PORTIMAO: Reigning world champion Francesco Bagnaia won the first ever MotoGP sprint with a last-lap overtake at the season-opening Portuguese Grand Prix on Saturday to earn 12 points and move to the top of the rider’s standings ahead of the race on Sunday.
Introduced this season in a bid to make the sport more entertaining, sprints will be run a day before the race and are approximately 50% of the full distance, which was 12 laps around the Portimao circuit.
Marc Marquez stunned the field when he took pole position in qualifying earlier with the help of a slipstream, but his Honda was no match for the Ducatis whose straight-line speed helped Bagnaia take the lead in the opening lap.
Marquez struggled to keep his rivals at bay and soon Pramac Racing’s Jorge Martin went past him and even took the lead from Bagnaia while Jack Miller and Miguel Oliveira also overtook the six-times champion who dropped to fifth.
But with two laps to go, Marquez saw an opening when Oliveira and Miller jostled for position, performing a risky double overtake to move up and finish third.
On the final lap, Martin looked set to take the chequered flag but the Spaniard went wide on a turn, opening the door for Bagnaia to storm ahead and win the sprint.
Former champions Fabio Quartararo and Honda’s Joan Mir were involved in a collision which saw the latter crash while the Yamaha rider managed to keep his balance, but he lost several positions as a result, eventually finishing 10th.
Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2023
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