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Alex Marquez fends off Martin as Bagnaia defends against Bastianini

Alex Marquez Fends Off Martin As Bagnaia Defends Against BastianiniThe Gresini rider steals the headlines as the title protagonists duke it out and Martin gains two points in a tense Sprint at Sepang.

The final chapter of the 2023 Championship story is underway and the momentum swung a little more in the direction of the purple corner in Saturday’s Tissot Sprint. With Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) taking a classy, dominant victory and absolutely charging through to it too, that left Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) and Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) to battle it out. And the former claimed P2, with polesitter Pecco having to settle for P3. Now, the gap ahead of Sunday’s race is just 11 points.

The rider who got the best start on the front row was actually Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team), but the Beast played it to perfection for teammate Bagnaia (spoiler alert) as the Championship leader didn’t come under attack as he grabbed the holeshot and the number 23 slotted in behind. Alex Marquez struck soon after to take second though, with Martin shuffled down to fourth early doors.

Bagnaia led Alex Marquez led Martin as the number 89 hit back against Bastianini on Lap 1, and Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was past the second factory Ducati not long after.

Alex Marquez Fends Off Martin As Bagnaia Defends Against BastianiniHeart rates then hit the roof at the end of Lap 2 as Alex Marquez went for a dive on Bagnaia for the lead at the final corner. The reigning Champion let the Gresini machine steam past and head wide, taking back the lead, and that left Alex Marquez nearly side by side with Martin instead, squabbling for second. The Gresini decisively grabbed it at Turn 1, however, and from there was able to start reeling Bagnaia back in.

He did just that, with Martin able to stay close and Bastainini coming back at them too, back past Miller, and with five to go Alex Marquez struck with a brutal, clean move for the lead. And then came Martin, the number 89 attacking Bagnaia almost immediately. The hammer went down.

That left Bastianini with some decisions, right on the tail of his teammate and Pecco looking to recover after losing two positions in fairly quick succession. There was another twist in the tale too as something white then appeared on the front fairing of the #1 Ducati, some debris stuck on the bike. But it didn’t last too long as the battle for third was allowed to continue regardless.Alex Marquez Fends Off Martin As Bagnaia Defends Against Bastianini

Bagnaia held on, and Bastianini may not have attacked, but he definitely put on some pressure and proved two points at once – his speed and a little team spirit, certainly in terms of avoiding too much risk. It almost cost him fourth too, with a late charge from Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) saw the South African and the Beast nearly side-by-side over the line after a last corner squabble.

One second back from that battle was Miller as the Aussie kept himself within the mix for most of the Sprint to bring home a solid 6th-place finish. Another second back was Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team), who fended off Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) to take 7th place. The Italian’s teammate Luca Marini took the final Sprint point in 9th ahead of Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) who rounded out the top 10.

As the title battle continues to rage on there’s no telling which way the pendulum will swing. The PETRONAS Grand Prix of Malaysia still has plenty to give in the 2023 Championship story with 25 Grand Prix points up for grabs on Sunday and a gap of just 11 between the top two.

Can Bagnaia bounce back, or will Martin continue to apply the pressure? Find out at 15:00 local time (GMT +8)!

For more MotoGP info checkout our dedicated MotoGP News page

Or visit the official MotoGP website www.motogp.comAlex Marquez Fends Off Martin As Bagnaia Defends Against Bastianini

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