World champion Francesco Bagnaia dominated the sprint race at the Austrian MotoGP on Saturday to increase his lead in the world championship.
Brad Binder (KTM) came in second with Jorge Martin (Ducati-Pramac) completing the podium at Spielberg’s Red Bull Ring circuit.
Bagnaia’s fourth sprint win of the season lifted him 46 points clear of Martin ahead of Sunday’s main event, the 10th round of the 20-race season.
“The plan was to push hard from the start.”
“It was tough but we managed to be in front in first lap. I’m very happy but tomorrow is another story,” said the pole-sitting Ducati factory rider.”
“The strategy was perfect. It will be important to do the same start as today in the race,” he added.
Bagnaia set off from pole, with Maverick Vinales and Binder for company on the front row for the 14-lap dash.
Bagnaia led into turn one as Vinales got a terrible start, plummeting down the pack and triggering a multi-rider smash at the rear with Marco Bezzecchi forced to drop out.
Up front Bagnaia and Binder had opened up a gap from the chasing pack led by Jack Miller.
MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi had his head in his hands as he watched both the riders of his VR46 Ducati-satellite team crash out - Luca Marini following Bezzecci retiring to the pits after a touch with Martin’s Ducati-Pramac at the halfway stage.
Bagnaia was bossing affairs up front, opening a near two second cushion to Binder with five laps to go.
And he held on comfortably to deny South African Binder a win at his Austrian team’s home event.
“I lost some grip and struggled to maintain the pace, but hats off to my team. I’m ready to keep fighting and will try again tomorrow,” said Binder, who hours before the sprint signed a contract extension with KTM until 2026.
Martin, involved in the first turn mayhem and Marini’s fall, reflected: “It was an emotional race, a lot of things happening.
“At the first corner a lot of people crashing.
“I was a bit nervous as I thought I might get a penalty, so I was on the limit and happy to end up on the podium. Tomorrow will be more difficult.”
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