Gresini Racing’s Fabio Di Giannantonio stormed to a maiden MotoGP victory at the Qatar Grand Prix yesterday, denying championship leader Francesco Bagnaia in the dying stages, while title contender Jorge Martin finished a lowly 10th.
Di Giannantonio, who does not have a MotoGP ride next season, threw caution to the wind at the floodlit Lusail International Circuit and took on Bagnaia to claim his first win while pole-sitter Luca Marini of VR46 Racing finished third. Victory marked a special weekend for Di Giannantonio, who also finished second in Saturday’s sprint.
“Man, what do I say. It’s been an incredible weekend, the race was unbelievable. I was struggling with the front (tyre) but I saw Pecco (Bagnaia) making little mistakes so I thought ‘Maybe there is my opportunity’. I’m speechless,” a grinning Di Giannantonio said in a post-race interview. “This was revenge, first for myself and others with me. Now we did it, now I’m a MotoGP winner.”
Bagnaia lost the lead with four laps to go but the Ducati rider has still put one hand on the rider’s championship after extending his lead over Martin to 21 points. The Italian can even secure back-to-back world titles in next Saturday’s sprint at the season-ending Valencia Grand Prix next weekend. Bagnaia and Martin started fourth and fifth on the grid – separated by seven points – but it was the Ducati rider who had the perfect launch as he shot off the line to take the lead from Marini going into turn one.
On the other hand, Martin nearly lost control of his Pramac bike due to wheel-spin, dropping to eighth in the opening lap, and he was forced to pick his way through the pack as Bagnaia surged ahead. While Bagnaia kept Di Giannantonio at arm’s length, Martin was falling further behind and he lost so much pace that even the slower Honda of Marc Marquez, Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo and KTM’s Jack Miller managed to get past the Pramac rider.
Up front, Di Giannantonio did not let up. With four laps to go he ignored team warnings and made his move to get past Bagnaia. The Ducati rider nearly threw it away on the next lap with a risky move to retake the lead at turn one where he ran wide and then backed off while shaking his head, knowing second place was better than nothing.
“We managed to do a perfect start, I tried to create a gap but Diggia (Di Giannantonio) was incredible. I got sucked into his slipstream at the first braking (zone) and I went wide,” Bagnaia said. “But we’ve managed to open a gap on Jorge.”
Once Bagnaia saw Martin had finished 10th, there were no hard feelings as he and several other riders stopped their bikes by the side of the track to congratulate an emotional Di Giannantonio.
Di Giannantonio is being replaced by six-time world champion Marc Marquez at Gresini and does not have a ride for next season, with few saddles still available.
Martin points blame
at ‘bad tyre’
Martin has pointed the finger firmly at a ‘bad tyre’ for leaving his title hopes on the ropes. The Pramac rider weaved hopelessy away from the grid with his rear wheel spinning at the start of the Grand Prix.
“For sure I wasn’t comfortable. You saw already at the start that I had a big spin and you can understand what happened; the rear tyre wasn’t working okay,” Martin said.
“I’m really disappointed that the championship is decided by a bad tyre. But this happened to me. It’s a pity. But it is what it is. I struggled a lot. I didn’t have rear grip. I couldn’t stop the bike. I couldn’t turn. I couldn’t open the throttle. It was like wet conditions. I think with my experience, I was able to at least make some points [tonight] which wasn’t easy. Now we move on and hopefully we can do it in Valencia.”
Martin added: “Everything can happen in Valencia. Pecco can make a mistake. I can win for sure both races - but I can win if I don’t have a tyre like today! For sure [the title is] not decided yet but it’s not the same arriving in Valencia close, than in this condition just because of a [bad] tyre. A bit frustrated, but I feel like they didn’t beat us on the track. They beat us outside. So I’m quite relaxed and I feel like we deserve this championship.”
Aldeguer claims third
consecutive Moto2 winFermin Aldeguer, the 18-year-old Spaniard who is expected to take one of the few available seats in MotoGP next season, won his third successive Moto2 race with compatriot Pedro Acosta, who had already clinched the title, eighth.
Jaume Masia won in Moto3 to take the title but the victory was cloaked in controversy for the way Masia and his Leopard Honda team-mate Adrian Fernandez repeatedly bumped the Husqvarna of his title rival Ayumu Sasaki, who finished sixth.
Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, Engineer Badr Mohamed al-Meer, and Qatar Motor & Motorcycle Federation and Lusail International Circuit president Abdulrahman bin Abdul Latif al-Mannai pose with the podium finishers of the MotoGP Qatar Grand Prix at the Lusail International Circuit yesterday. PICTURES: Noushad Thekkayil
Ducati Lenovo Team’s Francesco Bagnaia (right) and Gresini Racing’s Fabio Di Giannantonio battle for the lead.
Italian rider Fabio Di Giannantonio of Gresini Racing celebrates after winning the Grand Prix.