Jorge Martin halved Francesco Bagnaia’s MotoGP points lead by fighting through to take an emphatic victory in the Qatar Grand Prix sprint, as Bagnaia managed only fifth.
Martin made a strong getaway to challenge Bagnaia for third into Turn 1, the Spaniard easing the Italian slightly wide to make the position his.
He soon set off after pole man Luca Marini and Gresini’s Alex Marquez, though made a mistake and dropped back to fifth once more – forcing him to do the hard work all over again.
Martin quickly regained his composure though and moved clear of Honda’s Marc Marquez and Bagnaia, nearly touching with the latter thanks to a late attack.
A man on a mission, he then ran down the battling leaders. Passing Marquez as the race approached mid-distance, he then made the move for the lead on Marini at the final corner to complete his fight back.
While pulling away from Marini, he had to fend off the advances of a determined Fabio Di Gianantonio, who also had to recover from a poor opening lap that saw him drop to seventh.
The Gresini pilot pushed Martin to the flag, but ultimately could do nothing to prevent Martin from securing an eighth sprint success of the season to reduce Bagnaia’s points lead to just seven heading into Sunday’s full-length grand prix event.
Di Gianantonio secured his maiden sprint race rostrum result just 0.391s adrift in second, while Marini enjoyed a solid Saturday to come home third – albeit nearly three seconds from victory.
Marquez claimed fourth ahead of Bagnaia, who struggled to make progress from fourth on the grid and even came under pressure from Aprilia’s Maverick Vinales in the closing stages.
The Spaniard could not mount an attack on the points leader though and settled for sixth ahead of KTM’s Brad Binder.
Fabio Quartararo illustrated Yamaha’s impressive race pace to fight back to eighth from 14th on the grid, while Augusto Fernandez secured the final point for ninth for GasGas.
Johann Zarco struggled for speed and fell to tenth from sixth on the grid, while Marc Marquez’s outing went from promising to tough after being forced out wide by Binder in the middling portion.
As a result, he dropped from sixth to ninth and later faded to 11th in the end just ahead of the other factory KTM of Jack Miller and VR46 Ducati’s Marco Bezzecchi.
Franco Morbidelli could only manage 15th after being caught up in an opening lap clash with RNF Aprilia’s Miguel Oliveira, factory Aprilia pilot Aleix Espargaro and Ducati’s Enea Bastianini.
The former two riders retired as a result of the incident, while Bastianini remounted to come home as the final classified finisher in 20th.