotoGP: Jorge Martin sprints to victory, Bezzecchi on pole
Martin didn’t put a wheel wrong and was never challenged by championship leader Bagnaia
From the moment the lights went out for the first time in a MotoGP race in India, albeit sprint, till the chequered flag, the 11-lap, action-packed race ended without any incidents, allaying all safety concerns riders and team personnel had before stepping on to the Buddh International Circuit (BIC).
Brief but torrential rain just ahead of the race spiced things up. While it brought down the temperatures which had been bothering riders for the last two days, it also washed off all the rubber on track that was laid in the four previous practice sessions, making the circuit green as new. The rain delayed the race almost into the evening, making it a photographers’ paradise with riders speeding their machines in the twilight sun.
But nothing bothered Jorge Martin. Starting from P2, the Pramac rider took victory in 19 minutes and 18.836 seconds as he wheelied past the finish line to end 1.389 seconds ahead of reigning world champion Francesco Bagnaia to close the gap to the championship leader to 33 points ahead of Sunday’s final – the 21-lap feature race.
“I did a great start, that was a bit of my plan and then I was impressed that on the first lap I already had a gap of half a second and from that point I tried to push a little bit more for two-three laps to try to increase the gap and it was like this," said Martin.
“I'm quite happy. The conditions of the track were good too. With lower temperatures, it was nice to ride and everything was working a bit better. Happy for being the first man to win in India. I really enjoy this track. Hopefully, tomorrow we can improve a little bit and keep the others behind.”
Martin didn’t put a wheel wrong and was never challenged by championship leader Bagnaia, who is yet to completely recover from the crash he suffered at the Catalan Grand Prix on September 3.
But the story of the race was Marc Marquez, who finished an incredible third after starting sixth. Honda have been struggling for form and performance throughout the year. They lack power and cornering speed and simply have a slower package – the fastest Honda rider Alex Rins is 15th in the championship.
But the Japanese manufacturer came alive at the 4.96km circuit which seems to suit their machine, helping the six-time world champion earn his first podium since the first sprint race of the season in Portimao.
Pole sitter Marco Bezzecchi had a terrible start off the grid as he was slower off the line. It became worse for the Italian when his VR46 teammate Luca Marini crashed into him, sending both into the gravel trap in Turn 1. But Bezzecchi did not lose up. He got up with the help of the marshalls and restarted his race from last.
Bezzecchi rode like there was no tomorrow, displaying the full power of the Ducati as he overtook everyone barring the top four to finish an incredible fifth. From being down in 17th in the opening lap, he fought back to finish with five points, pipping Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo.
There was one more major crash at Turn 1 of the opening lap when Honda’s Stefan Bradl hit Pol Espargaro in the rear, taking both out of the race immediately.
Honda’s Joan Mir was looking for a fourth-place finish, almost making an attempt on teammate Marquez for a podium but his race ended when he slid off at Turn 3 and slightly burnt his hand while trying to pick his bike, accidentally touching the exhaust.
Bezzecchi on pole
Earlier in the day, VR46 Racing’s Bezzecchi took pole for Sunday’s race in one minute and 43.947 seconds but Saturday was a clear indication that pole does not guarantee a win. Martin will start second with 1:43.990 ahead of Bagnaia (1:44.203).
In an evenly fought Qualifying 2 battle, riders went full throttle, hunting to grab pole for the first ever Indian Grand Prix. Bezzecchi came out with flying colours, registering the best time to grab his third pole of the season.
Mir and Marquez managed to enter Qualifying 2 for the first time this season. The factory Honda duo’s hard work paid off as they will settle themselves in fifth and sixth on the grid on Sunday.
Marc’s younger brother Alex Marquez, riding Gresini’s Ducati, crashed out on Turn 6 during Qualifying 1, leaving him a couple of broken bones in his rib cage which will put him out of the race on Sunday. Marini too will not take part in Sunday’s race after breaking his collar bone during the opening lap crash with Bezzecchi.