The first-ever MotoGP Indian GP sprint race began with an action-packed start with VR46 rider Marco Mezzecchi on pole position, followed by Jorge Martin of Pramac Ducati, and teammate Luca Marini. However, a crash on Turn 1 brought on by Marini wiped away both VR46 riders, putting Martin in the lead and giving him a comfortable win at the Buddh International Circuit (BIC).
An overcast followed by rains kick-started the first qualifying sessions for the maiden Grand Prix of India, prompting a late start for the sprint race on Saturday. The 11-lap race saw Martin getting the best start and was quick to bag the lead, while Bezzecchi moved into second followed by Marini in third. However, wrong braking by Marini sent both riders off the track ending the race prematurely for the riders. The demanding conditions though meant there three more retirements waiting over the next few laps.
With the VR46 boys out of contention, Martin consolidated his lead at Turn 3 diving into the fast back-straight, while defending champion Francesco Bagnaia was hot on his tail in the factory Ducati. Coming in third and fourth respectively were Honda Racing riders Joan Mir and Marc Marquez with an impressive pace.
Martin built a lead of over a second by the start of Lap 3 over Pecco with his 2022 Ducati proving to be faster than the factory-run machine. The rider built a healthy lead over Pecco by Lap 6 with a 3-second difference between the riders, only to cool down towards the end crossing the chequered flag with a lead of 1.4 seconds. The points from the sprint race certainly add up as Martin takes the fight to Pecco for the championship title, lowering the gap to 33 points.
Meanwhile, the battle for P2 was an interesting one with Bagnaia facing the heat from Marc Marquez, who moved up to P3 earlier in the race. The Spaniard managed to overtake teammate Mir, who later retired following a crash on Lap 4. While Marquez initially showed good pace as he challenged Pecco for P2, the rider’s pace slowly faded away as the final laps approached, allowing the Ducati rider to hold on to second place. Nevertheless, Marquez managed to bag his second sprint podium of the season, having finished on one in the first-ever sprint race in Portugal earlier this year.
Mir’s retirement made way for KTM rider Brad Binder to claim P4, who managed to get close enough to Marquez to take P3 but the Honda rider defended his position rather well. Making a miracle comeback was Marco Bezzecchi after the crash on the opening lap that saw him catch up from the back of the pack. The rider went on to claim P5, beating Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo with a pass on Lap 6. Jack Miller took P7 after struggling with qualifying, while Aprilia rider Maverick Vinales and RNF rider Raul Fernandez took P8 and P9 respectively.
Aprilia rider Aleix Espargaro had a disappointing run after multiple errors dropped him down to 13th on the opening lap, and further to 18th with a second error. His run ended prematurely after suffering a crash on the final corner towards the final stages of the race. Also ending up with a DNF was Pramac rider Johann Zarco after a slow crash on Turn 3, while Stefan Bradl of LCR Honda collided into Pol Espargaro of Tech3 at the start in a crash, prompting an early retirement.
Alex Marquez was hurt earlier in the day following a crash bringing the grid down to 21 riders. With his ribs broken, the rider will be missing out on the main race as well, scheduled at 15.30 hours (IST) tomorrow.
First Published Date: 23 Sep 2023, 19:46 PM IST