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MotoGP defending champ Bagnaia thrives on pressure ahead of Malaysian GP

Reigning world MotoGP champion Francesco Bagnaia has said he thrives on the pressure of leading the championship, with Jorge Martin in hot pursuit ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang on Sunday.

Italy’s Bagnaia tops the standings on 389 points, while Martin lurks 13 points behind on 376 after the Spaniard gave himself a massive boost by claiming a priceless fourth win of the season in Thailand last month.

The Ducati rider welcomed the intensity of defending his crown, in the circuit where he won last year en route to claiming his maiden MotoGP title.

“It’s a pleasure to have this kind of pressure as we are fighting for the title. Without pressure, perhaps you don’t care too much. I think pressure is normal, it’s a great fuel in my point of view,” Bagnaia said.

“We have to use it to improve and feel the angriness of being a champion again.”

Martin ensured this third final race of the season will be a captivating affair after the Spaniard expertly kept Bagnaia and KTM’s Brad Binder at bay to win the Thailand Grand Prix.

The 25-year-old Pramac rider is adamant to settle unfinished business at Sepang which saw him crash during last year’s race while leading the chasing pack.

“I could have made it last year, but unfortunately it did not happen because of the crash. I think with the new asphalt we can improve because the bounce is less and the turns are faster. I am looking forward to this race,” he said.

Martin, who has racked up seven sprint race victories this season, chose to remain coy when asked about the possibility of him being team-mates with Bagnaia next year.

“I cannot say a lot. I would be proud to continue with Pramac, but if Ducati wants me to join with the red bike, I would be happy too,” he said.

Martin holidayed in Bali, Indonesia, as part of his preparations to acclimatize to the steamy conditions in Malaysia that are forecasted to push to 33 degree Celcius (91 Farenheit), coupled with the threat of tropical thunderstorms.

The Sepang International Circuit near Kuala Lumpur used to host Formula One and provides plenty of opportunities for high-speed racing and overtaking.

The action starts on Friday with practice, followed by more practice, qualifying and a 10-lap sprint race on Saturday.

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