Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP) collected his maiden MotoGPTM victory by winning the Qatar Airways Grand Prix of Qatar, penultimate round of the 2023 world championship. Second and third were the provisional standings-topper Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) and Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team). The performance of the MICHELIN Power Slick at the recently relaid circuit contributed to new track-lap, race-lap and shortest race-duration records for Losail.
Given that it hadn't been possible to test on the circuit's new surface ahead of the calendar's 19th clash, Michelin took a wider range of tires to Qatar, namely four fronts (including two featuring its hardest compound) and a choice of soft, medium and hard rears.
Records began to tumble during qualifying when several drivers bettered the previous best for the track, including Marini who shaved a second off the former benchmark with a 1m51.762s on his way to pocketing his second-ever MotoGPTM pole.
For both Saturday's sprint race and Sunday's grand prix, practically all the riders opted for the hardest-available fronts and rear, with the exception of a few who preferred the soft front.
Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) boosted his chances in his title battle with Bagnaia by winning the short appetizer from fifth on the grid, having overtaken the Italian en route to his eighth sprint victory of the season.
At the start of the following day's 22-lap showpiece, Bagnaia - who had come second on Saturday - got away superbly to take the lead immediately after lights-out, albeit with Di Giannantonio snapping at his heels. Making maximum use of the outstanding grip and consistency of his tires, the Gresini youngster put the defending champion under constant pressure and finally succeeded in passing this year's pacesetter on Lap 19 to claim the first MotoGPTM success of his career. Not only that, but he also beat the existing shortest race-duration record for Qatar by a whole 30 seconds. He is the season's ninth different victor and the sport's 61st different winner on Michelin rubber.
Bagnaia overcame a late scare attempting to recover the lead to finish second, ahead of Marini.
A strong fightback by Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) was rewarded with fourth at the flag, while Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was fifth.
Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team) posted a new race-lap record (1m52.978s) on the last lap, an improvement 1.3 seconds over the previous best. The grip and performance of Michelin's tires helped all the riders improve on the former record, in fact.
With only Valencia to come this season, Bagnaia is now 21 points clear of Martin (10th in Qatar), which means the title-fight will be settled next weekend in Spain.
Next round: Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana, Circuito Ricardo Tormo, Valencia, Spain (November 24-26).