Martin takes vital sprint win to roll title battle to final round

Coming into Saturday’s sprint at Losail trailing Francesco Bagnaia by 14 points, the latter could have won the 2023 title this weekend.

However, Martin’s charge to victory in the sprint and Bagnaia struggling to fifth means the gap between them shrinks to seven, ensuring the title battle will go to the final round of the year in Valencia next weekend.

Di Giannantonio scored a first podium of the season on his Gresini Ducati as he looks to earn a place on the MotoGP grid next year, while poleman Luca Marini was third.

VR46 Ducati rider Marini converted pole to the holeshot off the line at the start of the 11-lap sprint, while Gresini’s Alex Marquez jumped to second.

Martin and Bagnaia made contact at Turn 1, the Pramac rider barging his way through into third ahead of his factory Ducati team rival.

At Turn 4, Martin ran wide and allowed Bagnaia and Honda’s Marc Marquez through, demoting him to fifth.

However, Martin eased by Marquez on the main straight to move up to fourth at the start of the second lap, before taking third from Bagnaia at Turn 10 with another aggressive overtake on his championship rival.

Just up the road, Alex Marquez launched an assault on Marini’s lead through Turns 12 and 13, but ran wide and let the VR46 rider through again.

Fabio Di Giannantonio, Gresini Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Fabio Di Giannantonio, Gresini Racing

At Turn 15, Bagnaia’s evening got worse as Di Giannantonio – who started second but dropped to sixth on the first lap – demoted him to fifth.

Alex Marquez attempted to take the lead from Marini again at Turn 1 on lap five but, once more, could not get his Ducati stopped and stayed in second.

Five corners later, Martin came through into second before taking the lead away from Marini at the final turn to head the field at the end of the fifth tour.

Martin broke away by close to half a second over lap six as Di Giannantonio engaged with Marini over second, but was quickly reeled in.

Di Giannantonio put Martin under close attention across the final few laps, but the Pramac rider was able to seal the win by 0.391s at the chequered flag.

Behind the podium, Alex Marquez was fourth ahead of Bagnaia, who only just kept Aprilia’s Maverick Vinales at bay.

Brad Binder was seventh on the factory team KTM from Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo and Tech3 GasGas rider Augusto Fernandez, while Pramac’s Johann Zarco missed the points in 10th.

Marc Marquez slid to 11th after running on at Turn 1 when battling for the final points-paying positions in the closing stages.

Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro and RNF’s Miguel Oliveira failed to finish after a lap-one tangle that also involved Ducati’s Enea Bastianini and Yamaha’s Franco Morbidelli.

The incident will be investigated by the FIM MotoGP stewards.

Qatar GP – Sprint race result:

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