Martin wins red-flagged Japanese Grand Prix
By Kyle White
Sunday 1st October, 2023 - 7:37pm
Jorge Martin was declared the winner of a wet Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi in dramatic circumstances after the race was red-flagged due to heavy rain.
The Pramac Ducati rider, who shattered the lap record in qualifying and won the Sprint race, has now cut Francesco Bagnaia’s lead in the MotoGP World Championship to only three points after 14 rounds.
Bagnaia was second on the Lenovo Ducati while Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez earned a podium in third – his first in a Grand Prix since Phillip Island in 2022.
Spaniard Martin was leading by over one second from Bagnaia when the race was stopped on Lap 13 due to deteriorating conditions, when Marquez was on a charge and rapidly closing the deficit to the leaders.
A restart was scheduled over 12 laps, with grid positions based on the leaderboard at the time of the stoppage, giving Martin pole from Bagnaia and Marquez.
However, if anything, conditions were worse as the riders set off on their second warm-up lap with continuing heavy rain, standing water on the track and poor visibility due to spray raising safety concerns.
Race Direction then made a quick decision to red flag the race and declared a result.
Full points were awarded with more than 50 percent of the race completed at the time of the first stoppage.
VR46 Ducati’s Marco Bezzecchi, Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) and Australia’s Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM) were the top six.
Spots of rain began to fall before the race initially got underway, adding to the tension as title rivals Martin and Bagnaia took their place on the front row.
Martin grabbed the lead from Miller, Aleix Espargaro and Bagnaia.
Maverick Viñales crashed at the first corner after he was forced wide into the gravel along with Pramac Ducati’s Johann Zarco after Bezzecchi went deep into Turn 1.
Miller hit the front at the end of the lap while Bagnaia made a brave move around the outside of Espargaro for third behind Martin.
Conditions quickly began to worsen as the rain became increasingly heavy on the first lap, with most riders pulling into pit lane to switch to their wet set-up machines.
Ducati test rider Michele Pirro took over the lead after opting to remain out on slicks along with Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo, HRC test rider Stefan Bradl, Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha) and Yamaha test rider Cal Crutchlow.
Quartararo, Crutchlow and Bradl soon made the call to come into the pits but Pirro and Morbidelli continued to persevere.
Pirro eventually pulled in at the end of the fourth lap while Morbidelli was overtaken by the main riders, dropping to 17th as he remained on track.
Aprilia’s Espargaro now led the race proper from Marquez, Bagnaia, Bezzecchi and Martin, who dropped several places after running wide.
Martin regrouped and fought his way through to take the lead on the sixth lap ahead of Bagnaia.
The Pramac rider was pushing to open a gap and managed to pull one second on reigning champion Bagnaia.
Marquez, though, had found his rhythm and was the fastest rider on track as he began to close quickly in third, but the red flags brought the race to a halt on Lap 13 of 24, when Marquez was among the riders who raised their hands as they crossed the line to signal that conditions had become too unsafe.
KTM’s Brad Binder was caught out on Lap 6, while Pramac’s Johann Zarco was ineligible to take part in the restart after crashing moments before the race was stopped. The Frenchman was ruled out for taking a shortcut on his return to pit lane as he pushed his damaged Ducati back.
RNF Aprilia’s Miguel Oliveira was a retirement but along with Viñales, was eligible to take part in the restart, albeit they would have had to start from pit lane due to being one lap down at the time of the red flag stoppage.
Rookie Augusto Fernandez (GASGAS Tech 3 KTM) was classified in seventh with Fabio Di Giannantonio in eighth on the Gresini Ducati.
Raul Fernandez (RNF Aprilia) and Quartararo completed the top 10 ahead of Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda), Joan Mir (Repsol Honda) and British rider Crutchlow.
The Indonesian Grand Prix takes place from October 13-15 as Mandalika hosts Round 15 of the championship.