NOIDA, India, Sept 23 (Reuters) – The inaugural Indian Grand Prix race has been shortened by three laps after MotoGP riders asked for race distances to be adjusted due to hot and humid conditions during practice sessions, organisers said on Saturday.
Sunday’s race will now feature 21 laps instead of the planned 24, while the sprint race scheduled for later on Saturday has also been cut short by one lap and will take place over 11 laps at the Buddh International Circuit.
After Friday’s two practice sessions, reigning champion Francesco Bagnaia said the conditions were “very demanding”.
“I’ve never felt heat like this,” he told MotoGP’s website. “I thought Malaysia and Thailand were hot but here you feel like you’re burning in some parts of the track.”
The qualifying session will be held later on Saturday. Ducati’s Bagnaia will carry a 36-point lead over Pramac Racing’s Jorge Martin in the 13th race of the year.
Marco Bezzecchi of VR46 Racing took his third pole position of the season at the inaugural Indian Grand Prix on Saturday, with Jorge Martin and reigning MotoGP champion Francesco Bagnaia completing the all-Ducati front row.
Bezzecchi clocked the best time of one minute, 43.947 seconds to pip Pramac Racing’s Martin by 0.043 seconds for his first pole since the British GP in August. Bagnaia of the factory Ducati team was a further 0.21 seconds behind.
Bagnaia holds a 36-point lead over Martin in the overall standings, with Bezzecchi a further 29 points behind in third.
Luca Marini, Bezzecchi’s team mate, qualified in fourth place ahead of factory Honda duo Joan Mir and Marc Marquez.
“It was really tough,” Italian rider Bezzecchi said. “We struggled a bit yesterday. This morning I felt better on the bike … I am very happy for this pole position.
“I want to dedicate this pole to a friend of mine that unfortunately left us a couple of days ago.”
The Buddh International Circuit, which hosted Formula One races between 2011-13, recorded temperatures of 33 degrees Celsius (91.4°F) with 72% humidity at the start of the qualifying session.
Gresini Ducati’s Alex Marquez has been ruled out of the remaining MotoGP weekend after suffering a double rib fracture in qualifying, his team said.
He secured a Q2 spot but crashed on his last Q1 lap and did not return for the second session, before being taken to hospital for further examination.
Photo: Italian rider Marco Bezzecchi of team Mooney VR46 Racing attends a press conference ahead of the Motorcycling Grand Prix of India, in Dankaut, near Greater Noida, India. EPA-EFE/RAJAT GUPTA