Fabio Di Gianantonio passed Francesco Bagnaia late on in the Qatar Grand Prix to secure his first MotoGP victory, while Jorge Martin’s title chances took a large hit.
Di Gianantonio made a much better start than he did in the Saturday sprint encounter to exit the opening bend in third, the Italian losing out to a rapid starting Bagnaia who flew from fourth into the lead.
He soon passed pole man Luca Marini for second, he and Bagnaia then started to pull well clear of the rest of the pack as the race approached half-distance.
Di Gianantonio sat in the wheel tracks of Bagnaia for the bulk of the contest until finally staging an attack on the series leader with a few laps remaining, the Gresini rider diving through with an assured pass at Turn 8.
Victory was all but secured as Bagnaia attempted to fight back at Turn 1 moments later, the factory Ducati pilot out-braking himself and nearly running into the back of Di Gianantonio, forcing him to run wide off the track as a result.
This left Di Gianantonio with a healthy 2.5-second advantage to protect over the final couple of laps, allowing him to ease his Desmosedici home to secure a first-ever premier-class win in what looks to be his farewell campaign.
Bagnaia recovered well from his lurid moment to salvage the runners-up spot, extending his points lead up to 21 as title rival Martin struggled for rear grip. The Pramac racer got an awful getaway as he nearly high-sided and dropped to ninth, though struggled for speed thereafter and could manage only tenth in the final reckoning.
Bagnaia arguably has one hand on the title trophy with just two races left in Valencia next weekend, leaving Martin with it all to do to try and secure a debut MotoGP riders crown.
Marini meanwhile backed up his result from the sprint to complete the rostrum in third. The VR46 rider struggled for speed early on but preserved his rubber well to find a way past KTM’s Brad Binder in the closing stanza. He then held off a charging Maverick Vinales to secure the podium spot.
Vinales spent most of the race stuck behind the struggling Martin but rocketed up to the next group as soon as he dispatched the Ducati. He quickly found a way through on the sister Gresini entry of Alex Marquez and Binder but ran out of time to seriously challenge Marini.
Binder therefore had to make do with fifth ahead of Marquez, while Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo recovered from 14th on the grid to claim seventh. Another to make progress late on was the other factory Ducati of Enea Bastianini.
The Malaysian GP winner carved through the field in the latter stages, even posting the fastest lap of the race on the final lap en route to eighth ahead of Jack Miller on the other KTM, with Martin completing the top ten.
Marc Marquez was the best placed Honda in 11th, the Spaniard pressuring Martin at the end though couldn’t mount an attack.
Aleix Espargaro pulled into the pits early on having been unable to ride with the fractured fibula he suffered in a crash with Miguel Oliveira in the sprint, the latter ruled out of the rest of the season with a shoulder blade fracture.
Iker Lecuona meanwhile suffered technical issues on the opening circulation and thus had to pull his wounded LCR Honda RC213V into the pits to retire.
Keyword: Di Gianantonio defeats Bagnaia to secure maiden MotoGP win, Martin struggles