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Martin fastest in M’sian MotoGP opening practice

SEPANG, Malaysia (AFP) Jorge Martin fired a warning at the Malaysian grand prix on Friday by going fastest in opening practice at Sepang while MotoGP championship rival Francesco Bagnaia was only 15th.

Spain’s Martin is just 13 points behind the Italian reigning title-holder with three races to go in a season which is too close to call.

Prima Pramac’s Spanish rider Jorge Martin takes a corner during the first practice session of the MotoGP Malaysian Grand Prix at the Sepang International Circuit in Sepang on November 10, 2023. PHOTO: AFP

But Prima Pramac’s Martin has the momentum and the 25-year-old, who is pursuing his maiden world crown, topped the timesheets in the first free practice with a lap of one minute and 59.513 seconds on his Ducati.

Rival Bagnaia, on a factory Ducati, made a more sedate start and was 1.375sec off Martin’s pace in cloudy but dry conditions.

(L-R) Mooney VR46 Racing’s Italian rider Marco Bezzecchi, Ducati Lenovo Team’s Italian rider Francesco Bagnaia, Prima Pramac’s Spanish rider Jorge Martin and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s South African rider Brad Binder attend a press conference at the Sepang International Circuit in Sepang on November 9, 2023, ahead of the practice sessions for the MotoGP Malaysia Grand Prix. PHOTO: AFP

Marco Bezzecchi, also of Italy, is mathematically still just about in the championship hunt and went eighth-fastest, 0.738sec off Martin’s leading time.

Gresini Racing’s Alex Marquez was second, 0.049sec behind his fellow Spaniard Martin, with Frenchman Johann Zarco third.

The Malaysian grand prix on Sunday is followed by races in Qatar and the season-ender in Valencia.