SEPANG, Malaysia — Ducati’s Enea Bastianini claimed his first race victory of the season when he won the Malaysian Grand Prix ahead of Gresini’s Alex Marquez, while Jorge Martin failed to close the gap on championship leader Francesco Bagnaia.
Bastianini and Marquez were both quick off the line and left the two title contenders behind on the opening lap with some serious pace up front, Reuters reported.
Pole sitter Bagnaia eventually finished third while Pramac Racing’s Martin, who was second fastest in qualifying, finished a distant fourth to fall 14 points behind Bagnaia in the championship.
The 25-year-old Italian was under pressure for results after making the switch to the factory Ducati team and he became the seventh different rider to win a race this season.
“I’m so tired. I gave my 100 per cent today. After a long time without a podium, I’ve got this victory,” an exhausted Bastianini said in a post-race interview on Sunday.
“My family and friends know what I’ve had to do to arrive here, it’s fantastic.”
But as the race wore on, Martín was forced to back off as he sought to conserve his tyres in the searing heat at the Sepang International Circuit while Bagnaia also appeared content to bide his time in third place.
“I tried to close the gap to Alex and Bastianini, but I was really struggling with the braking … but I’m happy to keep a gap in the championship,” Bagnaia said.
The MotoGP championship has two more races left this season in Qatar and Valencia.
The Italian Bastianini led Malaysian MotoGP sprint winner Marquez through a third of the 20 laps, with Martin and Bagnaia squabbling over third.
Despite the fatigue, in the interview with the official broadcast, the Italian didn’t hide the significance of this result, and he also expressed gratitude to everyone around him:
In fierce heat, the race settled into a groove from there as Bastianini pulled out into a lead of nearly a second on Gresini Racing’s Marquez, with Bagnaia third and Martin struggling for pace in fourth.
Bastianini has suffered an injury-hampered campaign but the Italian nicknamed “The Beast” held his nerve at the front to cruise home for an ultimately comfortable victory, his first of the season.
Marco Bezzecchi came into Sepang in third place in the championship and still mathematically in contention for the world title.
But his unlikely hopes of winning the title evaporated as he rode home in sixth.
Gigi Dall’Igna, General Manager at Ducati Corse, was brief on his words towards the Italian’s win, but didn’t shy away from showing how happy he was with seeing his rider winning.
“I’m really happy for Enea. He did a fantastic job all weekend and of course a fantastic race. I’m really happy for him, he deserve it after a difficult season, after a lot of bad luck during the season.