Ducati’s Francesco Bagnaia won the season-ending Valencia Grand Prix on Sunday to claim a second straight MotoGP world championship after closest contender Jorge Martin crashed out following a collision with Marc Marquez.
Pramac Racing’s Martin, who was 14 points behind Bagnaia going into the final race, made the title race tighter by winning Saturday’s sprint but was ultimately unable to thwart the Italian.
Bagnaia, who began the race on pole after Maverick Vinales was handed a three-place penalty, had an excellent start but was matched in the first two laps by Martin, who moved up from sixth into second by turn two of the race.
However, Martin was reckless in his eagerness to overtake Bagnaia, and a coming-together between the two on turn one of the third lap resulted in the Spaniard being forced wide and dropping down to seventh.
Martin threw caution to the wind at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo and tried to surge back up the leaderboard, but clipped Marquez’s rear and was left in the gravel on lap six.
The crash ensured a dismal end to six-times MotoGP champion Marquez’s tenure at Honda, with his final race for the Japanese manufacturers ending in a non-finish. Marquez will join Gresini Racing in 2024.
‘IMPOSSIBLE TO GET ANY BETTER’
KTM’s Jack Miller led the race for a significant period after overtaking Bagnaia in the 15th lap, with the Italian rider content to concede the lead, but the Australian crashed hard in the 20th lap to throw away his shot at the chequered flag.
With clear track in front of him, Bagnaia crossed the finish line first to seal the title in emphatic fashion, though he had to hold off Gresini Racing’s Fabio Di Giannantonio and Pramac Racing’s Johann Zarco - who finished second and third.
“Amazing, I don’t have many words now. It was a long race, 27 laps of struggle because I didn’t feel good in the front,” Bagnaia said.
“I let the KTM riders past and then the feeling became better, maybe because the pressure or the temperature changed.
“From that moment I was able to push, but in the last few laps I was completely without tyres, but we did it. It was quite tough, but we did it. We won the title, we won the race, it’s impossible to get any better than this.”
Marco Bezzecchi of VR46 Racing, Ducati’s Enea Bastianini and GasGas Factory Racing Tech3’s Augusto Fernandez were also unable to finish the crash-filled race.
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