Silverstone, United Kingdom – Alex Marquez woke up after a “sleepy” start to hold off a late charge from Marco Bezzecchi and win the British MotoGP sprint race at Silverstone on Saturday.
Maverick Vinales completed the podium as world champion Francesco Bagnaia suffered a rare day off on his factory Ducati finishing down the field.
“It’s great to start the season again with a sprint win,” said Marquez, with MotoGP resuming after its mid-season break.
“I knew before that today was the day to win the sprint,” added the Ducati-Gresini rider celebrating his first win since graduating to MotoGP in 2020.
The 27-year-old younger brother to six-time world champion Marc Marquez added: “I was a little bit sleepy in the first corner but later on I said I need to push as I was feeling really good.”
Bezzecchi, riding for Valentino Rossi’s VR46 Ducati-satellite team, had battled atrocious conditions to claim pole in a rain-drenched qualifying in the morning.
His runner-up spot moved him up to second in the riders standings, 27 points behind Bagnaia, ahead of Sunday’s main event, the ninth round of the championship.
Bezzecchi had been overtaken at turn two on the opening lap by Jack Miller’s KTM as Bagnaia dropped from fourth to the middle of the field.
Marquez took control at the front on lap two of 10, around half a second clear of Bezzecchi as Miller’s charge fizzled out.
Marquez had doubled his advantage at the half-way stage yet Bezzecchi knuckled down, inching ever closer to set up a tense final lap but Marquez held on for his landmark win.
“I kept focussed and was able to finish very close to him (Marquez) so I’m very happy and hoping for a dry day tomorrow,” Bezzecchi said.
Bagnaia was not the only big name to fail to deliver, with Marc Marquez down in 18th and 2021 titleholder Fabio Quartararo beating one home in 21st.
The sprint had been officially declared a ‘wet race’ meaning riders could switch their bikes at any stage.
The track was drying after the morning deluge had placed a premium on safety and the ability of riders to negotiate their way through puddles and spray at speed without losing control of the 157-kilo machine beneath them.
Inevitably there were countless crashes in morning practice and the two qualifying sessions.
Among those hitting the deck were Bezzecchi and Bagnaia who was second in the qualifying timesheets before losing control of his bike.
He rushed back to his garage in a frantic bid to get back out on the circuit but time ran out for the 2022 Silverstone winner.
After setting the fastest time with a handful of minutes left on the clock Bezzecchi aquaplaned and hit the deck in the worst weather of the season so far.
An indication of how tricky the conditions were came from the 18second-difference between Bezzecchi’s lap time of 2mins 15.3590s and the circuit record of last year’s pole-sitter Johann Zarco of 1:57.767.
Two of the fans in the crowd braving the wintry weather came well equipped – with snorkels.
Quartararo endured a miserable morning, the Yamaha factory rider qualifying in last place – his worst grid result since joining MotoGP in 2019.
“That wasn’t the start of the day we were expecting. I made a mistake and had to stop in the pits. The tyres were cold and I was only able to complete one lap,” reported a downbeat Quartararo.