Martin heads Binder and Marc Marquez on the Tissot Sprint podium as it all comes down to Sunday.
The 2023 MotoGP™ World Championship will be decided on Sunday! Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) claimed Tissot Sprint victory to cut Francesco Bagnaia’s (Ducati Lenovo Team) advantage in the title fight down to just 14 points at the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana, ensuring the Grand Prix race will be the closest decider in the premier class sine 2015. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) earned podiums in the final Sprint of 2023, both getting their elbows out.
Martin produces the magic
Bagnaia got a dream launch from P2 to grab the holeshot into Turn 1 as Martin also got away well. Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) immediately bit back at Turn 2 with a late lunge on Pecco though as Binder nearly slipped up the inside of Martin.
Lap 1, Turn 11 was where Martin made his move on Pecco. Binder, on the cutback, managed to squeeze up the inside of the pair of them and heading into Turn 12, so did the fast-starting Marc Marquez. Suddenly, Bagnaia went from P2 to P5 in the space of two corners.
Martin soon got back past Marquez as we watched Bagnaia drop into the clutches of the group behind that included Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) – the Frenchman making a phenomenal start.
With nine to go though, Quartararo’s Sprint was over as he attempted to overtake Pecco at Turn 6. The front of his Yamaha let go and that was all she wrote for El Diablo on Saturday.
Up front, the top four were locked together – Viñales, Binder, Martin and Marc Marquez. Binder and Viñales were getting very busy with eight laps left and lurking just behind was Martin. At this stage, Bagnaia was 1.6s off the fight – and the Italian had Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) and Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) climbing all over his tailpipes.
Seven to go. Now, Binder was leading. Marquez showed a wheel to Martin at Turn 6 as the two made slight contact. Unfazed, Martin then carved his way past Viñales for P2 at Turn 1 with six laps to go and as expected, Marquez wasted little time in following Binder and Martin through. With five and a half laps to go, a huge moment occurred – Martin was P1. Binder went wide at Turn 10 and left the door wide open, with Martin walking through with ease.
Five to go. As things stood, the gap in the Championship was 14 points between Sprint leader Martin and fifth place Pecco. Di Giannantonio had passed Bezzecchi and was looking menacing behind Bagnaia, with Martin still holding Binder at bay.
Three to go. Binder wasn’t close enough to make a move on Martin but he was still too close for comfort. Marquez was half a second further back, and Viñales was being caught by Bagnaia, Di Giannantonio and Bezzecchi.
LAST LAP! Martin led Binder by 0.3s, with Bagnaia still holding Di Giannantonio behind him. Halfway around the lap, Binder still wasn’t close enough. Turn 10 passed by with Martin still leading and the KTM wasn’t close enough into the final corner either. Martin rode brilliantly to secure the most important 12 points of his career, as Binder and the impressive Marc Marquez bagged Valencia Sprint rostrums.
14 points, one to go
Viñales had to settle for P4 after setting the early pace, as Bagnaia came home P5 to collect five points. Not the result the Italian was searching for as the Championship chase goes down to the final day, but it could still yet prove to be a huge five points.
Di Giannantonio couldn’t find a way past Pecco and claimed P6, with Bezzecchi, Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) and Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) picking up the final points-paying positions in the Sprint.
And so, the MotoGP™ World Championship will be decided on Sunday in Valencia. 14 points in it, Pecco vs Martin – what an afternoon we have in store. Tune into the MotoGP™ race at 14:00 local time (GMT+1) to see who will be crowned 2023 MotoGP™ King in season 75.