Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) made super Saturday into statement Saturday at the Qatar Airways Grand Prix of Qatar. With a potential match point on the line on Sunday for title rival Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) depending on the Tissot Sprint, the pressure was absolutely on, and the number 89 soaked it up and then some. After battling Bagnaia early in the race as the two started in P4 and P5, Martin made his way into the lead and then held off a charging Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) over a tense final lap, halving Pecco’s points lead in the process as the Championship leader came home only fifth.
Diggia took a stunning second and from second on the grid, with Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) taking third after leading much of the Sprint from pole. Then came Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™), and then Bagnaia after a fascinating showdown in the desert.
It was an immediate shot of adrenaline in the title fight in Turn 1 too, with Marini getting the holeshot as Alex Marquez slotted into second – but there was contact right behind the two between Martin and Bagnaia. Martin, the rider on the inside, just kept third, with Bagnaia left with a few metres to make up. Later round the lap both Alex Marquez and Martin were slightly wide though, and Pecco shot back past Martin as Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) also attacked and got through.
Martin hit back not long after, putting him right back on the rear wheel of Bagnaia. On Lap 2, it got seriously close again as the number 89 opened the door for himself and made it through, with Diggia trying to do the same. A few corners later, he did.
Meanwhile in the lead, Marini was under attack. Alex Marquez got through but the Italian answered straight back, holding on to it as Martin got the hammer down just behind and set the fastest lap.
Over the line for seven laps to go, Alex Marquez was reloaded and ready to try again. He once again made it through too, but Martini was even quicker to respond with an immediate cutback. That gave Martin a few more metres too as they squabbled, and the number 89 struck as soon as he had the chance to take over in second, homing in on Marini as Alex Marquez was left to defend against Diggia.
The move from Martin came at the final corner, taking over in the lead and able to hold Marini off into Turn 1. Alex Marquez couldn’t say the same, with Diggia able to get through at Turn 1 and set off after the battle ahead.
Bagnaia, meanwhile, was in fifth and just off the back of the gaggle at the front, but with Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) around half a second back.
The next move saw Diggia attack Marini for second, and from there the number 49 set off after Martin. Or more, the mission began to keep up with the title contender as the hammer went absolutely down. Lap by lap, they both pulled away, with Marini holding a safe third and Alex Marquez able to gather up a bit of breathing space ahead of Bagnaia.
The leading duo were locked together at the start of the final lap, with Diggia shadowing Martin’s every move. But the number 89 just kept turning the screw and the Gresini machine lost a few metres here and a few there, unable to quite get back on terms with the race leader. Martin crossed the line 0.391s clear to take a valuable 12-point haul from the Tissot Sprint, with Diggia impressing once again after an incredible weekend so far. Marini completes the podium on Saturday.
Alex Marquez held on to fourth as Bagnaia was only able to take fifth, and under some late pressure from Viñales, who got past Binder and was on the march. But the number #1 was just about able to respond and keep a two to three-tenth buffer, defending P5 but seeing his lead cut to just seven points.
Binder came home in P7, with Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) putting in an even bigger charge up from P14 on the grid. The Frenchman was able to get past Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing), who was forced to settle for 10th as Augusto Fernandez (GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3) – now officially Rookie of the Year – grabbed P9 and the last point on Saturday too.
And so it’s just seven points between Bagnaia and Martin, with 62 still on the table. 25 more go up for grabs on Sunday in the Qatar Airways Grand Prix of Qatar, and if the Sprint is anything to go by, there will be fireworks.
Don’t miss it – tune in for more on Sunday at 20:00 (GMT +3) for another spectacular showdown under the floodlights.
|1||Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing)|
|2||Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™)||+0.391|
|3||Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team)||+2.875|
|4||Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™)||+3.370|
|5||Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team)||+3.957|
|6||Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing)||+4.239|
|7||Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing)||+5.761|
|8||Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™)||+6.454|
|9||Augusto Fernandez (GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3)||+8.285|
|10||Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing)||+8.314|