Motor Sports

Martin sprints to first points of new MotoGP season in Qatar

LUSAIL, Qatar: Jorge Martin got the first points on the board in the new MotoGP season, winning Saturday's sprint in Qatar with defending double world champion Francesco Bagnaia in fourth.

Pole-sitter Martin, narrowly beaten by Bagnaia for the title last year, led from the flag under lights at the Lusail International circuit.

The Spanish rider was followed across the line by South African Brad Binder (KTM) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia).

But Martin revealed afterwards that it had not been all plain sailing on his Ducati-Pramac bike.

"It was fast, today I was really close to crashing on a lot of corners.

"We need to work on the bike and let's see tomorrow if we can enjoy a big one (in the grand prix itself)."

Binder was all smiles, saying: "It's always awesome to finish on the podium, especially in the first race back."

Martin, who had claimed the front of the grid with a record lap time in qualifying earlier, led Binder into the first corner of MotoGP's 75th anniversary season.

The two front runners quickly built up a half second gap from the rest of the pack led by Aleix Espargaro.

Bagnaia, who set off from fifth, was up a place by the end of the first lap.

Fabio di Giannantonio, winner of the grand prix in Qatar last year, took a thumping fall from his VR46 Ducati bike on lap eight.

Bagnaia was up into a podium place with seven laps to go, with Marc Marquez up to fourth on his first outing since switching from Honda to Ducati's satellite Gresini team.

Running wide at a corner a few laps later left the door open for Espargaro to nip past the former six-time MotoGP world champion.

And Espargaro got the measure of Bagnaia with one lap left to knock 'Pecco' off the first of 21 sprint podiums in 2024. --AFP

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