Motor Sports

'Unreal' Bagnaia cruises to season-opening Qatar MotoGP win

LUSAIL, Qatar: Defending double world champion Francesco Bagnaia cruised to victory in the season-opening Qatar MotoGP on Sunday.

The Ducati rider made a storming start from fifth off the grid to hit the front and take total control of the first race in MotoGP's 75th anniversary season.

Brad Binder finished second for KTM with pole-sitter Jorge Martin (Ducati-Pramac) in third.

Bagnaia, fourth behind Martin in Saturday's sprint, reflected: "We knew our potential, we tried to do our maximum yesterday, but changed the set up – today was totally different."

South African Binder said he was "super stoked" after also filling second in the sprint.

"We knew it was going to be tough to get to the end. I tried to get so close to 'Pecco' (Bagnaia) but he did an unreal job, he didn't make one mistake."

Martin, who had claimed pole after a record lap in qualifying, was more than happy with his weekend's work at the Lusail International Circuit.

"A win yesterday and P3 today, I've taken a lot of points over the weekend so I'm pleased."

Bagnaia played his ace card at lights out with a super-charged getaway from the second row to sail past the four riders in the blink of an eye.

Australian Jack Miller was the first casualty of the 2024 season, crashing his factory KTM on lap two.

With 14 of the 22 laps to go Bagnaia turned the screw, posting his fastest lap to go half a second clear.

The Italian was enjoying a sweet spot, rider and bike in total harmony, and his lead had doubled just two laps later.

Binder had the measure of Martin for second, with 19-year-old rookie Pedro Acosta running a superb fifth, harrying the man in front of him – none other than six-time MotoGP champion Marc Marquez.

And the double world champion from Moto 2 and Moto 3 soon had Marquez in his rear view mirror, although he slipped back a couple of places in the closing stages.

Marquez is now without a win in 868 days, mirroring Lewis Hamilton's seemingly interminable winless run in Formula One.

But the Spaniard leaves Qatar having enjoyed a positive first weekend after switching from Honda to Ducati's satellite Gresini bike, picking up fifth in the sprint and fourth in the main event.

While the race was relatively straightforward, that's more than can be said of the start, which had to be delayed when Raul Fernandez's bike stalled on the grid.

Officials ordered the rider to take his Aprilia-Trackhouse off the track, but he initially refused.

A second formation lap was required, with Fernandez starting from the back of the grid after a mad dash to pick up his spare bike.

MotoGP's next port of call is Portimao for the Portuguese Grand Prix in a fortnight's time with Bagnaia leading the early championship standings on 31 points from Binder with 29 and Martin one point away in third. --AFP

Most Popular
Related Article
Says Stories