VALENCIA (Reuters) -Pramac Racing's Jorge Martin won the sprint at the season-ending Valencia Grand Prix on Saturday to cut Francesco Bagnaia's world championship lead to 14 points and set up an epic showdown in Sunday's finale.
Martin, who started sixth on the grid, put in a battling display for his ninth sprint win of the season as Ducati's Bagnaia crossed the line in fifth place at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo.
Like he has done on several occasions this season, Martin shot off the line and moved up from sixth to third in the matter of seconds, before riding on the coattails of Brad Binder to surge past Bagnaia towards the end of the first lap.
"I took a big gamble to race with the medium and the soft rear tyre, I think we were a bit on the limit," Martin said.
"At some point I saw Binder was pulling away. I did my 100%, it was win or crash and it went well. Hopefully tomorrow, with good tyres, I can win again."
Martin made his play for the win in the eighth lap, picking off pole-sitter Maverick Vinales with a burst of speed on the straight and then taking advantage of a mistake from Binder as he squeezed into the lead when the South African ran wide.
"I had a really good race today. On the first lap I tried to be aggressive and got through on a few guys early on," said KTM's Binder, who finished second.
"I saw Maverick had a gap on us, so I put my head down and managed to get him.
"I lost a bit of time trying to get past him. I had a lot of moments out there but I didn't have enough to battle Martin today but it's I'm super happy to be back on the podium."
Binder finished ahead of Honda's six-times MotoGP champion Marc Marquez, while Aprilia's Vinales was fourth. This is Marquez's final weekend racing for Honda, before he moves to Gresini Racing for the 2024 season,
"My last race in this long period with the Repsol Honda team, I tried to give everything," Marquez said.
"Starting in ninth, I knew it was super difficult but I was pushing a lot and I nearly crashed many times! You know me, I will try again tomorrow."
Bagnaia, stranded in fifth place after the first lap, was unable to make up ground on the leading four but did well to hold off challenges from Yamaha's Fabio Quartararo and Gresini Racing's Fabio Di Giannantonio.
The Italian, who has six race victories this season, is now on 442 points while Martin has 428.
Quartararo, the 2021 world champion, did not finish the sprint after crashing out while tussling with Bagnaia for fifth place.
(Reporting by Aadi Nair in Bengaluru, editing by Pritha Sarkar)