Martin fights back with Thai GP Sprint win
By Kyle White
Saturday 28th October, 2023 - 9:35pm
Jorge Martin came out fighting with an emphatic victory in the MotoGP Sprint race at the Thai Grand Prix to slash Francesco Bagnaia’s championship lead by nine points.
Pole man Martin led all the way in the 13-lap race as he claimed a crucial victory by nine tenths of a second from Red Bull KTM’s Brad Binder, with Luca Marini rounding out the top three on the VR46 Ducati.
It was the perfect response from title contender Martin, who was left dejected at the Australian Grand Prix last weekend at Phillip Island after he dropped from first to fifth on the final lap of the race when his soft rear tyre gamble just came up short.
Defending champion Bagnaia finished seventh as Martin cut the Italian’s advantage to 18 points ahead of Sunday’s main race at the Buriram International Circuit.
Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez snatched fourth after a last-corner pass on Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro.
Martin didn’t make his usual lightning-fast start but the Pramac Ducati rider still nosed ahead of Marini into the first corner as Bagnaia went backwards after starting from sixth.
The championship fighter had already opened a slight gap by the end of the first lap over Marini, with Aleix Espargaro in third and Bagnaia down in ninth.
Binder gained a position when he moved ahead of Espargaro into third on the second lap as Martin increased his cushion to six tenths over Marini. Marc Marquez was on the move and passed Espargaro for fourth.
Bagnaia capitalised when Gresini Ducati’s Alex Marquez passed Johann Zarco (Pramac Ducati) on the brakes into the final corner at the end of the fourth lap, leaving the door ajar for the championship leader.
Bagnaia didn’t need a second invitation and picked up two places in one swoop to climb to seventh at the beginning of the fifth lap.
Martin, though, was building his lead at the front and was now 1.5s up as he led Marini and Binder approaching the halfway point of the race.
Binder finally found a way past Marini for second on the seventh lap with a textbook overtake on the brakes into the final corner.
However, the KTM rider was unable to break away from the Italian, who continued to keep the pressure on in third.
Martin had extended his lead to two seconds with four laps remaining and had the race in the bag barring any slip-ups.
Espargaro was beginning to make headway in fourth on the Aprilia with Bezzecchi 0.6s further behind but under serious pressure from Marquez.
At the end of Lap 10, Marquez grabbed fifth place from Bezzecchi at the final corner.
Espargaro ran wide on the penultimate lap as he chased down Marini in his efforts to challenge for the podium, allowing Marquez to close right in on the rear of his Aprilia.
The pair exchanged passes on the final lap but it was Marquez who prevailed with a clinical pass at the last corner on Espargaro’s inside to pinch fourth.
Martin took the chequered flag ahead of them by 0.933s from Binder, with Marini 1.8s back in third.
Behind Marquez and Espargaro, Bezzecchi completed the top six followed by Bagnaia, while Alex Marquez, Phillip Island winner Zarco and Australian Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM) were the top 10.
Fabio Quartararo finished 11th on the Monster Energy Yamaha with Joan Mir next on the Repsol Honda and Enea Bastianini 13th on the factory Lenovo Ducati.
Maverick Viñales, who received a Long Lap Penalty for exceeding the track limits, lost time after running wide at the beginning of the race when he almost clipped the rear of Bagnaia’s Ducati. The Spaniard finished in a lowly 18th.
LCR Honda’s Takaaki Nakagami slid out at the final corner at the end of Lap 2 and finished 19th and last on the LCR Honda after re-joining the race.
Augusto Fernandez also slid off the last corner on Lap 12 on the GasGas Tech3 KTM, while Gresini Ducati’s Fabio Di Giannantonio retired with a technical problem.