MotoGP: Espargaro Takes the Double In Catalunya

After last year’s counting error that saw Aleix Espargaro celebrate too early and lose the victory, it was redemption day for the Aprilia rider as he finally claimed victory at his home race. Espargaro was riding high from victory in Saturday’s sprint race and pulled off nearly the exact same move to take the lead of the race with only 3 laps remaining.

Despite leading the first 20 laps of the race, Maverick Vinales came home in 2nd. However, it wasn’t a difficult result as he celebrated giving Aprilia their first ever 1-2 finish.

Jorge Martin rounded out the podium finishers, coming home in 3rd, after a positive day for the Pramac team.

The day was not without drama – an early red flag was waved after multiple riders crashed at turn 1. The domino-effect incident saw Enea Bastianini, Johann Zarco, Alex Marquez, Marco Bezzecchi and Fabio Di Giannantonio all in the gravel before completing a single corner.

Image Credit: MotoGP

Moments later, our reigning champion and current championship leader, Pecco Bagnaia faced a huge highside which left him stranded in the middle of the track. Brad Binder, unable to avoid him, scarily ran over the Italian’s legs and left him writhing around in pain.

Both Bagnaia and Bastianini were taken to hospital and post-race statements followed. Bagnaia has luckily escaped with very minor injuries and Bastianini suffered a fracture to his ankle and hand.

AS IT HAPPENED

As the lights went out at the start of the race, it was a good start for Pecco Bagnaia who was able remain at the front of the pack after starting on pole. However, it was a poor start for Aleix Espargaro who was quickly lost in the field and going backwards.

Enea Bastianini enjoyed a positive start but, as he made his way up the inside of turn 1, he crashed in to the side of Johann Zarco and caused a domino effect. Zarco then crashed in to Alex Marquez, who crashed in to Marco Bezzecchi, who crashed in to Fabio Di Giannantonio.

Whilst those riders were in the gravel at the outside of turn 1, Bagnaia faced an enormous highside and landed in the middle of the track. Brad Binder was unable to avoid the stranded champion and, in a scary moment, ran over Bagnaia’s legs.

The red flag was quickly waved and the amazing medical team were instantly on the scene. Bagnaia spent some time receiving treatment on the track, before being taken to the medical centre and then the local hospital. Bastianini was also injured and took a trip to the hospital for further checks.

Now, with just 23 laps to race, the riders made their way back on to the grid. Luckily, all other riders were able to make it back to the garages under their own steam which allowed them to rejoin the race when it restarted 20 minutes later. Only Bagnaia and Bastianini were missing.

As the lights went out for the second time, Espargaro had a much better start this time away and managed to lead the pack through a clean, drama-free first corner. It was also a positive start for Jorge Martin, who leapt from 5th to 3rd, and Jack Miller, who leapt from 12th to 5th.

However, but turn 2, his Aprilia teammate snatched away the lead and Vinales took over at the front of the pack. Martin’s positive race start continued as he made his way past Espargaro and in to 2nd.

Before lap 1 ended, Pol Espargaro was forced to retire with mechanical failure.

Meanwhile, his brother was trying to make moves to regain 2nd place from Martin. He was right on the tail of the Pramac rider but wasn’t able to make anything stick. That was until lap 3 when he pulled up the inside of Martin at turn 10. By turn 12, he had made his way past and was in 2nd place, chasing down his teammate in the lead. It wouldn’t be an easy task as Vinales set the fastest lap in response.

On lap 4, Miguel Oliveira made his way past Martin for 3rd, making in an Aprilia 1-2-3!

On the same lap, Binder was forced to retire with technical problems. It was suspected that he had laid down a lot of oil prior to the red flag so it seemed to be a persistent issue for his KTM.

Riders up and down the grid were now settling in to their race and Vinales was slowly pulling our a lead ahead of the chasing pack. By lap 5, he was 0.3 seconds ahead for Espargaro, who was in turn a further 0.5 seconds ahead of Oliveira.

There was action further down the grid with Augusto Fernandez battling with Marc Marquez for 10th place, and Alex Marquez battling with Jack Miller for 6th.

On lap 10, Oliveira lost out on a podium place to Martin, but was able to stay close on his tail. He clearly wasn’t giving up easily, having worked so hard in the early stages.

On the same lap, we had our third rieder retire with mechanical problems – this time is was Raul Fernandez who was limping to the pits after just enjoying a battle with Marc Marquez for 11th.

At the halfway point, with 12 laps completed, Vinales now had a 1.2 second lead over Espargaro, who then had a 2 second gap over Martin. It was at this point that Espargaro seemed to wake up and was suddenly chasing down his teammate at a rapid pace.

Image Credit: MotoGP

By lap 15, thanks to lapping faster than his teammate, Espargaro had now cut the gap down to 0.5 seconds. On lap 18, with just 6 laps to go, Espargaro was finally on his tail.

Espargaro waited patiently and, on lap 20, he came up alongside Vinales on the start-finish straight. The Aprilia pair almost came together at turn 1 and Vinales went wide. That instantly gave Espargaro the space he needed to check out at the front of the field. With only 3 laps left, there was nothing Vinales could do to close the gap.

It ended up being a comfortable victory for Espargaro who was already on a high from winning Saturday’s sprint race!

FULL RESULTS
1st Aleix Espargaro Aprilia
2nd Maverick Vinales Aprilia
3rd Jorge Martin Prima Pramac
4th Johann Zarco Prima Pramac
5th Miguel Oliveira CryptoDATA RNF
6th Alex Marquez Gresini
7th Fabio Quartararo Yamaha
8th Jack Miller Red Bull KTM
9th Augusto Fernandez GASGAS Tech3
10th Rabio Di Giannantonio Gresini
11th Luca Marini Mooney VR46
12th Marco Bezzecchi Mooney VR46
13th Marc Marquez Repsol Honda
14th Franco Morbidelli Yamaha
15th Takaaki Nakagami LCR Honda
16th Iker Lecuona LCR Honda
17th Joan Mir Repsol Honda

DNF: Raul Fernadez (CryptoDATA RNF), Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM), Pol Espargaro (GASGAS Tech3), Enea Bastianini (Ducati), Pecco Bagnaia (Ducati)

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
1st Pecco Bagnaia 260 points
2nd Jorge Martin 210 points
3rd Marco Bezzecchi 189 points
4th Brad Binder 166 points
5th Aleix Espargaro 154 points

Feature Image Credit: MotoGP

MotoGP: Home Hero Aleix Espargaro Wins Catalunya Sprint Race

Aleix Espargaro has taken his first sprint race win of the season in a fantastic and aggressive race from the Catalan rider. He took the lead of his home sprint race on lap 7 and quickly pulled out a comfortable lead, eventually crossing the line with a 2+ second lead over his nearest rival. He celebrated with a wheelie that lasted for the entire start-finish straight, soaking up the cheers from his adoring home crowd.

Despite starting on pole, Pecco Bagnaia was clearly thrilled with his silver medal – his 9th podium in 11 sprint races, showing he clearly relishes this new weekend structure! It was a hard-fought 2nd place – he put up a good defence against Espargaro, with some characteristic late-breaking, and then faced a challenge from Maverick Vinales.

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Despite coming achingly close to 2nd place, and getting up alongside Bagnaia a few times in the final laps, Vinales was forced to settle for 3rd place. He clearly tried everything in his wheelhouse but didn’t quite have enough to pass the championship leader.

Further back, it was a positive race for Marc Marquez who has struggled a lot this weekend. He started the race in 12th but was quickly up to 8th after a flying start off the line – it seemed the light rain and slippery conditions suited Marquez and he was able to capitalise on this in the early stages. He enjoyed a close battle in the latter stages of the race for 10th place, fighting with Alex Marquez, Luca Marini and Fabio Di Giannantonio.

It was a tricky day for Jack Miller, Joan Mir and both Yamaha riders, Franco Morbidelli and Fabio Quartararo. None of these riders were able to make waves in the field. Morbidelli and Miller crossed the line in 15th and 16th, a whopping 16s away from the race winner, with Quartararo coming home in 18th and Mir in 21st and last.

AS IT HAPPENED

Much like qualifying, the weather threatened to add significant chaos to the race – the rain began to fall during the warm up lap which forced the teams to rush to prepare the spare bikes with wet weather tires. However, it wasn’t quite wet enough for the riders to opt for these bikes and everyone lined up on the grid with their slick tires on.

As the lights went out, Pecco Bagnaia leapt in to a comfortable lead, with Maverick Vinales slotting in behind, in 2nd. Jorge Martin took 3rd after enjoying a flying start from 5th.

It was a great start also for Marco Bezzecchi, climbing from 10th to 5th, and Marc Marquez, leaping from 12th to 8th.

Despite a very strong qualifying session, Miguel Oliveira quickly undid all that hard work as he dropped back from 3rd to 7th in the early stages.

As the riders came to the end of the first lap, Aleix Espargaro came past his teammate to take 2nd away from Vinales. Bagnaia was quickly pulling out a comfortable lead and soon had a 0.5s gap over the chasing pack.

On lap 4, Pol Espargaro crashed after going wide at turn 5 – he made the sensible decision to lay the bike down before hitting the barrier and was able to walk away from the incident.

On the following lap, his brother Aleix was now close enough to Bagnaia to pull up alongside him. However, in classic Bagnaia fashion, he was so late on the breaks that Espargaro wasn’t able to get out of 2nd place.

At the halfway point in the race, we had Bagnaia leading, from Espargaro in 2nd, Vinales in 3rd, Brad Binder in 4th and Oliveira in 5th. There was then a 1.3s gap back to the next group, made up of Martin, Bezzecchi, Marc Marquez, Enea Bastianini and Johann Zarco in 6th to 10th respectively.

At the first corner of lap 7, Espargaro finally made his way past Bagnaia, much to the joy of his home crowd. Before the lap ended, he had already pulled out a 0.49s gap over the championship leader and looked to be quickly checking out at the front.

The race settled down for the final laps, with the only action coming from Vinales who was quickly catching up to Bagnaia. He spent the final two laps of the race right on Bagnaia’s tail but sadly wasn’t able to get past him like his teammate could. This battle eventually gave Espargaro a 2+ second lead as he crossed the line to take his first sprint race victory.

FULL RESULTS
1st Aleix Espargaro Aprilia
2nd Pecco Bagnaia Ducati
3rd Maverick Vinales Aprilia
4th Brad Binder Red Bull KTM
5th Jorge Martin Prima Pramac
6th Miguel Oliveira CryptoDATA RNF
7th Johann Zarco Prima Pramac
8th Marco Bezzecchi Mooney VR46
9th Enea Bastianini Ducati
10th Alex Marquez Gresini
11th Marc Marquez Repsol Honda
12th Luca Marini Mooney VR46
13th Fabio Di Giannantonio Gresini
14th Raul Fernandez CryptoDATA RNF
15th Franco Morbidelli Yamaha
16th Jack Miller Red Bull KTM
17th Augusto Fernandez GASGAS Tech3
18th Fabio Quartararo Yamaha
19th Iker Lecuona LCR Honda
20th Takaaki Nakagami LCR Honda
21st Joan Mir Repsol Honda

DNFs: Pol Espargaro (GASGAS Tech3)

Image Credit: MotoGP on Twitter

Feature Image Credit: MotoGP

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