The 2022 FIM MotoGP World Championship will go down to the wire at the Grand Prix of Valencia as Ducati rider Francesco Bagnaia won the Malaysian GP at the Sepang International Circuit with the defending champion Fabio Quartararo doing just enough to cling on to the riders’ championship, finishing third in the podium brackets.
Both Bagnaia and Quartararo, who started from ninth and twelfth on the grid, respectively, rose to the occasion and had a flying start to the penultimate race of the campaign.
While the Italian rider raced to the second spot at the Turn 1 itself, the Yamaha mounted Frenchman, on the other hand, darted to sixth before making a lunge on his teammate Franco Morbidelli.
Meanwhile, Pramac Racing’s Jorge Martin, who secured the pole position with a fastest-ever lap at the Sepang circuit in Saturday’s qualifying, bolted a comfortable lead on Bagnaia, who had to countervail the stiff resistance from 2023 teammate Enea Bastianini.
The three Ducatis were galloping away at the front in no time – comfortably ahead of the chasing pack. Of which, Quartararo found his way past Honda’s Marc Marquez as the Spaniard ran wide two consecutive times.
Poleman Jorge Martin slid off at the fast Turn 5, leaving Bagnaia/Bastianini in a battle for the lead as Quartararo entered the top three – exactly where he needed to be to keep the title race alive.
Meanwhile, VR46 rider Marco Bezzecchi charged to throw all sorts of troubles at the reigning champion. Moving ahead, Bastianini did manage to make a move on Bagnaia to take the lead in Lap 11 but the Ducati rider was quick to react as he restored his lead in Lap 14.
Suzuki’s Alex Rins crossed the finish line in fifth, ahead of Ducati’s Jack Miller, who pipped Marc Marquez to a sixth position. KTM’s Brad Binder and Pramac Racing rider Johann Zarco finished in eighth and ninth position, respectively.
After the investigation of a last lap incident involving Quartararo’s teammate Morbidelli and Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro, the Italian was dropped to eleventh as the Spaniard retained his tenth spot. Cal Crutchlow, Miguel Oliveira, Pol Espargaro, and Raul Fernandez completed the top 15 at the Malaysian GP.
With 23 points separating them, Bagnaia and Quartararo will head to Valencia for the last dance of the 2022 MotoGP campaign.
The Italian might have a hand and four fingers on the 2022 World Championship but Quartararo, despite a broken finger, showed tremendous zeal to stay in the game and seems prepared to put up a big fight in the final showdown.
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