MotoGP title wide open as Bezzecchi dominates and Bagnaia crashes out
By Kyle White
Sunday 24th September, 2023 - 10:08pm
Marco Bezzecchi bounced back to seal a dominant victory in the inaugural Indian Grand Prix as the MotoGP title race was blown wide open when Francesco Bagnaia crashed out of second place.
Pole man Bezzecchi, whose chances of winning the Sprint race on Saturday were thwarted after he was hit from behind by his VR46 Ducati team-mate Luca Marini at the start of the race, made amends in style at the Buddh International Circuit.
After taking the lead on the opening lap, Bezzecchi was never headed and wrapped up victory by over eight seconds in a gruelling 21-lap race held in scorching hot conditions.
Pramac Ducati’s Jorge Martin recovered from a last-lap mistake to reclaim second place from Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo after a stunning overtake, cutting Bagnaia’s lead to only 13 points with seven rounds still remaining.
Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez eventually finished ninth after sliding out of fourth place.
Title challenger Martin made the best start from the front row to lead into the first corner from Bagnaia and Bezzecchi.
However, the Sprint race winner ran wide on the brakes into Turn 4 at the end of the long main straight, with Bagnaia and Bezzecchi both going past as Martin slotted into third ahead of Marquez and Quartararo.
Joan Mir’s strong weekend continued as he held sixth on the Repsol Honda.
Bezzecchi passed Bagnaia at the final corner and soon began to put some daylight between himself and the rest of the field, opening a gap of 1.3s over Bagnaia and Martin by Lap 4.
With Bezzecchi clearing off at the front, an impatient Martin dived under Bagnaia at Turn 4, forcing the Italian to sit up as they both went wide.
Martin now set his sights on Bezzecchi, but he was unable to make any inroads into the race leader, who continued to increase his advantage.
On Lap 6, Marquez slid out of fourth place at Turn 1 but was quickly back on his RCV, losing only 10 seconds in the incident as he dropped to 16th.
Bagnaia was putting pressure on Martin and almost clipped the rear of his machine as he braked into Turn 4 on Lap 8, with Bezzecchi now comfortably ahead by 3.4s.
Bagnaia was all over the rear of Martin’s Desmosedici on Lap 13 and lined up a pass, making his move on Martin’s inside at Turn 9.
The Lenovo Ducati rider was pushing to break away from Martin when disaster struck on the next lap as Bagnaia crashed out.
Bezzecchi had established an unassailable lead of over six seconds, while Martin was 1.3s clear of Quartararo on the penultimate lap and seemingly holding a certain second place.
Yet, on a dramatic final lap, Martin made an unforced error and went wide off the track, with Quartararo powering past on his Yamaha.
Martin, though, refused to settle for third and in a daring move, the Spaniard swept around Quartararo’s outside into the esses, narrowly avoiding contact with the 2021 world champion’s Yamaha.
Martin defended his line at the final corner and held on for second place to bag a crucial 20 points for his title prospects.
The Pramac man was exhausted at the conclusion of the race, which was held in stifling heat.
Bezzecchi’s winning margin was 8.649s seconds at the end of a dominant ride by the VR46 rider.
Red Bull KTM’s Brad Binder overhauled Mir to take fourth, 12.643s down on the winner, with Frenchman Johann Zarco in sixth on the Pramac Ducati.
Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha) and Maverick Viñales were seventh and eighth respectively, while Marquez clawed his way through to ninth after his earlier crash ahead of Raul Fernandez (RNF Aprilia).
Japan’s Takaaki Nakagami was 11th on the LCR Honda followed by Miguel Oliveira (RNF Aprilia), Pol Espargaro (GASGAS Tech 3 KTM), Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM) and HRC test rider Stefan Bradl, who claimed the final point in 15th.
Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro retired in a disappointing end to a miserable weekend for the Spaniard.
The Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi is next from September 29-October 1.