The first MotoGP race in India was won by a bursting Jorge Martín who easily beat the current world champion and leader of the competition Pecco Bagnaia. On the podium of Saturday’s sprint race they were accompanied by Marc Márquez, who was surprised by the performance of the Honda on the unprecedented Buddh circuit, an exotic destination that, despite raising many doubts during the run-up, has finally convinced the pilots to its combination of technique and fun.
Martín, who had just won everything in Misano, continued to reduce the distance that separates him from his great rival and Ducati benchmark, crumb by crumb, now 33 points. The third in contention, the very fast Marco Bezzecchi, took the first pole position on the track and was the fastest in a race that was ruined by his teammate Luca Marini in the first stop. After falling to 17th position due to the friendly touch, he came back like a hurricane and had to settle for a creditable fifth place after stringing together several record-breaking fast laps before crossing the finish line one hundredths behind Brad Binder. The KTM South African went from 13th to fourth place with another remarkable comeback.
The test distance was shortened by one turn due to the heat and the many challenges of the first Indian weekend on two wheels. A tropical downpour forced the addition of a wet free rehearsal session and delayed Saturday’s schedule for almost an hour and a half. Finally, it survived the sunset, the monkeys in the garage and other mishaps such as the exhaustion of the stewards due to lack of water or the bureaucratic problems that forced several teams and drivers, including Joan Mir and Marc Márquez, to delay his arrival at the grand prize.
The great novelty of the calendar equalized the performance of the factories and placed Japanese motorcycles in the spotlight thanks to the talent of their world champions. Mir, fifth, and Márquez, sixth, achieved the best grid classification as a team all year. The Mallorcan, however, lost control of the bike on the fourth lap and ended what promised to be the best Saturday of the year with a bitter taste. The 2020 champion was fighting face to face with his teammate for the podium and it had been a long time since he felt that adrenaline boost of seeing himself at the head of the race.
“When you arrive at a new circuit, talented drivers make the difference,” Márquez pointed out in this regard. Despite praising the value of his hands, with express mention of those of Mir and Fabio Quartararo -eighth on the grid and sixth in the sprint- the man from Cervera could not help but glance askance at his machine. He had just achieved his second podium of the year, twelve grand prix after his explosive start to the season in Portugal. “I know that on one lap I am very fast, but today I was surprised, the pace was not that bad,” he said while still debating whether or not to fulfill his contract with Honda in 2024.
He was sharp and connected, and recognized that he was too close to the limit with his mount. “Better not to think about it too much,” he conceded, delighted to be able to celebrate and capture a podium thanks to the friendly fire between the Ducatis of the VR46. Sunday’s long race will be another story if Bezzecchi, the fastest so far, manages to stay in the top positions after the start. The battle for the title between Bagnaia, Martín and Bez, in addition to the unexpected leading role of the Hondas, will animate the first Indian GP that takes place this Sunday (12:00 p.m., DAZN).
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