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Lewis Duncan

Malaysia MotoGP: Bagnaia wins tense race to edge closer to title

Bagnaia needed to outscore Quartararo by 11 points to secure the world championship at Sepang, but Quartararo recovered from 12th to third to keep the door ajar to set up just the fifth season finale title decider in the MotoGP era.

Poleman Jorge Martin converted pole to the holeshot on his Pramac Ducati, while Bagnaia went from ninth to second at the first corner as Quartararo followed him up the order to sixth.

Martin held an early advantage as he extended his lead to over a second, while Bagnaia had the close attentions of Gresini Ducati’s Enea Bastianini.

Quartararo – carrying a left-hand finger fracture after an FP4 crash - quickly overtook Yamaha teammate Franco Morbidelli for fifth on the opening lap, with the Italian dropping down the order after serving two long lap penalties for impeding a rival in FP3.

Honda’s Marc Marquez was fourth at the end of the first lap but his pace wasn’t strong enough to keep the podium runners in sight, and he soon fell into the clutches of Quartararo.

Quartararo tried to pass Marquez at the last corner when the Honda rider ran wide, but was shuffled back to fifth on the cutback.

Marquez ran wide again into Turn 1 at the start of lap five, however, allowing Quartararo to come through as Marquez had to turn his attention to fending off the hard-charging Suzukis of Joan Mir and Alex Rins.

On lap seven, Bagnaia was promoted to the lead when Martin crashed out going through Turn 5, with Bastianini close to wiping out the factory Ducati rider into Turn 14 that same tour.

Bastianini would overtake Bagnaia for the lead in a clear sign of no factory orders from Ducati being issued to the Gresini man, the Italian passing his future teammate at Turn 4 on lap 11 of 20.

Bagnaia made a mistake chasing Bastianini on lap 14, running slightly wide at Turn 7, but rallied to retake the lead at the last corner.

With Quartararo third, Bagnaia was only 23 points clear in the championship and needed VR46 Ducati’s Marco Bezzecchi to get himself into the mix.

Bezzecchi cleared the Suzuki pair and Marquez by mid-distance and closed to within a second of Quartararo.

That gap would come down to as low as four tenths, but come lap 16 Quartararo had moved a second clear again and continued to pull away as he started to close in on the leading duo.

Bastianini continued to hound Bagnaia over the final laps and came close to contact on the last tour as he outbraked the factory Ducati rider on the outside into Turn 9.

Bagnaia held firm, however, and got to the chequered flag 0.270s clear of Bastianini for his seventh – and most crucial – win of the 2022 season.

Quartararo completed the podium for the first time since Austria to ensure the championship battle goes down to the final round in Valencia in two weeks, albeit with a very slim opportunity to win a second title.

Bezzecchi was fourth, 6.4s clear of Rins as his Suzuki teammate Mir crashed late on and ended up 19th after re-joining.

Jack Miller had an awful start from 14th on the grid as the factory Ducati rider dropped outside of the top 20. But the Australian managed to recover to pass Marquez late on for sixth.

Brad Binder trailed Marquez by 2.5s on his KTM ahead of Pramac’s Johann Zarco and Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro, whose title hopes have come to an end along with Bastianini’s.

Espargaro was involved in a collision with Morbidelli at the penultimate corner on the last lap, though the Yamaha rider was handed a three-place penalty for that – dropping him 14th behind RNF Racing’s Cal Crutchlow, KTM’s Miguel Oliveira and Honda’s Pol Espargaro.

Raul Fernandez takes the final point in 15th for Tech 3 KTM ahead of Aprilia’s Maverick Vinales, LCR Honda’s Alex Marquez, Remy Gardner (Tech 3) and Mir.

RNF’s Darryn Binder, Gresini’s Fabio Di Giannantonio and LCR stand-in Tetsuta Nagashima crashed out, while VR46’s Luca Marini was forced to pit on lap one due to a front ride height device issue.

Malaysian GP -  Race results:

Cla # Rider Bike Gap
1 63 Italy Francesco Bagnaia Ducati  
2 23 Italy Enea Bastianini Ducati 0.270
3 20 France Fabio Quartararo Yamaha 2.773
4 72 Italy Marco Bezzecchi Ducati 5.446
5 42 Spain Alex Rins Suzuki 11.923
6 43 Australia Jack Miller Ducati 13.472
7 93 Spain Marc Marquez Honda 14.304
8 33 South Africa Brad Binder KTM 16.805
9 5 France Johann Zarco Ducati 18.358
10 21 Italy Franco Morbidelli Yamaha 20.235
11 41 Spain Aleix Espargaro Aprilia 21.591
12 35 United Kingdom Cal Crutchlow Yamaha 24.641
13 88 Portugal Miguel Oliveira KTM 24.918
14 44 Spain Pol Espargaro Honda 25.586
15 25 Spain Raúl Fernández KTM 27.039
16 12 Spain Maverick Viñales Aprilia 30.427
17 73 Spain Alex Marquez Honda 33.322
18 87 Australia Remy Gardner KTM 33.691
19 36 Spain Joan Mir Suzuki 41.838
20 40 South Africa Darryn Binder Yamaha  
21 49 Italy Fabio Di Giannantonio Ducati  
22 89 Spain Jorge Martin Ducati  
23 45 Japan Tetsuta Nagashima Honda  
24 10 Italy Luca Marini Ducati  



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