Spain’s Jorge Martin led from pole to chequered flag to win the Thailand MotoGP sprint race on Saturday and cut championship leader Francesco Bagnaia’s lead to 18 points.
Pramac-Ducati rider Martin finished 0.933 seconds clear of South Africa’s Brad Binder in second, with Luca Marini of Italy third. Bagnaia was seventh.
The flying Spaniard Martin reached the first corner in the lead and was never headed as Bagnaia suffered a poor start from the second row, dropping back to ninth by the end of the opening lap.
Bagnaia began to find some pace a third of the way through the 13-lap dash and by the end of lap five was back up to seventh.
But he struggled to make any inroads on Marco Bezzecchi’s Ducati-VR46 in front of him as Martin stretched his lead to more than 1.5 seconds with two laps to go.
The result leaves Bagnaia on 369 points going into Sunday’s 26-lap grand prix where he will again start sixth on the grid with pole-sitter Martin now on 351 after picking up 12 for the sprint win.
Martin began the weekend 27 points behind with four legs of the 20-race season to go though he also started from pole a week ago in Australia before his gamble on a soft rear tyre backfired badly.
Badly fading rubber allowed him to be overtaken on a dramatic final lap by four riders, including Bagnaia on a factory Ducati.
The tyre blunder came just a week after Martin crashed while leading the Indonesian MotoGP to gift Bagnaia a sixth victory of 2023 and an 18-point lead in a championship duel that looks set to go to the wire.
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