Martin wins Indian MotoGP Sprint as Marquez seals podium
By Kyle White
Sunday 24th September, 2023 - 12:28am
Jorge Martin made it three wins on the spin to bolster his MotoGP title bid following victory in the Sprint race at Indian Grand Prix, where Marc Marquez returned to the podium for Honda.
Martin led all the way in the delayed 11-lap race to win from championship leader Francesco Bagnaia, with Marquez holding off Red Bull KTM’s Brad Binder to secure the final place on the rostrum in third.
The Sprint race was pushed back by around an-hour-and-a-half when rain began to fall at the Buddh International Circuit.
A 15-minute ‘wet session’ was added to the schedule prior to the race, as per the protocols in place for racing at a new circuit.
A damp starting grid also added to the delay, with the organisers announcing a further hold-up of 25 minutes to allow drier conditions to develop in the interests of safety.
When the race eventually began in the fading evening sunlight at 17:00 local time, there was instant drama at Turn 1 when VR46 Ducati’s Luca Marini hit the back of Marco Bezzecchi.
Pole man Bezzecchi had pulled across in front of his team-mate, who grabbed the brakes and stood his Ducati on its nose but was unable to avoid running into the Italian.
In a separate incident, HRC test rider Stefan Bradl got it wrong on the brakes and collected Pol Espargaro (GASGAS Tech 3 KTM) at Turn 1, with both riders crashing out.
Bezzecchi was able to re-join the race but his chances of a victory were thwarted.
Martin, who led off the line, was in front of Bagnaia with Repsol Honda duo Joan Mir and Marquez in third and fourth respectively.
Marquez slipped past Mir on the brakes on the second lap to go third as Martin began to open a gap at the front over Bagnaia.
Disaster struck for 2020 world champion Mir on the fourth lap, who slid off the factory Honda after dropping a few places following a mistake.
At the halfway point, Martin was two seconds up on Bagnaia, who had a second in hand over Marquez and South African Binder.
Bezzecchi, down in 15th on lap three, set the fastest lap of the race as he made up ground following the incident at Turn 1, with the VR46 rider improving to seventh and almost lapping a second faster than Marquez and Binder.
With two laps to go, Martin was comfortably in control by 2.6s from Bagnaia, while Marquez was still holding off Binder in their battle for third.
Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) in fifth was under pressure from the hard-charging Bezzecchi, who set another fastest lap as he piled on the pressure.
Bezzecchi used the superior speed of the Ducati on the main straight to rocket past Quartararo, snatching fifth on the last lap in a stunning comeback.
Martin wrapped up the win by 1.389s in the end, shaving a further three points of Bagnaia’s title cushion to cut the deficit to 33 points ahead of Sunday’s main race. Bezzecchi is 69 points adrift in third.
Marquez matched his best result of the season in third ahead of Binder, with Bezzecchi, Quartararo, Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM) and Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) the top eight.
Raul Fernandez earned a top-10 finish on the satellite RNF Aprilia in ninth with Gresini Ducati’s Fabio Di Giannantonio next.
Augusto Fernandez (GASGAS Tech 3 KTM), Miguel Oliveira (RNF Aprilia), Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda), Ducati test rider Michele Pirro and Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha) were the final finishers as they filled the top 15 places.
Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro was a faller on lap nine when he was lying in 14th place, while Pramac Ducati’s Johann Zarco came off on lap six and retired after getting back on the Desmosedici.
Gresini Ducati’s Alex Marquez was ruled out after sustaining a double rib fracture after he was high-sided from his machine in Qualifying 1.
Marquez only has a week to recover before the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi.