The VROOM Blog #IndonesianGP – Bagnaia bounces back to take victory at Mandalika

 In Blog, MotoGP, News


Following a weekend off, MotoGP was back in action this weekend at the Pertamina Mandalika International Circuit for the Indonesian GP. The full track has been fully resurfaced since MotoGP last visited early last season after there were issues with the asphalt. World Superbikes had raced on the new surface earlier this season without any issue, so hopes were high that there would be no issues this weekend either.

The big news heading into the weekend was that Marc Marquez had finally announced that he was leaving Honda a year before the end of his contract to move to Gresini Ducati. Obviously, the news is huge – Marc has been with Repsol Honda for his entire MotoGP career, and they have won 6 world championships together – but I think it was less of a shock because the rumours had been floating around for so long that by the time it was officially announced we were already expecting it.

Still, it is massive news. HRC released a statement announcing that they and Marc had “mutually elected to terminate their four-year contract prematurely” at the end of this season. Marc stepped up to MotoGP back in 2013 with Repsol Honda, and they have achieved 6 premier class World Championships, 5 Triple Crowns, 59 wins, 101 podiums, and 64 pole positions together. There was about a week between HRC announcing the split and Gresini announcing that Marc will be with them next season, which most people took to be a respectful move from Gresini.

What I didn’t consider to be a respectful move from Gresini was the lack of information surrounding Fabio Di Giannantonio – the rider being replaced by Marc. Usually when a team signs a new rider, they announce that the current rider will be leaving first – we have already seen such news this season with Yamaha announcing Franky Morbidelli’s departure before announcing they had signed Alex Rins, while Pramac also announced that Johann Zarco was leaving them before they announced that Morbidelli would be taking his seat.

But there had been nothing from Gresini about Diggia before they announced Marc, all he got was a “thank you for your professionalism” and “all the best” at the very end of the press release announcing Marc’s arrival. It’s harsh for Diggia – he finally looks to be making progress and moving closer to the front, but unfortunately it seems to be too late in the cut-throat world of MotoGP. It was confirmed over the weekend that Marc will be working with Diggia’s current crew chief, Frankie Carchedi, ending speculation that he would be taking long-term crew chief Santi Hernandez with him. Carchedi was crew chief to Joan Mir when he won the MotoGP World Championship with Suzuki in 2020.

The move to Gresini will see Marc line up alongside his younger brother, Alex, and it will be interesting to see how they go against each other on equal machinery in the same team. They were of course team mates at Repsol Honda when Alex stepped to MotoGP in 2020, but that was the season that Marc broke his humerus so we didn’t see them on track together very much.

Now that the news of Marc leaving Honda is official and not just speculation, there is more talk than ever about who might replace him. One option could see Johann Zarco move to Repsol Honda instead of LCR, with another rider drafted in to LCR, but Honda might not want to risk upsetting Lucio Cecchinello with rumours circulating that KTM are looking to add another satellite team to their roster.

The other names being banded around as possible replacements for Marc include Miguel Oliveira and Maverick Viñales. I can’t see Maverick wanting to leave Aprilia to move to Honda, or Miguel to be fair, but if Miguel were to move, he would get a factory ride, and the Honda will improve – we just don’t know how long its going to take. On Thursday Miguel had said that anything was possible, with team boss Razlan Razali following that up by stating that there is no clause in Miguel’s contract that would allow him leave. Miguel responded to that by firmly stating “that’s not true” when asked about Razali’s comments.

The other option of course would be Di Giannantonio, whether that would be a direct swap with Marc into the Repsol team, or to the LCR squad should Zarco be given the Repsol ride. It would be good to see Diggia remain in MotoGP – that’s certainly what he wants. For now though it is all just speculation – I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough what Honda decide to do.

We also learned before the weekend that KTM had finally resolved their 5 riders into 4 seats situation, with Pol Espargaro being the rider to lose out. Pedro Acosta will step up from Moto 2 to ride at Tech 3 alongside Augusto Fernandez in 2024, with Pol stepping back to “fill a crucial and very valued position for the Pierer Mobility Motorsport project” next year. The release from KTM was vague about the details of Pol’s role next year, but it is widely believed that he will be given a role as a test rider with a few races as a wild card throughout the season.

I’m really looking forward to seeing how Acosta goes in MotoGP. This only his 3rd season of world championship racing, and not only did he win the Moto3 championship in his rookie season in 2021, he is on a serious charge towards securing the Moto2 title this season. It’s been quite the journey so far for the talented Spaniard, having made his way through the KTM talent structure from Red Bull Rookies Cup Champion in 2020 to MotoGP racer in 2024.

There was some pre-race weekend drama for Marco Bezzecchi who broke his collarbone in a training accident, and required surgery to plate the bone. Bezzecchi expected to miss this weekend of action and planned to return for Phillip Island next weekend, but he decided on Wednesday that he would travel out to Indonesia and try to ride. He arrived at the circuit just before 8am on Friday morning, but he underwent a medical check and was told he could participate in FP1 and that he would be reviewed again after the session.

Also undergoing fitness tests ahead of this round were Alex Rins, Luca Marini, Enea Bastianini, and Alex Marquez. All were passed fit to ride, and should they all make it to the starting grid on Sunday, it would be the first GP all season with all of the full-time riders present, which is absolute madness – this is round 15!

FP1 on Friday morning saw Dr Charte present in Marco Bezzecchi’s pit box to check on his condition as the session progressed. Miguel Oliveira crashed 15 minutes into the session at turn 11, while Alex Marquez crashed at turn 1 with 4 minutes remaining on the clock. Alex – still suffering with 3 broken ribs – was not keen to try and lift his bike on his own, so waited for the marshals to come and lift it for him.

Marco Bezzecchi crashed in the final seconds of the session – it was a fast crash, and you could see him actively trying to protect his collarbone as he slid through the gravel. Thankfully he was up and on his feet quickly, and was declared fit to continue with the weekend after the session was complete.

It was Jorge Martin who topped the session, ahead of Maverick Viñales, Aleix Espargaro, Franky Morbidelli, and Marco Bezzecchi.

Following the session, Gresini announced that Alex Marquez would sit out the remainder of the weekend due to the pain caused by his broken ribs. So, still no full grid.

Brad Binder and Augusto Fernandez were early crashers in the 60-minute Practice session on Friday afternoon – Binder had run wide onto the painted area of turn 11, then Fernandez crashed at turn 11 and was unable to avoid wiping Binder out. Both riders were uninjured and able to continue with the session.

It wasn’t the best start to the session for KTM, with Jack Miller also crashing at turn 11 a few minutes after Binder and Fernandez.

With 20 minutes remaining on the clock, the 10 riders holding the direct slots to Q2 were Aleix, Viñales, Martin, Di Giannantonio, Marc Marquez, Quartararo, Zarco, Bezzecchi, Morbidelli, and Bagnaia. Riders were now beginning to head out on track with soft tyres so things were likely to change in the top 10.

Aleix Espargaro crashed at turn 10 while on a fast lap, and he was gesturing for the marshals to hurry up as he struggled to pick up his stranded Aprilia. Meanwhile, team mate Maverick Viñales was busy jumping to the top of the times with a new lap record, and it wasn’t long before Marco Bezzecchi had gone even quicker than Viñales.

Everyone headed back into the pits for another set of fresh tyres before heading back out again with around 6 minutes left on the clock. Enea Bastianini joined the list of riders who had crashed at turn 11, before Jack Miller crashed at turn 1 with only 2 minutes left on the clock. Yellow flags were causing issues for those who hadn’t yet set fast laps, including championship leader Pecco Bagnaia who was sitting in 12th place.

Bagnaia was on a fast lap in the final moments of the session, but he ran wide and ended his hopes of direct progression to Q2. The session was topped by Aleix Espargaro who set a new lap record, ahead of Viñales, Bezzecchi, Binder, and Martin. Joining them directly in Q2 would be Marc Marquez, Oliveira, Di Giannantonio, Miller, and Quartararo.

In FP2 on Saturday morning, Brad Binder debuted a special helmet in support of the South African Rugby team who would be playing against France in the Rugby World Cup semi-final on Sunday. Augusto Fernandez had another crash – this time at turn 1 – before Zarco encountered a problem with his Ducati and had to push it back up pitlane with the help of some KTM mechanics.

The session was topped by Jorge Martin from Aleix, Viñales, Quartararo, and Luca Marini.

Q1 got underway and was headed in the early laps by Marini and Zarco, but by the time everyone returned to the pits ahead of a second run, it was Zarco and Morbidelli who held the top two slots. With 3 minutes remaining, Bagnaia, Bastianini, Morbidelli, and Marini were all on hot laps.

Bagnaia jumped to the top of the times but was immediately bumped to 2nd by Marini. With less than a minute remaining – and while Bagnaia was cruising, so unable to set a faster lap – Enea Bastianini went 2nd fastest and knocked his team mate out of Q2. The faces in the Ducati garage were less than amused, but it isn’t Enea’s fault that Bagnaia hadn’t gone fast enough!

Johann Zarco had a heavy looking crash just before the chequered flag came out, and the two riders heading through to Q2 would be Marini and Bastianini. Bagnaia had missed out on Q2 for the first time this season, and would be starting both the Sprint and the GP from 13th on the grid.

Marco Bezzecchi and Jorge Martin were both early crashers in Q2. Both crashed at turn 16 in separate incidents, and both were quickly up and running to find a lift back for their second bikes. With 9 minutes to go, most riders were in the pits getting ready for a second run, and only 7 of the 12 riders in the session had set lap times due to the yellow flags brought out for Bezzecchi and Martin’s crashes.

Marc Marquez crashed late in the session, bringing out more yellow flags, and cancelling lap times for those unlucky enough to be coming through behind him. Luca Marini grabbed pole position with a lap that was fast enough to set another new lap record, and he would be joined on the front row by Maverick Viñales and Aleix Espargaro. Quartararo, Binder, and Martin would make up row two, while Di Giannantonio, Marquez, Bezzecchi, Miller, Bastianini, and Oliveira would make up rows three and four.

It was some session for Luca Marini – much like team mate Bezzecchi, Marini has a freshly plated collarbone, but he was still able to take his maiden premier class pole position. He was also the only Ducati in the top 5. Marini said after the session that he didn’t expect to be able to take full advantage of the pole position in the races due to his injury, and the fact that he would have to serve a long lap penalty on Sunday having been deemed to have caused a crash back in India.

As the lights went out ahead of a 13 lap Sprint, Luca Marini made a superb start to lead into turn 1. He was closely followed by Viñales, Quartararo, and Binder, and by the time they had exited turn 1, Viñales had passed Marini for the lead. Marc Marquez crashed out of the race at turn 11, while Martin made his way up to 4th at the expense of Binder.

Martin then took 3 attempts to make a move stick on Quartararo for 3rd place before he set off in pursuit of Viñales and Marini. Aleix Espargaro tried to pass Binder for 5th place, but he crashed and took Brad down with him. The incident was investigated by Race Direction, but they decided that no further action was required, and Aleix went to Brad’s garage to apologise afterwards.

Back on track, Martin had caught Marini, and passed him for 2nd place on lap 5, while on lap 6 Bezzecchi passed Quartararo for 4th place. By lap 9, Martin was into the lead of the race, demoting Viñales to 2nd, while Marini further demoted him to 3rd a lap later. Bezzecchi also had his sights set on Viñales, and after battling back and forth for 3 laps, Bez finally made the move stick on the final lap.

Martin took the win, with Marini and Bezzecchi joining him on the podium as Ducati celebrated sealing their fourth consecutive Constructor’s Championship without either of their factory team riders on the podium! While Luca and Bez set about packing their leathers with ice for their injured collarbones, Jorge Martin was celebrating having taken the lead of the MotoGP championship for the first time in his career. With Bagnaia finishing back in 8th place, Martin was leading the championship by 7 points.

Warm up on Sunday morning was topped by Viñales ahead of Martin, Nakagami, Morbidelli, and Zarco.

As the riders lined up on the grid for the 27-lap race, a lot of the talk was about tyre choice. Michelin had said earlier in the day that they ‘strongly recommended’ that riders not use the soft option tyre, as they had concerns about whether it would last the full race distance. While most riders heeded the advice, Aleix Espargaro, Raul Fernandez, Miguel Oliveira, Taka Nakagami, and Pol Espargaro all started the race with the soft rear tyre, with some of them opting to use the soft front too. Quite why you would go against the advice of the people who make the tyres is beyond me, but you never know – maybe they would be rewarded… (They wouldn’t be!)

Jorge Martin got the start of his life when the lights went out – from 6th on the grid, he was the leader into turn 1! He was followed by Viñales, Quartararo, Marini, Aleix, Marquez, and Bagnaia. Bagnaia was quickly taking advantage of the mistakes of those around him, passing Marc and Aleix in quick succession. Marini and Bastianini were notified by Race Direction that they could take their long lap penalties at the end of the first lap, but as Marini battled with Quartararo for 3rd place, Binder tried to pass Marini and clattered into him, sending the Italian crashing into the gravel.

The incident was reviewed, and Binder was handed a long lap penalty, which he completed on lap 6. Meanwhile, Pol Espargaro had crashed out of the race, Bagnaia, Aleix, and Binder had all passed Quartararo, and Bezzecchi had passed Nakagami for 10th. Binder’s long lap on lap 6 dropped him back to 10th place behind Bezzecchi.

At the end of lap 6, Marini pulled into the pits, but ever the thinking rider, not before completing his long lap penalty. You don’t want to be risking Race Direction deciding to carry it over to the next race! Marc Marquez crashed out of the race on lap 8.

Brad Binder was on the move again, and on lap 11 he put a questionable move on Miguel Oliveira. Once again Binder made contact with another rider, and Miguel was sent off track but was able to stay upright and in the race. At this point I was beginning to question if it was Brad or Darryn on the bike! Brad is an aggressive rider, but not usually this aggressive. Anyway, he was handed another long lap penalty.

On lap 12 Augusto Fernandez and Joan Mir both crashed out of the race, before race and championship leader Jorge Martin crashed out on lap 13. Jorge was unhurt, but he was out of the race and championship rival Bagnaia was now sitting in 2nd behind new race leader Viñales.

Jack Miller passed Aleix for 4th on lap 15, before Zarco crashed out of the race at turn 11. Fabio Di Giannantonio was now up to 5th place as he passed Aleix, before Binder also passed the Spaniard. Out front, Bagnaia was closing the gap to Viñales, while Quartararo was catching the pair of them too. On lap 20 Bagnaia made his move and took the lead of the race as Quartararo continued to close on the leading duo.

Bezzecchi passed Miller for 6th place on lap 24, while Quartararo spent the final laps of the race trying to pass Viñales. Quartararo was unable to get through on Viñales, and Bagnaia went on to take the win – just – ahead of Viñales and Quartararo.

Fabio Di Giannantonio finished in an excellent 4th place – his best result since stepping up to MotoGP last season – and looked to be crying in parc ferme (he was the top independent rider) post-race – it must be hard to be out of a job when the hard work is starting to pay off.

Bagnaia’s win from 13th on the grid makes him the first rider to win a dry race from outside the front four rows of the grid since Marco Melandri won the Turkish GP from 14th in 2006! Bagnaia’s win also marks the 500th premier class victory for Michelin – the first Michelin victory was taken by Jack Findlay in 1973.

Fabio Quartararo said that he was pleased with the podium finish, but frustrated that he was unable to pass Maverick Viñales, while Viñales rocked up to the podium wearing a Batman mask and cape which was apparently the result of a bet with one of Aleix’s mechanics!
The championship lead has now swung back in favour of Bagnaia, who leads Jorge Martin by 18 points heading into the Australian GP next weekend.

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