Written by Andrew Lwanga, Edited by Simran Kanthi
MotoGP's first-ever Sprint race was one for the history books as defending champion Francesco Bagnaia adorned with the number One plate was first across the line to kickstart his championship defence.
In the 74-year history of Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing never had there been a sprint race until this Saturday at the season opener in Portugal. Although received mixed reviews when the format was first announced in the summer of 2022, the thriller that was the Tissot Sprint Race Of Portugal has surely won fans over.
Despite struggles in pre-season testing, the brilliance of Marc Marquez shone through in qualifying, despite having to go through Qualifying 1 the eight-time world champion took pole position ahead of Bagnaia and fellow Spaniard Jorge Martin.
Unfortunately for him, Marquez was unable to repeat his heroics in the early part of the race as Martin came from third to take the holeshot and lead into the first turn. Bagnaia was briefly shuffled to fourth before an aggressive return pass on his new teammate Bastianini.
Bastianini's race unfortunately came to an early end as compatriot Luca Marini crashed into him when attempting a move on "The Beast". Bastianini sustained an injury during the crash and is expected to miss the Grand Prix come Sunday.
As the early laps ticked off the top three of Bagnaia, Martin, and Marquez seemed to break away from the field but they were quickly caught by the trailing pair of Oliveira and Miller both with new teams in 2023.
Miller was able to hit the front of the grid whilst Marquez was shuffled to fifth. Meanwhile, the pair of factory Aprilia was setting the race-leading pace in their bid to catch up with the leading pack.
Miller's bid for victory was halted at the midpoint of the race as Martin, Bagnaia, and Oliveira were all able to find their way through on the Australian.
The Ducati pair of Martin and Bagnaia was finally able to break away from the rest of the grid. Whilst Oliveira led Miller and Marquez in the battle for the final spot on the podium. Marquez's brilliance was back on display as he fashioned a daring move to take advantage of the battling pair ahead of him into the second turn overtaking them both to move to third.
At the penultimate lap Oliveira, pushed by the home crowd, found his way back past Marquez and moved to third.
As the final lap began Martin led Bagnaia who had almost put a second between himself and Oliveira who held off Marquez and Miller.
Martin was visibly struggling for grip and Bagnaia pounced to take the lead from the Spaniard, the other Spaniard's fortunes were favoured by his display of boldness as Oliveira made an error that dropped him from third to seventh.
Bagnaia crossed the line first, laying an early marker for his championship defence and becoming the first winner of a MotoGP Sprint Race. Behind him, Martin and Marquez completed the podium. Nobody in the entire top seven finished the last lap of the sprint in the same position in which they started the lap.