Martin returned to the top of the podium for the first time since his sole MotoGP win in 2021

Le Mans (France) (AFP) - Jorge Martin won the French MotoGP sprint race on Saturday at Le Mans from Brad Binder and world champion Francesco Bagnaia.

Bagnaia retained the lead in the championship standings ahead of Sunday’s main race with South African Binder moving into second.

Six-time world champion Marc Marquez came in fifth on his comeback after injury requiring surgery in the season-opening race in Portugal.

For Martin this was a return to the top of the podium for the first time since his one and only MotoGP win in 2021.

Setting off in fifth on the grid the Spaniard got a dream start to go second, before hitting the front and holding off Binder’s KTM comfortably to pick up the 12 points.

“I’m super proud, coming back to be first after a long time, even if it’s ‘only’ in the sprint but it’s good for energy and for tomorrow” said the Ducati-Pramac rider.

“Maintaining that gap with Brad wasn’t easy,” he added after finally claiming the win following two podium placed-finishes in the dash that is a feature of every MotoGP weekend this year.

Bagnaia, who started on pole as he will again for Sunday’s main event, had a terrific scrap with Marquez and now leads the standings by 23 points.

“My objective was to win, but I lost position, Marc was aggressive, it was tense out there, I was losing time, but then everything turned out okay,” said the Ducati factory star.

For Binder this was another profitable sprint performance after winning the dash in Spain last time out and Argentina.

“I knew the start was everything, I knew I could bring it home in a decent spot,” said Binder who came through from only qualifying 10th on the grid.

The afternoon did not go well for both Jack Miller, the Australian crashing his KTM at the end of the opening lap - and Fabio Quartararo.

France’s 2021 world champion was always going to be up against it after only starting off in 13th, on the fifth row, on his struggling Yamaha.

And his day went from bad to worse in front of his home fans after he slid off his bike with four laps to go.