World champion Francesco Bagnaia breezed to a comfortable win in the Grand Prix of the Americas MotoGP sprint on Saturday.
The Ducati rider started from pole at Austin and dominated the 10-lap dash to bounce back from his fall last time out in Argentina.
Alex Rins on the Honda-LCR took second with Jorge Martin on another Ducati in third.
Marco Bezzecchi came in sixth for the VR46 Ducati team owned by motorcycling legend Valentino Rossi to retain his lead in the world championship but only by one point now from Bagnaia.
This was the perfect pick-me-up for ‘Pecco’ who had begun the defence of his world title in impeccable form in Portugal, winning both the sprint and grand prix.
But Bezzecchi arrived in Texas with a nine-point championship lead after Bagnaia finished only sixth in the sprint in Argentina, and a lowly 16th in the grand prix itself.
He showed he meant business this weekend when nailing pole with a lap record, and built on that to cross the line over two and a half seconds in front of Rins in the third sprint of the season.
“I had more trouble in Argentina,” the 26-year-old smiled.
“I started well, and tried to push, do my pace, to build up a gap. Now I’ve got to focus on tomorrow, that’s going to be harder.”
MotoGP introduced the Formula One-style sprint format this year, with the first two editions fast and furious affairs.
The third lacked the thrills and spills of Portimao and Termas de Rio Hondo as Bagnaia and his speedy Ducati proved in a class of their own.
Behind him Martin sliced through the pack to make the podium from 12th on the grid.
France’s 2021 world champion Fabio Quartararo exited at turn one on lap four when losing control of his Yamaha, remounting to trail in 19th.
In blazing sunshine the pace proved too hot for Alex Marquez, who slid off his Ducati, crashing back to earth after his breakthrough MotoGP pole and podium in Argentina.
Missing in Austin were seven-time winner on the circuit Marc Marquez and last year’s Grand Prix of the Americas winner Enea Bastianini – both recovering from injuries sustained in the season-opener.
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