KTM pull a showstopper out of the hat as Bagnaia picks a late race pocket to complete his Saturday turnaround
There’s racing, and there’s racing. MotoGP™ is in the business of the latter, and the Tissot Sprint at Jerez was another sublime showdown as 2023 continues to deliver. The same can be said of Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) as with the South African went toe-to-toe with teammate Jack Miller over the slightly shortened 11-lap dash, just able to edge clear on the final lap to his second Sprint win in four.
Miller certainly made it a Thriller at the front, but the Australian was ultimately pipped to second by reigning Champion Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) on the final lap, heading ever-so-slightly wide and Pecco needing no second invitation.
The first start saw a crash bring out the red flag as Championship leader Marco Bezzecchi was caught out by an incident between Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) and Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™), with Augusto Fernandez (GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3) also unable to avoid it.
The riders were all ok and able to head back for the restart, but damaged bikes needed moving. Morbidelli was also then given a Long Lap for the contact, to be served on Sunday.
LIGHTS OUT = ELBOWS OUT
Ready to race? You bet. The KTMs attacked straight away on take two, with Binder grabbing the lead from Miller and both Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) and Bagnaia also slicing past polesitter Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing).
Martin then went for Miller, but it wasn’t long before the Aussie struck back, and the squabble offered Bagnaia his first pickpocketing opportunity of the afternoon as he slotted into third: Binder, Miller, Bagnaia and Martin were locked together.
Drama hit then for Alex Marquez as hit the gravel trap, and just one lap later and disaster struck for another Spaniard as Aleix Espargaro crashed out of a point-scoring position for the 3rd time in 2023. The polesitter was out of it, and both will try and reset for Sunday.
Polesitter A. Espargaro crashes out of Sprint
Miller took to the front with eight to go, however, and the duel was on. The KTMs still began to pull away from the two Ducatis though, and by four laps to go the gap was half a second.
Meanwhile, Martin was riding all over the rear wheel of Bagnaia’s factory Ducati, as the reigning Champion seemed to struggle to hold onto the leading duo. Martin was desperate to find a way past the Italian as the number #1 was proving a tricky hurdle.
Miller and Binder were ragged perfection in the lead though, sliding their way around Jerez circuit in a two-man show for a few laps. Binder looked ready to pounce, Miller held him off, the two blasted round in tandem and then the South African tried it once, denied, but twice, absolutely not shy. It looked like a lot to ask as the number 33 machine squirreled and headed in a little deep, but on the exit, Binder sealed the deal, back into the lead with a lap and half to go.
From there, Binder had it pinned. There was no catching the South African this time, and instead, the duel was now for second. The Ducatis had gained ground and Bagnaia lined up a move on Miller into the Pedrosa corner, with the Australian trying to resist on the brakes but overshooting it, giving the reigning Champion an opportunity he wouldn’t turn down.
Miller gathered it back up to avoid another duel with earlier sparring partner Martin, and the Australian didn’t quite get that win or make it a 1-2, but he definitely still stormed Jerez. Bagnaia’s second is an impressive turnaround from where his Saturday started in Q1 too.
DUELS, DUELS, DUELS
Fifth was also an incredibly close finish. Miguel Oliveira (CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP™ Team) and Dani Pedrosa (Red Bull KTM Racing Team) also had viewers glued to their screens as the Portuguese rider fended off the MotoGP™ Legend for 5th place… just.
Just 1.5 seconds further back Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) had his hands full trying to defend his 7th place from Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing Ducati), but the Spaniard came out on top in that scrap leaving the Frenchman to settle for P8. The Mooney VR46 Racing riders were involved in an intense fight for the final point-scoring position in the Sprint too, in the end it was Bezzecchi who won the battle against Luca Marini to bag 9th place. Bezzecchi is now only three points clear of Pecco in the title fight…
After an incredible day of action at the Gran Premio MotoGP™ Guru by Gryfyn de España, MotoGP™ fans now have the opportunity to digest all of Saturday’s action before it all kicks off again on Sunday. If Saturday is anything to go by, you do not want to miss any on Sunday’s billing as the race gets underway at 15:00 local time (GMT +2)!
2. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) – +0.428
3. Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) – +0.680
4. Jorge Martín (Prima Pramac Racing) – +0.853
5. Miguel Oliveira (CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP Team) – +1.638
6. Dani Pedrosa (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) – +1.738
7. Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) – +3.248
8. Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) – +3.380
9. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) – +5.711
10. Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) – +7.015