MotoGP: Zarco Finally Takes Maiden Victory at Phillip Island

Everyone loves MotoGP at Phillip Island but, today, no one loves it more than Johann Zarco. The Australian track has given us some historic races over the years and today was no exception.

After 258 races in MotoGP, Johann Zarco has won his maiden race. It was a stunning performance from the Frenchman as he fought his way back from a poor start and calculated the final laps to perfection.

However, it wasn’t all joy in the Prima Pramac garage as their championship contender, Jorge Martin, lost a comfortable lead on the final lap. He dropped back from 1st to 5th as his gamble of running on soft tires failed to pay off. He spent 20 of the 27 laps with a 3+ second lead but wasn’t able to hold off the chasing pack.

As Martin’s championship hopes faded, Pecco Bagnaia came up in 2nd place. He remained within the chasing pack for most of the race and made a stunning move with only a few corners remaining. He will certainly be celebrating extending his championship lead when it looked to likely that this wouldn’t be the case.

The final podium place was taken by Fabio DiGiannantonio who is fighting for a place on the MotoGP grid next year. This maiden podium couldn’t have come at a better time and his aggressive, confident riding through the race, will have undoubtedly helped his cause.

The race was packed with drama from start to finish, with big moves and plenty of overtakes happening up and down the grid. It is certainly a race that will be talked about for years to come but its effect on the final championship result are yet to be known.

Image Credit: MotoGP
AS IT HAPPENED

Jorge Martin and Brad Binder, starting from 1st and 2nd respectively, flew off the line and quickly put clean air between them and the rest of the field. Despite Binder pulling up alongside Martin, it was the Prima Pramac machine that was quicker and able to keep the lead. Pecco Bagnaia then slotted himself in to 3rd. Jack Miller, the home hero, had a great start going from 8th on the grid to 4th.

It was a tricky start for Marc Marquez who slipped back from 7th to 10th, as well as Johann Zarco who dropped from 5th to 8th.

Martin was quick to pull a gap out between himself and Binder. Meanwhile, in to turn 11, Miller made a move up the inside of Bagnaia to take 3rd away from the championship leader. However, on the following lap, Miller goes wide and drops back to 6th. This allowed Fabio DiGiannantonio and Marquez to gain positions.

All this battling allows Binder to pull a 1.2 second gap over Bagnaia in 3rd. Martin was then a further 0.5s down the road.

In to turn 2 on lap 3, DiGiannantonio makes an aggressive move to steal 3rd place from Bagnaia. Further back on the same lap, Marquez goes wide thanks to pressure from Zarco. This lets through Zarco, who is now up to 5th and Miller, who is up to 6th. Marquez remains close behind Miller but isn’t able to get back past.

With drama unfolding up and down the field, the leading trio of Martin, Binder and DiGiannantonio are all enjoying comfortable gaps. Behind them is where the drama is unfolding. It seems like Bagnaia is riding slower than others and that sees him backing up the pack somewhat.

The battles between 4th and 10th are hotting up and, on lap 6, there are moves happening up and down the field. Zarco makes his way past Marquez for 5th, Aleix Espargaro takes 7th from Miller and Marco Bezzecchi takes 9th away from Alex Marquez. Zarco continues battling with Marc Marquez throughout the lap, with the pair jostling back and forth. Eventually, it is Zarco who comes out on top and instantly sets his sights on Bagnaia in 4th.

A few laps later and there seemed to be spots of rain falling across the track. It isn’t heavy enough to affect the riders but it was certainly visible on their visors. By this point, Martin was now leading by 2.4 seconds.

On lap 11, Joan Mir crashed out of 15th place. Going in to turn 4, he bumped in to Luca Marini and ended up in the gravel. The incident was reviewed by the stewards deemed that no further action was necessary.

The following lap and the battle behind the leading pack continues. Espargaro gets past Marquez for 7th and, a few corners later, Miller makes a similar move. This pushes Marquez back down to 8th.

On lap 13, turn 4 takes another victim as Augusto Fernandez slides out of contention.

Bagnaia, by lap 15, is the fastest rider on the field and catching up to DiGiannantonio. However, with Zarco breathing down his neck, the reigning champion is forced to turn his attention to defending and that allows DiGiannantonio to pull a 1 second lead over his rivals.

With rubber flying off everyone’s tires – even the medium tires – Martin’s lap times were dropping significantly. However, he had been able to maintain a steady gap. Just behind, and despite being close on his tail for a few laps, it wasn’t until lap 19 when DiGiannantonio was able to get past Binder for 2nd. Their battle allows Bagnaia to close the gap and he is now hot on the tail of Binder.

With DiGiannantonio now in second, he gets his head down and starts to chase down Martin in the lead. He quickly brings down the gap from 3.4 seconds to 2.8, and brings Binder (in 3rd), Bagnaia (in 4th) and Zarco (in 5th) along with him.

On the following lap, the gap is cut by a further 0.3 seconds and DiGiannantonio has even managed to pull out a 0.5 second lead over Binder.

On lap 22, Zarco takes 4th place away from Bagnaia – he came up alongside the Italian on the start-finish straight and had shut the door on him but turn 1. At the same time, Martin reacts to the mounting threat behind him and stabilises the gap – DiGiannantonio is now no longer closing in on him.

The following lap, Binder is able to pull up alongside DiGiannantonio and regain 2nd place. It’s Binder who now significantly closes the gap at the front and, within 2 laps, this is reduced to less than 1.2 seconds.

On lap 26, Zarco is able to get past Binder for 2nd place. The attack forces him slightly wide and as the pack bunches up, Binder ends up dropping from 2nd to 5th. Now, the chasing pack are just 0.4 seconds behind Martin.

On the final lap of the race, we have an exciting 5-way battle for the win with Martin in 1st, Zarco 2nd, Bagnaia 3rd and DiGiannantonio 4th. But Zarco is able to pull away from Bagnaia, leaving him vulnerable to DiGiannantonio who makes his move up to 3rd. Zarco then makes a move for the lead, which he times to perfection. He brings Bagnaia with him who makes a stunning move for 2nd place. The chaos lasts for a few final corners, in which Martin drops from 1st to 3rd.

As the checkered flag falls, it’s Zarco who claims the victory, ahead of Bagnaia in 2nd and DiGiannantonio in 3rd. Just behind them, on the final straight, Martin loses 4th place to Binder. Bezzecchi is the “best of the rest” in 6th, whilst Miller snatches 7th place away from Espargaro on the line.

FULL RESULTS
1 Johann Zarco Prima Pramac
2 Pecco Bagnaia Ducati
3 Fabio DiGiannantonio Gresini
4 Brad Binder Red Bull KTM
5 Jorge Martin Prima Prama
6 Marco Bezzecchi Mooney VR46
7 Jack Miller Red Bull KTM
8 Aleix Espargaro Aprilia
9 Alex Marquez Gresini
10 Enea Bastianini Ducati
11 Maverick Vinales Aprilia
12 Luca Marini Mooney VR46
13 Miguel Oliveira CryptoDATA RNF
14 Fabio Quartararo Yamaha
15 Marc Marquez Repsol Honda
16 Raul Fernandez CryptoDATA RNF
17 Franco Morbidelli Yamaha
18 Pol Espgararo GASGAS Tech3
19 Takaaki Nakagami LCR Honda

DNFs = Augusto Fernandez (GASGASG Tech 3), Joan Mir (Repsol Honda)

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
1st Pecco Bagnaia 366 points
2nd Jorge Martin 339 points
3rd Marco Bezzecchi 293 points
4th Brad Binder 224 points
5th Johann Zarco 187 points

Feature Image Credit: MotoGP

MotoGP: Alex Marquez takes Magnificent Maiden Win at Silverstone Sprint Race

In typical British fashion, all we could talk about for most of today’s sprint race was the weather. It was unpredictable and difficult to master. But one man came out on top – and for the first time in his premier class career!

It was Alex Marquez who came out on top for today’s sprint race at the British GP. He started the race in 3rd, took the lead on lap 2, and never looked back. He faced a late charge from Marco Bezzecchi, who came home in 2nd, but he lead easily and took the checkered flag in dominant fashion.

The final podium spot was taken by Maverick Vinales, who was thrilled to squeeze a podium out of his Aprilia machine which, typically, doesn’t like these damp conditions.

Early race leaders, Jorge Martin and Jack Miller eventually came home in 6th and 7th respectively.

Further down the pack, it was a difficult day for reigning champion Pecco Bagnaia – he came home in 14th and scored no points, meaning his championship lead over Bezzecchi has been cut to 27 points.

It was an even tougher day for Marc Marquez, coming home in 18th and seemingly facing yet more issues on his Honda, and Fabio Quartararo who made no waves in the race at all – the Frenchman started the race last, in 22nd, and was only able to make up one place across the entire sprint race. A day to forget for both former champions.

The sprint races format, which is new for 2023 in this new era of MotoGP, has now given us 5 different winners across 9 different race weekends. The forecast for tomorrow’s main race is looking dry – can Alex Marquez replicate his win under those normal conditions?

As it happened

After a saturated free practice and qualifying session earlier in the day, the track was beginning to dry as the riders took to the grid for today’s sprint race. That left a lot of questions around tire selection and mid-race bike changes. As it turned out, every rider opted for medium wet tires and this seemed to be the ideal option as the rain would start falling before the race ended.

As the lights went out, Jack Miller and his KTM machine took an unsurprising early lead. He flew off the line and quickly got past polesitter Marco Bezzecchi. Bezzecchi put up an early fight but it was the Aussie who was clearly out in the lead by the end of the first few corners.

Further back down the pack, Pecco Bagnaia had a wobble and fell back from his starting position of 4th and in to a pack of squabbling riders. He was now back down in 12th after losing 8 places. Meanwhile, Marc Marquez and Enea Bastianini clashed in the opening few corners, causing a large gap to form right in the middle of the pack.

Miller wasn’t able to keep hold of the lead for long – after getting past Augusto Fernandez to take 3rd, Jorge Martin flew up the inside of both Bezzecchi in 2nd and Miller in 1st to steal the lead of the race at Stowe corner. It didn’t last for long though and the Prima Pramac rider soon lost out to Bezzecchi and Miller again.

It was on lap 2 that Alex Marquez took the lead. He first shoved his way up the inside of Bezzecchi and then, a few corners later, flew past Miller and into the lead. By the end of lap 3, Marquez had a 0.5 second lead over the rest of the pack.

On lap 4, Maverick iInales and Aleix Espargaro make their way past Martin, who has now been shuffled back to 6th. On the following lap, Vinales was now battling with Miller for the final podium position.

At the halfway point, with his brother leading the pack by 0.8 seconds, Marc Marquez was still struggling down in 14th and he could be seen looking over his shoulder, suggesting there might have been an issue with his bike.

The grid then began to settle in to the race and everything seemed to calm down. Aleix Espargaro took 4th away from Miller, and shortly after we had Martin closing in on the Aussie too. Further back down the grid and Fabio Giannantonio took 12th away from Bagnaia, before Bastianini followed suit.

On lap 8, we had spots of rain appearing at various points on the circuit and, on lap 9, Bezzecchi was squeezing everything out of his Mooney VR46 machine as he went on the hunt for Marquez and the race win. By the start of the final lap, the gap has dropped from just over a second down to 0.8 seconds. Then, in the first sector of the final lap, Bezzecchi took another 0.3 seconds off this gap. Sadly, in the end, Bezzecchi just ran out of road and came home 0.366s behind maiden premier class winner Alex Marquez.

Full Results
1st Alex Marquez Gresini
2nd Marco Bezzecchi Mooney VR46
3rd Maverick Vinales Aprilia
4th Johan Zarco Prima Pramac
5th Aleix Espargaro Aprilia
6th Jorge Martin Prima Parmac
7th Jack Miller Red Bull KTM
8th Augusto Fernandez GASGAS Tech3
9th Brad Binder Red Bull KTM
10th Miguel Oliveira CryptoDATA RNF
11th Luca Marini Mooney VR46
12th Fabio Di Giannantonio Gresini
13th Enea Bastianini Ducati
14th Pecco Bagnaia Ducati
15th Franco Morbidelli Yamaha
16th Pol Espargaro GASGAS Tech3
17th Joan Mir Repsol Honda
18th Marc Marquez Repsol Honda
19th Raul Fernandez CryptoDATA RNF
20th Takaaki Nakagami LCR Honda
21st Fabio Quartararo Yamaha
22nd Icer Lecuona LCR Honda
Championship Standings
1st Pecco Bagnaia 194 points
2nd Marco Bezzecchi 167 points
3rd Jorge Martin 163 points
4th Johann Zarco 115 points
5th Brad Binder 115 points

Feature Image Credit: MotoGP on Twitter

MotoGP: Bagnaia on Pole in Mugello, Just Ahead of Marquez Brothers

The jewel in the crown of the MotoGP season has delivered us a tantalising qualifying session, building the excitement ahead of the two races this weekend.

Championship leader and home hero, Pecco Baganai has set the first ever 1:44 lap at Mugello to take pole in the Tuscan hills. He tackled the pressure of being an Italian rider, on an Italian bike, at an Italian track in spectacular style to the delight of the grandstands.

He will be joined on the front row by both Marc and Alex Marquez, in 2nd and 3rd respectively. This is the first time the brothers have been in parc ferme together.

It was a truly difficult day for Fabio Quatararo who wasn’t able to get out of Q1 and will line up in 15th for the sprint and main races.

Qualifying 1

There were some big names in the first qualifying session, including both Monster Yamaha riders, Fabi Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli, Jack Miller, Alex Marquez, Maverick Vinales and rookie-on-the-rise, Augusto Fernandez.

In the early stages of the session, it was Alex Marquez who set the first fastest lap – so fast, he was just shy of the overall lap record. Slotting in behind him, in the second promotion spot, was Morbidelli.

As normal, the riders made their way back to the garages to change tires before their second run. Vinales first improved up in to the promotion spots, followed by Miller who leap-frogged him to second.

This pushed Morbidelli down to 4th, who stayed one place ahead of teammate Quartararo who was having a day to forget.

As the checkered flag fell for Q1, it was Alex Marquez (1:45.231) and Jack Miller (1:45.559, +0.328) who progressed to the next session for their shot at pole.

Qualifying 2

As rain threatened to add some drama to qualifying, every rider was quickly out on track and eager to set themselves a banker lap.

With Valentino Rossi watching from the sidelines, his VR46 rider Marco Bezzecchi set the first flying lap with a 1:45.372. Marc Marquez and Jack Miller were close on his tail, taking 2nd and 3rd respectively.

With 11 minutes left on the clock, and without having yet set a lap time, Enea Bastianini crashed at turn 11 to give himself a huge amount of hard work on his return to MotoGP after recovering from an injury.

Jorge Martin then takes provisional pole away from Bezzecchi just before the riders came back to the garages for a tire change.

Instead of waiting to rejoin the track with everyone else, Pecco Bagnaia came out early to enjoy a complete empty track. However, he was soon joined by Marc Marquez and Bagnaia didn’t hide his frustrations at this, waving to the Spaniard and angrily gesturing to him.

Despite being forced to tow the Spaniard round the track, Bagnaia’s pace was blistering and he crossed the line to set the first ever 1:44 lap at Mugello, smashing the previous lap record. Marc Marquez, however, had to settle for 2nd as he was 0.078s behind the reigning championship

Luca Marini had his previously-cancelled lap time reinstated after the session, gifting 4th place back to him. Aleix Espargaro faced opposite luck – he looked set for a front row start but as the other riders set flying laps, he was eventually shuffled down to 8th.

Full Starting Grid
1st Pecco Bagnaia Ducati Lenovo
2nd Marc Marquez Repsol Honda
3rd Alex Marquez Gresini
4th Luca Marini Mooney VR46
5th Jack Miller Red Bull KTM
6th Jorge Martin Prima Pramac
7th Marco Bezzzecchi Mooney VR46
8th Aleix Espargaro Aprilia
9th Johann Zarco Prima Pramac
10th Alex Rins LCR Honda
11th Brad Binder Red Bull KTM
12th Enea Bastianini Ducati Lenovo
13th Maverick Vinales Aprilia
14th Franco Morbidelli Monster Yamaha
15th Fabio Quartararo Monster Yamaha
16th Takaaki Nakagami LCR Honda
17th Michele Pirro Aruba.it
18th Miguel Oliveira CryptoDATA RNF
19th Fabio Di Giannantonio Gresini
20th Raul Fernandez CryptoDATA RNF
21st Augusto Fernandez GASGAS Tech3
22nd Lorenzo Savadori Aprilia
23rd Jonas Folger GASGAS Tech3

Feature Image Credit: MotoGP

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