Spain’s Jorge Martin is determined to cut out any errors as a tense title race shifts to Phillip Island this week after a blunder in Indonesia cost him his lead in the MotoGP standings.
The Pramac ace won the sprint at the Mandalika track in Lombok last weekend to build a seven-point championship advantage over Italy’s Francesco Bagnaia.
But he blew the hard work in Sunday’s grand prix, crashing at a gravel trap while three seconds clear and seemingly on track for his fourth victory of the year.
It was his first non-score in a grand prix since round three at Austin in April.
With just five stops of the 20-leg season left, he cannot afford any more slip ups in Australia with Bagnaia on his Ducati now 18 points ahead and fellow Italian Marco Bezzecchi still in the hunt, 45 points behind.
Martin blamed a dirty track for his mishap, and insisted it was a one-off.
“It’s been 14 races without a mistake. It’s just statistics. It was coming sooner or later,” he said. “So, the races still remaining I feel confident to fight for victory.”
Reigning world champion Bagnaia accepted Martin’s gift, powering to a sixth MotoGP win of 2023 and his first since Austria in August.
That Austria triumph put Bagnaia 66 points ahead of Martin, but injury and errors, including a failure to finish at Catalunya and India, saw the lead eroded by his rival.
The Italian said being back in the winners circle had revived his confidence heading into a challenging Australian weekend.
“To have that performance again was very, very important,” he said, adding that it gave him “a lot of motivation”.
“Not only for me, but also for my team. They are trying always to give the maximum possible.”
During last year’s grand prix, the waterfront Phillip Island circuit was marred by persistent rain, and more is forecast this week.
Despite the elements, the 2023 race was a thriller with Spain’s Alex Rins crossing first ahead of Spanish great Marc Marquez and Bagnaia in one of the closest top three finishes the sport has known.
Martin smashed the nine-year lap record to grab pole position, only to finish seventh.
Along with Rins, Honda’s Marquez and Aprilla’s Maverick Vinales are both former Australian winners.
Local hero Jack Miller, who is ninth on the world championship ladder, will be another to watch on his home circuit, confident his KTM machine is well-suited to the Phillip Island conditions.
“I think the KTM can work really, really well around the island,” he said.
“The bike is nice and agile at high speed which you need around the island, and there’s always some decent grip there as well. Fingers crossed we can put on a pretty good show for the home fans.”