Aleix Espargaro passes Maverick Vinales to MotoGP win in Catalan GP with Jorge Martin in third after Francesco Bagnaia has major crash.
Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) grew up a mere five-minute drive from the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, and today made history at the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya as he took victory in front of his home fans. The crowd were up on their feet as a Catalan one-two saw Espargaro’s teammate Maverick Viñales join his fellow Aprilia man on the Catalan Grand Prix podium. Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) took full advantage of an absent Francesco Bagania (Ducati Lenovo Team) as the Italian watched on from the medical centre. The Spaniard took 3rd place to close in on the Pecco’s Championship lead by 16 points.
A nasty blow for the World Champion
All eyes were on the local man A. Espargaro as he lined up in the middle of the front row ahead of his home Grand Prix. The lights went out but it was a disastrous start to the Catalan GP as Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team) went a bit too hot into Turn 1 and had nowhere to go as the field tipped in. The Italian caught the rear end of Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) seeing them both go down and ending in a multi-rider pile-up at the Turn 1 gravel trap.
Just seconds later Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) suffered a nasty high-side on the exit turn two which saw the Italian thrown over the handlebars in front of the chasing pack. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was then caught unsighted and ran into the stranded Ducati rider. The red flags came out and Bagnaia was taken to the medical centre as the necessary track maintenance prepared the circuit for a race restart.
Time to press the reset button…
As the riders lined back up on the grid it was a case of putting the past events behind them ready for a fresh restart. The home hero had a clear view into Turn 1, but it was Martin who took the holeshot this time around. Viñales came out of blocks guns blazing as he hit the front with a firm first-lap move. The Catalan led the way ahead of Martin with Aleix Espargaro sitting in 3rd as he had his hands full with Miguel Oliveira.
Viñales began to stretch out a few bike lengths on Martin as Espargaro was determined to make sure his teammate didn’t break away and proceeded to push his way past Jorge Martin with 21 laps to go. Oliveira then decided to strike whilst the iron was hot and followed pursuit to put himself into 3rd.
Inevitably Espargaro bridged the gap to his teammate as he used incredible pace at the Catalan circuit to keep himself in victory contention. We then had a battle of attrition on our hands as the laps ticked away and the three Aprilias led the way at the front of the race. Oliveira was unable to hold onto the factory duo, however, as the two teammates pulled away from the Portuguese rider. Oliveira then fell into the clutches of Jorge Martin who pounced on the RNF rider with 14 laps remaining.
A battle of concentration on shredded rubber
Aleix dropped back after a mistake with 12 laps to go. Viñales now had a 1.5s lead ahead of his fellow Catalan, and the time came for the Tissot Sprint victor to show what he had in the tank as he was faced with the prospect of grabbing his first Grand Prix victory at his home round. The Aprilia Captain proceeded to eat chunks of his teammate’s lead as the laps ticked away. Espargaro slowly piled on the pressure as he edged closer and closer to his fellow Aprilia.
With four laps to go Esargaro pounced on Maverick as he parked his RSGP up this inside of the #12 forcing him to run through the long lap loop. Tyre wear became apparent on the Aprilia machines as Viñales dropped like a stone and allowed his teammate to clear off. The gap came back down on the final lap but it wasn’t enough for Maverick to challenge as Espargaro took the race win by 0.377s.
Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) crossed the line in a lonely 3rd place and took 16 points out of Baganaia’s Championship lead with his teammate Johann Zarco two seconds back in 4th.
The rest of the field
Miguel Oliveira slipped down to 5th place by the time the chequered flag came out, with a battle for sixth place being won by Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) a further 3 seconds back. The Spaniard got the better of Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) and Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) who finished in 7th and 8th respectively.
Augusto Fernandez (GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3) bagged P9 with Fabio Di Giannantionio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) rounding out the top 10. It was a weekend to remember for Aleix Espargaro and for Aprilia Racing. Not only did Aleix take both the Tissot Sprint and Grand Prix victories, but the Noale manufacturer came away with both their factory machines securing top 3 finishes in both events.
— MotoGP™🏁 (@MotoGP) September 3, 2023
Bagnaia update –
On the opening lap of the Monster Energy Grand Prix of Catalunya, Ducati Lenovo Team’s Francesco Bagnaia suffered a highside before another bike made contact with his leg. The Italian was taken to the medical centre at the circuit before being sent to the general hospital for further examination. MotoGP Medical Director Dr. Angel Charte has offered an update on the status of the reigning World Champion.
“Pecco has had severe polytrauma, a motorbike ran over him in the femoral and tibial area. We have taken x-rays of this area and have detected a small injury that we don’t know if it is current or old. We need to do an urgent CAT scan and that is why we have sent him to the general hospital.
“At cranial, thoracic and abdominal levels, he has been normal at all times. He was conscious and oriented. The image we have seen is from conventional radiology, so it is difficult to be sure that there is no fracture. It is necessary to do a CAT scan,” he said to Spanish broadcaster DAZN.
[Note: The story is as per press release]