Bagnaia takes Texas MotoGP Sprint
By Kyle White
Sunday 16th April, 2023 - 7:39am
Francesco Bagnaia bounced back in style after his Argentina mishap to dominate the MotoGP Sprint race at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas.
The factory Ducati rider crashed out of second place in Argentina last time out, but Bagnaia never put a foot wrong as he powered to his second Sprint success of the season after starting from pole for the first time in 2023.
Alex Rins, so impressive in qualifying after narrowly missing out on pole to Bagnaia, secured a battling runner-up spot on the LCR Honda to give the team its first MotoGP podium since Briton Cal Crutchlow in 2019.
Jorge Martin (Pramac Ducati) – who started from 12th on the fourth row – scythed through the field to clinch the final podium spot ahead of Aprilia Racing’s Aleix Espargaro.
There was more disappointment for Fabio Quartararo after he crashed out on the Monster Energy Yamaha. The Frenchman re-joined the race but finished 19th.
Rins took the lead off the line but ran wide at Turn 1 allowing Bagnaia through.
Luca Marini – who qualified third on the VR46 – dropped way down the field after also running wide at the first corner.
Former Suzuki ace Rins hit back to take the lead again briefly from Bagnaia, but the reigning world champion drafted past effortlessly on the main straight and was never headed again throughout the 10-lap race.
Espargaro was holding third ahead of Quartararo, who made a good start on the Yamaha.
Bagnaia began to gradually open a gap while Rins and Espargaro disputed second place.
Quartararo, though, dropped to sixth after running wide at Turn 1 on lap four and the former world champion then slid off at the same part of the course on his very next lap.
By the half-way mark, Bagnaia was now almost 1.5s clear of Espargaro, who continued to fight for second place with Rins.
Gresini Ducati’s Alex Marquez crashed out of fifth position on lap seven at Turn 12, with Red Bull KTM’s Brad Binder moving up the order after making another spirited charge from 11th place on the grid.
Rins got ahead of Espargaro on lap seven and gained some ground after the Aprilia rider ran wide at Turn 12, seemingly forced into the mistake when Rins got out of shape on the brakes in front of him.
That allowed Martin, who had made smooth progress on the Pramac Ducati, to capitalise as he moved into third to take up the chase behind Rins.
Bagnaia had opened a comfortable cushion and he went on to seal victory for Ducati by 2.5s, with Rins fending off Martin for the runner-up spot.
Martin lunged past the LCR Honda man at the penultimate corner but was always going wide, allowing Rins to nip back underneath.
Espargaro finished fourth, five seconds down on the winner, with Binder and VR46 Ducati’s Marco Bezzecchi the top six.
Bezzecchi still leads the championship, but only by a single point from Bagnaia after the Sprint result.
Marini recovered from his error on the first lap to take seventh ahead of Miguel Oliveira on the RNF Aprilia, who was competing in his first race since he was taken out by Marc Marquez at Portimao in Portugal.
Jack Miller was ninth on the Red Bull KTM while the top 10 was finalised by Aprilia Racing’s Maverick Viñales.
Ducati test rider Michele Pirro, filling in for the injured Enea Bastianini in the Lenovo Ducati team, crashed out at Turn 1.
HRC test rider Stefan Bradl, called into the Repsol Honda team to deputise for the still injured Marc Marquez, was 18th.
Jonas Folger – competing in a MotoGP race for the first time since 2017 – was 20th on the GASGAS Tech3 KTM as he came in for Pol Espargaro, who remains sidelined after a heavy spill in free practice in Portugal.
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