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Alex Marquez wins Malaysian MotoGP sprint as Martin closes gap on Bagnaia

Alex Marquez won the Malaysian MotoGP sprint race on Saturday at Sepang ahead of championship rival duo Jorge Martin and Francesco Bagnaia, who saw his lead at the top cut to 11 points.

Spain’s Marquez romped home on his Ducati nearly 1.6 seconds ahead of compatriot Martin, who gained two points on Italy’s Bagnaia in their championship tussle with three races left.

It was a particularly disappointing afternoon for title-holder Bagnaia, who started on pole on his factory Ducati and led for half of the 10 laps, before slipping into a distant third.

Bagnaia, who smashed the Sepang lap record in qualifying to snatch pole from rival Martin for the sprint and Sunday’s race, made a clean start to retain his lead at the first corner.

Martin, also on a Ducati, slipped to fourth early on.

The Prima Pramac rider recovered and then engaged Marquez in a battle for second, as Bagnaia maintained his advantage at the front in mostly serene fashion.

But Marquez saw off Martin and with five laps to go, Marquez seized his moment to snatch the lead from Bagnaia.

Martin then darted past Bagnaia as well, relegating the championship leader to third.

Gresini Racing’s Marquez romped away from there, establishing a lead on Martin of about a second for the remainder of the sprint. 

Bagnaia’s factory Ducati team-mate Enea Bastianini was fourth.

Earlier Saturday, Ducati bikes dominated qualifying, with Bagnaia snatching pole position from Martin late in a dramatic session.

Martin came off his bike late in qualifying when pushing hard to beat the Italian, but was unhurt.

The top six places on the grid were all Ducatis. 

The 20-lap race at Sepang is on Sunday, before the season goes to Qatar and then the last grand prix of the campaign in Valencia.

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