Qatar MotoGP Race Results | Bastianini overhauls Espargaro for superb maiden win

Enea Bastianini charges to an emotional maiden MotoGP victory in Qatar MotoGP on Gresini Racing's return to series as an independent team

Enea Bastianini - Gresini Racing Ducati

Enea Bastianini has romped to an incredible maiden victory in the Qatar MotoGP after overhauling long time leader Pol Espargaro late on in the opening round of the 2022 MotoGP World Championship at the Lusail International Circuit.

An extraordinary performance by the Italian to toast the start of his second season in MotoGP, it also marked a crowning result in Gresini Racing’s first race since returning to the series as an independent entry, little more than a year on from eponymous founder Fausto Gresini succumbing to COVID-19.

On an engrossing evening that saw many of the expected front runners flounder under the floodlights, neither factory Ducati rider made it to the finish, while Suzuki’s pre-race favourite status failed to materialise and defending champion Fabio Quartararo barely featured.

Instead it was Bastianini that emerged as the star on the year-old Ducati GP21, followed by an exceptional Brad Binder, who capitalised on a strong getaway to give KTM a surprise podium, and Espargaro, who led most of the way before dropping back.

Indeed, with pre-season testing and free practice giving little steer on how the first race of the year would unfold, many of the answers would ultimately come in the first few corners as pole man Jorge Martin bogged down off the line before having to snap out of veering into Bastianini, forcing him into the pack.

Instead, it was Marc Marquez who got the hole-shot from the front row, only to run wide on the exit to allow Repsol Honda team-mate Pol Espargaro into the lead, followed by a fast--starting Binder, Bastianini and Aleix Espargaro.

It was a quintet that would largely remain unchallenged throughout, with only Mir briefly looking racy as he muscled up to fourth by the end of the opening lap, only to be strong-armed back down to the sixth place he’d stay in to the flag. 

Even so, it looked as though Pol Espargaro had the measure of the competition out front, his cause aided on lap six when Marquez out-braked himself into Turn 1 to allow Binder between them, with Bastianini also getting the jump on the six-time MotoGP World Champion on the following revolution.

However, having opened up a gap of almost 1.1 over the chasing pack with eight laps to go, his hopes of chasing down a long-awaited first win would come under threat from Bastianini after out-dragging Binder on the run to Turn 1 to move into second.

Having developed a reputation for his ability to preserve the tyres on his two-year old Ducati GP19 in 2021, it appeared Bastianini was having no problems replicating the same on his hard rear-shod GP21 as he immediately set about taking chunks out of the advantage ahead.

Taking just two laps to surge into Espargaro’s slipstream with only five laps to go, Bastianini was already ahead into Turn 1 as his rival - no doubt crestfallen at seeing that first victory slip away so close to the end - got his braking all wrong into the right-hander to leave him cantering around on the run-off.

Allowing Binder into second position, though the South African chased hard to get onto the rear of the Ducati himself as they rounded the final turn for the last time, he couldn’t stop Bastianini completing a magnificent win.

As well as being his first success in the premier class, it is the first MotoGP win for the ex-Aprilia factory squad since Toni Elias triumphed at the 2006 Portuguese MotoGP.

Binder’s second place finish breaks KTM’s hoodoo around the Lusail International Circuit having never had a top six finish in previous years, the two-time race winner again showing what his superior race pace can do from a stronger starting position.

Espargaro completed only his second Honda podium, just holding off brother Aleix Espargaro, who demonstrated the gains made by Aprilia in the off-season by showing unusually strongly in the closing stages for a fine fourth place finish.

Marquez faded to fifth having never quite recovered from his earlier wide moment on lap six, with Joan Mir and Alex Rins a distant sixth and seventh, the Suzuki threat having never shown itself despite looking strong in the early stages.

MotoGP title favourites endure shocking opener

Elsewhere, it was a humbling night for many of the anticipated title contenders with defending champion Fabio Quartararo’s fear the Yamaha would have no hope on the top speed-favouring Qatari circuit appearing to come true. 

Despite Yamaha being double winners at Qatar in 2021, Quartararo was left labouring in ninth, the Frenchman barely moving position all race despite picking up two spots ahead after Pecco Bagnaia crashed with ten laps to go, taking out the hapless Jorge Martin on his outside in the process.

Indeed, despite Ducati coming out on top with Bastianini, it was otherwise a desperate day for the anticipated title favourites with Bagnaia’s exit being compounded by early technical woes for Jack Miller.

Johann Zarco saved some face with a charging ride back up the order having run as low as 19th at one stage, eventually coming home eighth in front of Quartararo, while Takaaki Nakagami completed the top ten for LCR Honda.

Franco Morbidelli suffered for a poor start to kick his year off with a lacklustre 11th, ahead of Maverick Vinales on the Aprilia in 12th and Luca Marini, who gave the VR46 Racing team a handful of points on its class debut in 13th.

Andrea Dovizioso ran a disappointing 14th, with Remy Gardner winning the battle of the rookies for the final point in 15th.

That title was aided by Marco Bezzecchi throwing it down the road at the final corner while running 12th, though Gardner had to work hard for it over one of the unexpected surprises of the race Darryn Binder, the Moto3 graduate running ahead of team-mate Dovizioso on the newer RNF Yamaha for much of the race before just missing out on a point by less than a tenth in 16th, marginally ahead of Fabio di Giannantonio and Raul Fernandez.

Among the retirees for the opening round of the year, Alex Marquez and Miguel Oliveira also crashed out at Turn 1 on consecutive laps.

2022 Qatar MotoGP | Lusail International Circuit | Race RESULTS

2022 Qatar MotoGP | Lusail International Circuit | Race RESULTS | Round 1 / 21
PosRiderNat.MotoGP TeamMotoGP BikeTiming
1Enea BastianiniITAGresini RacingDucati GP2122 Laps
2Brad BinderRSARed Bull KTM RacingKTM RC16+0.346
3Pol EspargaroESPRepsol Honda TeamHonda RC213V+1.351
4Aleix EspargaroESPAprilia Racing Team GresiniAprilia RS-GP+2.242
5Marc MarquezESPRepsol Honda TeamHonda RC213V+4.099
6Joan MirESPTeam Suzuki EcstarSuzuki GSX-RR+4.843
7Alex RinsESPTeam Suzuki EcstarSuzuki GSX-RR+8.810
8Johann ZarcoFRAPramac RacingDucati GP22+10.536
9Fabio QuartararoFRAMonster Energy Yamaha Yamaha YZF-M1+10.543
10Takaaki NakagamiJPNLCR Honda Honda RC213V+14.967
11Franco MorbidelliITAMonster Energy Yamaha Yamaha YZF-M1+16.712
12Maverick VinalesESPAprilia Racing Team GresiniAprila RS-GP+23.216
13Luca MariniITAVR46 RacingDucati GP21+27.283
14Andrea DoviziosoITAWithU RNF Racing YamahaYamaha YZF-M1+27.374
15Remy GardnerAUSTech3 KTM RacingKTM RC16+41.107
17Fabio di GiannantonioITAGresini RacingDucati GP21+41.119
17Darryn BinderRSAWithU RNF Racing YamahaYamaha YZF-M1+41.349
18Raul FernandezESPTech3 KTM RacingKTM RC16+42.357
DNFJorge MartinESPPramac RacingDucati GP22 
DNFFrancesco BagnaiaITADucati Lenovo TeamDucati GP22 
DNFMiguel OliveiraPORRed Bull KTM RacingKTM RC16 
DNFAlex MarquezESPLCR Honda Honda RC213V 
DNFJack MillerAUSDucati Lenovo TeamDucati GP22 
DNFMarco BezzecchiITAVR46 RacingDucati GP21