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.”
Sabalenka to play in Brisbane
Aryna Sabalenka will launch preparations for the defence of her Australian Open crown by playing at the Brisbane International, organisers said on Tuesday.
Elena Rybakina – beaten by Sabalenka in the final in Melbourne at the start of this year – will also play at the December 31-January 7 Brisbane event.
Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka was already named in the field as she returns to tennis.
“I’m excited about starting my 2024 Australian season in Brisbane,” world number two Sabalenka said in a statement released by organisers.
“Australia holds a special place in my heart after winning my first Grand Slam there.”
Tournament director Cam Pearson said he was looking forward to welcoming the Belarusian Sabalenka and Moscow-born Kazakh Rybakina, who is fourth in the world.
“We all remember the exciting Australian Open final the girls played at the start of the year,” he told a news conference.
“That has really kicked off what is a pretty exciting rivalry between the two players.”
On the men’s side, fast-rising world number 17 Ben Shelton of the United States will join a draw that also includes three-time Grand Slam winner Andy Murray.
Pearson said he would welcome Australian Nick Kyrgios to the tournament if he recovers from injury in time.
“We would love to have him here, he’s a past champion and a fan favourite but he needs to do what’s best for him and his recovery,” he said.
“If that means he’s playing in January, fantastic.”
Kyrgios had knee surgery in January and then aborted comeback plans at Wimbledon after tearing a ligament in his wrist.
Giro fail to reclaim top La Liga spot
Surprise package Girona failed to return to the top of La Liga on Monday after they were held 1-1 at home by Athletic Bilbao.
Winger Viktor Tsygankov put the hosts ahead 10 minutes after half time but Inaki Williams scored 12 minutes later to claim a point for the away side.
Girona trail league leaders Real Madrid on goal difference after dropping points for just the third time this season, while Athletic climbed to fifth spot.
Athletic had the better of the first half and their best chance fell to Gorka Guruzeta but the striker poked his shot straight at Girona goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga.
Girona had early chances of their own including an Aleix Garcia volley, which he skied over the crossbar, but did not find the rhythm they have found so often this season.
After the break, the hosts broke the deadlock when Tsygankov rifled home.
Williams, who started on the opposite wing from his brother Nico, equalised from a counter-attacking move that started in Athletic’s own box.
The wide man finished smoothly for his sixth league goal of the season as the Basques went looking for their third straight win.
With 10 minutes left, Inaki Williams came close to finding the winner as he cut in from the left but his shot was parried by Gazzaniga.
Inaki Williams was replaced in the final minute of normal time for youngster Adu Ares, but both sides were forced to settle for a point.
On Sunday, Rodrygo sent Real Madrid top with a double in 3-0 win at Cadiz.
Carlo Ancelotti’s Madrid are four points clear of fourth-placed Barcelona, who drew 1-1 at Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.
PCB announces Pakistan team management for Australia tour
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) have announced the Team Management for the upcoming Test tour to Australia, which is scheduled to take place from December 2023 to January 2024. They will be playing three Test matches in Australia.
Former England cricketer Adam Hollioake has been hired as the batting coach. Hollioake played four Tests and 35 ODIs for England. The 52-year-old transitioned into coaching, contributing his expertise to the England Lions team. His coaching abilities were further recognized when he was enlisted to join England’s coaching staff for the final two Ashes Tests during the 2021-22 series.
Meanwhile, Simon Grant Helmot will serve as the high performance coach on the tour. Helmot is an Australian cricket coach, who was formerly the coach of the Melbourne Renegades in Big Bash League.
Last week, Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal were announced as fast-bowling and spin bowling coaches, respectively, for the Pakistan team.
Naveed Akram Cheema (Team manager), Mohammad Hafeez (Director – Pakistan men’s cricket team), Adam Hollioake (batting coach), Simon Grant Helmot (high performance coach), Umar Gul (fast bowling coach), Saeed Ajmal (spin bowling coach), Abdul Majeed (fielding coach), Mansoor Rana (assistant team manager), Shahid Aslam (assistant batting coach), Drikus Saaiman (strength and conditioning coach/Trainer), Cliffe Deacon (physiotherapist), Talha Ejaz (team analyst), Lt Col (Rtd) Akhtar Hussain (security manager), Raza Rashid Kitchlew (media manager), Ammar Ahsan (videographer), Dr Sohail Saleem (team doctor) and Malang Ali (team masseur).
The Pakistan cricket team will play their first Test match against Australia in Perth from 14 to 18 December, followed by a Test match in Melbourne, from 26 to 30 December. Sydney will host the last game of the tour from 3 to 7 January, 2024.
The squad is set to depart from Lahore on 30 November.
Pakistan squad for Australia Tests: Shan Masood (captain), Aamir Jamal, Abdullah Shafique, Abrar Ahmed, Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Khurram Shahzad, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Noman Ali, Saim Ayub, Salman Ali Agha, Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Saud Shakeel and Shaheen Shah Afridi.
SC urges accountability of martial law-endorsing judges
Father of girl killed for ‘honour’ arrested in Kohistan
PM Kakar arrives in Kuwait on two-day official visit
Pakistan team finally issued visas for World Cup in India
Regional players to meet in Russia on Afghanistan
Attack plots the norm since Danish cartoon crisis: experts
World4 weeks ago
Lebanon’s Hezbollah works to curb hefty losses in Israel clashes
Business4 weeks ago
With larger fall, rupee near 1-month low
Business4 weeks ago
Potential sectors for revenue
Technology4 weeks ago
Apple revamps Mac lineup and pricing with new family of chips
Pakistan4 weeks ago
Thousands rally in Islamabad for Gaza
World3 weeks ago
Israel intensifies brutal Gaza strikes despite ceasefire calls
Technology4 weeks ago
Four ways Google Analytics helps with data-driven decision making
Pakistan4 weeks ago
US requests Pakistan not to deport 25,000 ‘vulnerable’ Afghans