MOTEGI (Japan) — Pramac Racing’s Jorge Martin was declared the winner of the Japanese Grand Prix when it was red-flagged halfway through the race on Sunday due to torrential rain that made conditions treacherous for the riders.
Martin was in the lead with Ducati’s championship leader Francesco Bagnaia in second while Honda’s Marc Marquez was third.
Race directors attempted to restart the race but when the riders went out on the warm-up lap, the red flag came out again and full points were awarded as they had run half the distance.
The result meant Bagnaia retains a slim lead in the riders’ championship but Martin has now cut the gap to just three points.
“I was committed to get a great result,” Martin said in a pit-lane interview.
“I went wide (early on) but then I started to recover positions. I felt good and I was able to overtake a lot of them. Luckily everyone is ok, but it was too dangerous to keep going,” Martin added according to Reuters.
Riders had a nervy start when rain began falling just as the race got under way. Race directors waved the white flag, allowing riders to swap their bikes, and almost everyone came in, except the Yamahas.
But the Yamahas eventually came in as conditions deteriorated and the ensuing chaos allowed Honda’s Marquez, a five-times race winner in Japan, to move up the field and sit second behind Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro while Bagnaia was third.
Once the riders got to grips with the wet track, Marquez fell behind as Bagnaia and Martin went through into podium positions.
“I’m happy because this is my first podium on the wet (tyre),” Bagnaia said. “We had the possibility to win and Jorge got the points, but I’m still very happy.”
After an early error, Martin scythed through the pack and he soon overtook both Bagnaia and Espargaro on the same lap before pulling clear in the lead while championship contender Marco Bezzecchi overcame a slow start to move up to third.
However, Marquez improved when conditions worsened and he reeled in Bezzecchi before moving off the racing line to overtake the Italian VR46 Racing rider, much to the delight of local fans in Honda’s backyard.
But a nasty crash from Martin’s team mate Johann Zarco was the last straw before the race was red flagged.
“I enjoyed, I was calm in the beginning to understand the tyre, it was dry at first,” Marquez said after his first grand prix podium of the season.
“When I saw water on the track, I started to attack and increased my speed step by step. There was a huge chance for victory, but there was too much water on the race track and there was lightning.”