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For the sixth consecutive race, the gap in the championship has closed, as a win for Jorge Martin meant that Francesco Bagnaia’s lead in the championship is down to single digits.
MotoGP Motegi 2023 sprint: How the battle at the front unfolded
Jorge Martin got a great start from pole position on his Ducati, which proved to be crucial. He held onto the lead heading into the first corner, in front of the two KTM riders, who had a lightning start. Initially it was Jack Miller in second and Brad Binder in third, but the pair swapped places towards the end of the first lap, after a brave move on the brakes by the South African.
Francesco Bagnaia had a slow start, as he spent the first couple of laps under pressure from Marc Marquez in the battle for fourth. He was able to regain his pace though and he put Jack Miller in his sights. Marco Bezzecchi dropped from fourth to sixth on the first lap, which turned into seventh when he was overtaken by Johann Zarco as well.
While Martin and Binder pulled away, Miller and Bagnaia had a huge fight for third. The Italian tried to make his way through multiple times, but a stern defence by his former teammate made things tougher. Eventually he made his way through with a couple of laps to go, after the pressure got to Miller and he ran wide.
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Behind them, a fight was raging on for fifth. Bezzecchi got back ahead of Zarco and tried to pass Marquez too, but tried too hard. The pair ran wide and the VR46 rider dropped to eighth as a result of that exchange. He eventually made his way back up to sixth, passing Marquez and benefitting from a technical problem for Aleix Espargaro, which led to him retiring.
MotoGP Motegi 2023 sprint: The results
In the final laps, Jorge Martin was able to pull a bit of a gap on Brad Binder and rode comfortably on his way to victory, beating the South African by 1.4 seconds at the chequered flag. It was his third consecutive sprint victory and one that gets him even closer to the top of the standings, so tomorrow will be his first real opportunity to become the championship leader.
Francesco Bagnaia was third and completed the podium, as he saw his gap to his championship rival close to just eight points. Even more worryingly though, he never showed good enough pace to challenge Martin’s times in the race. Jack Miller held on to fourth despite late pressure from Johann Zarco, his best finish for a while, as he has struggled recently.
Marco Bezzecchi was sixth and he is now 48 points away from Bagnaia, in a difficult race for him. Perhaps he was feeling the effects of his crash in qualifying and whether that is the case tomorrow too remains to be seen. Marc Marquez was behind him, whilst Fabio di Giannantonio scored his first sprint points. The last point went the way of Maverick Vinales.
Raul Fernandez was the first one outside the points, just prevailing in a battle against the GasGas bikes of Pol Espargaro and Augusto Fernandez. Aleix Espargaro was the only retirement from the race, as we thankfully saw no crashes through the twelve laps of the sprint.
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