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Bastianini wins Malaysian MotoGP as Bagnaia extends title lead

Ducati’s Enea Bastianini won the Malaysian MotoGP on Sunday as Francesco Bagnaia came third ahead of title rival Jorge Martin to extend his world championship lead with two races left.

The Italian Bastianini cruised home at Sepang more than 1.5 seconds ahead of Alex Marquez in second, with Bagnaia third and Martin a distant fourth.

Reigning world title-holder Bagnaia of Italy now has a 14-point lead on Spain’s Martin.

Bagnaia made a sluggish start from pole and was swallowed up right away by Martin, who had begun second on the grid, and Bagnaia’s factory Ducati team-mate Bastianini. 

But Pramac’s Martin immediately ran wide and the Italian Bastianini, who started third on the grid, emerged at the front.

Bastianini led Malaysian MotoGP sprint winner Marquez through a third of the 20 laps, with Martin and Bagnaia squabbling over third.

In fierce heat, the race settled into a groove from there as Bastianini pulled out into a lead of nearly a second on Gresini Racing’s Marquez, with Bagnaia third and Martin struggling for pace in fourth.

It was to remain that way to the end.

Bastianini has suffered an injury-hampered campaign but the Italian nicknamed “The Beast” held his nerve at the front to cruise home for an ultimately comfortable victory, his first of the season.

Marco Bezzecchi came into Sepang in third place in the championship and still mathematically in contention for the world title.

But his unlikely hopes of winning the title evaporated as he rode home in sixth.

A thrilling campaign goes to Qatar next weekend before the season-ending race in Valencia on November 26.

Earlier, MotoGP-bound Pedro Acosta was crowned the Moto2 world champion after the Spaniard finished the race in Sepang second behind compatriot Fermin Aldeguer.

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