Francesco Bagnaia crowned 2023 MotoGP champion as Jorge Martin crashes dramatic Valencia GP
Ducati rider Francesco Bagnaia (Pecco) secured the 2023 MotoGP world championship crown after a dramatic end to the season in the Valencia Grand Prix. The final race of the season saw factory rider Bagnaia battle it out with Pramac Ducati’s Jorge Martin for the world title but a crash left the latter out of contention early on in the race. Meanwhile, Pecco went on to finish the season in style taking a hard-fought win in the dramatic Valencia GP. This is Bagnaia’s third MotoGP world title and a second consecutive one with Ducati.
The MotoGP finale race saw the top two contenders - Bagnaia and Martin - enter the weekend by a difference of just 14 points after Martin won the Sprint race on Saturday. It was necessary for Bagnaia to finish in fifth and above to keep the points difference in his favour. The rider started the Valencia GP from pole position and was in the lead as the lights turned green. Martin moved to second from sixth right into Turn 2 of the opening lap with the pair running neck-to-neck in the initial two laps.
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Martin made a small mistake at the start of Lap 3 as he out-braked himself, only to drop down to P8. The Pramac rider was looking to make a comeback as he tried to climb the order but Lap 6 spelled disaster for the Spaniard when a collision with Honda rider Marc Marquez ended his dreams of bringing home the world title. The crash also spelt doom for Marquez, who was on his final run with Honda before moving to Gresini next year.
With Martin out, Pecco was now clear of taking the world title but the Valencia GP was still very much in contention. The Italian rider though lost the lead by then to KTM’s Brad Binder when he turned back to see what happened. This allowed Binder to move into the top spot and the rider held on to the lead for the next few laps. KTM seemed to be destined for its first 1-2 finish as Jack Miller moved up to P2 on Lap 7 and then took the lead after Binder ran off at Turn 11 on Lap 14.
The mistake cost Binder well over 4 seconds as he dropped to P6 but battled it out in an aggressive ride till the chequered flag. Miller crashed out in the top spot on Lap 19. This let Bagnaia regain the lead only to find pressure from Pramac’s Johaan Zarco in the final stages. The penultimate lap saw Gresini's Fabio Di Giannantonio overtake Zarco for P2 but there was no looking back for Pecco this time as held on to the lead, finishing the race in style by just 0.176 seconds.
Johann Zarco took the final spot on the podium ahead of Binder, while RNF Aprilia's Raul Fernandez and Gresini's Alex Marquez finished at P5 and P6 respectively. Yamaha rider Franco Morbidelli finished seventh in his final race with the team, followed by Aprilia's Aleix Espargaro, Luca Marini and Maverick Vinales finishing at P8, P9 and P10. The final points were taken by an unwell Fabio Quartararo of Yamaha finishing 11th, followed by LCR Honda rider Takaaki Nakagami in 12th place. RNF stand-in Lorenzo Savadori finished 13th, ahead of Tech3's Pol Espargaro.
Amidst the many retirements in the crash-ridden Valencia GP were LCR Honda’s Alex Rins, Ducati's Enea Bastianini, Tech3's Augusto Fernandez and VR46's Marco Bezzecchi. Marc Marquez’s nasty high-side crash led him to the medical centre but the rider managed to escape some serious injury.
With the latest victory, Pecco Bagnaia has become the first Ducati rider to win two MotoGP world titles for the team and is the first rider to win back-to-back championships since Marquez in 2019. For Martin, the crash also means the rider loses a seat on the factory Ducati team for 2024. He will continue with Pramac for another year.