MotoGP: Johann Zarco Finally Wins His First MotoGP Race in a Thrilling Last Lap Battle at Philip Island

Published on October 21, 2023
By Jack Hammersley

Johann Zarco took his first victory in the MotoGP class after 120 races in trying while Pecco Bagnaia extends his championship lead

For the first time since the Dutch TT in 2015, a MotoGP Grand Prix was race was being held on a Saturday; this was due to weather concerns for Sunday so the organisers swapped the Grand Prix and Sprint race around.

Jorge Martin started from pole position ahead of Brad Binder and Francesco Bagnaia who came from Q1. Martin had chosen the soft rear tyre, one of only four riders to choose it with one other being Marc Marquez.

The lights went out and it was Martin who took the holeshot ahead of Binder and Pecco Bagnaia, Jack Miller had a great start and was in fourth place ahead of Fabio Di Giannantonio.

Miller went up the inside of Pecco at turn ten and held his former team-mate off on the change of direction. Pecco retook third on the home straight. Marquez using the best of his soft tyre early managed to find his way into fifth place by the end of lap two.

Martin had pulled a 0.5 second gap over Binder in second and two seconds ahead of Pecco. Di Giannantonio passed Pecco into turn two and was into the podium places. Johann Zarco had a poor start and was down to ninth on lap one, but by lap three he was on the back of Pecco in fifth.

Marquez was having a good fight in the group for the podium places, passing Miller at Miller corner for sixth place on lap four. The Spaniard then turned underneath Zarco into turn two and was back in the top five.

Martin at the end of lap five had a 1.8 second lead over Binder in second place, meanwhile Pecco in fourth was 4.4 seconds behind the leader.

It was back and fourth between Marquez and Zarco on lap six with the Frenchman getting the best of the fight, making the decisive move at the Hayshed.

On lap ten Pecco was a little bit after than Martin, closing the gap to 4.2 seconds. Binder was closing in ever so slightly also. However on lap 11 Martin responded to extended the gap back out to what it previously was.

Marquez was starting to struggle, was his soft rear tyre choice starting to turn against him? Miller then passed Aleix Espargaro into turn one to move into sixth place.

Pecco had closed up behind Di Giannantonio who had closed in on Binder, it was nearly a four way battle for second place, Martin was 3.3 seconds in front as they reached the halfway stage. If the race was to stay as it was, Martin would close the championship gap from 18 points to six, a big chunk out of the Italian’s lead.

On lap 19 Di Giannantonio passed Binder into turn one to move into second place, Martin was 3.4 seconds up the road with nine laps to go. In two laps Di Gi had closed the gap down to 2.8 seconds with seven laps to go.

Zarco passed Pecco into turn one for fourth place on lap 22, Pecco’s championship would just be four points ahead of Martin.

Binder retook second place at Miller corner, doing a perfect block pass on Di Gi, Zarco was right on the back of the Gresini rider. Binder was 2.1 seconds behind Martin with four laps remaining.

Zarco passed Di Gi into turn one on lap 25 to move into the podium places for the first time in the race, Martin’s lead was getting smaller and smaller by the corner, especially in the last sector.

With two laps to go Binder was 1.2 seconds behind Martin and was 0.5 seconds a lap faster. Zarco passed Binder into Miller corner and the South African dropped to fifth. Pecco went up the inside of Di Gi at the Hayshed.

Onto the last lap the gap between Martin and Zarco was 0.4 seconds! Zarco went up the inside out Martin at turn four and took the lead of the race and Pecco took Martin at the same time. Di Gi took Martin into the Hayshed. Binder passed Martin out of the last corner.

Johann Zarco finally won a MotoGP race! The Frenchman rode the race to perfection and he used the best of his tyre saving skills to take his first victory since Valencia Moto 2 in 2016.

Pecco Bagnaia finished in second place and extended the championship lead to 27 points, Fabio Di Giannantonio took his debut MotoGP podium in third place, putting himself in the shop window to stay in the Grand Prix paddock. Binder finished in fourth with Martin in fifth.

Featured Images: Pramac Racing,


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