MOTOGP – SPRINT: Espargaro capitalises on Bagnaia’s late heartache

Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) took victory in a dramatic Tissot Sprint at the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya, keeping it faultless to the flag as not one, not two, but three different leaders slid out.
First was a heartbreaker for Raul Fernandez (Trackhouse Racing) as the maiden front row starter was building a gap and then overcooked Turn 10 in the early stages. Second was a tumble at Turn 5 for Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) just after he’d fought off the affections of rookie Pedro Acosta (Red Bull GASGAS Tech3), and then finally and arguably crucially, reigning Champion Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) saw his hopes of a first Sprint win of the season turn to dust on the final lap as he slid out at Turn 5.
Then it was all change in glorious but relatively clean havoc at the front, with Raul Fernandez emerging as the race leader after barging past Acosta. The Trackhouse machine was absolutely flying as Binder and the rookie duelled just behind him, both the position and some extra RC16 glory on the line. Once Acosta made it stick at Turn 1, Fernandez was already eight tenths clear. But suddenly, it then all came apart for the Trackhouse rider as he slid out at Turn 10, rider ok but head in hands.

From there, Binder vs Acosta looked like it would light up the battle for the lead, but the 33 got the upper hand and started to build a gap – leaving Bagnaia to wrestle with Acosta instead. Soon enough though the second race leader to slide out became Binder, the front end of the KTM saying goodbye at Turn 5.
That left the lead as a duel between Bagnaia and Acosta, or vice versa. Turn 1 was the battle ground and the rookie pulled what was fast-becoming his Barcelona signature move, but the #1 was quick to find an answer up the kerb on the inside of Turn 3. Brutal? Yes. Job done? Yes. From there Bagnaia started to build a gap, and Espargaro was on the march next to test out Acosta’s defenses, finding a way through to take up the chase on the reigning Champion.

That left the master and the apprentice locked in battle over third: Acosta led Marc Marquez. And this time, in a beautiful reverse of that statement Turn 1 move the #31 has been revelling in, it was Acosta under attack as the #93 sailed into the corner side by side with the rookie, taking over in third.

The final drama was dealt on the very final lap. Seeming like he had it in his pocket, Bagnaia was then suddenly sliding out at Turn 5, seeing what could have been a key haul of points disappear in the gravel trap as Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) suffered a tougher Sprint outside podium contention. Espargaro swept through for the spoils, in just enough clear air to ensure he held on for that fairytale win.

Marc Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) vs Acosta then became the battle to complete the podium behind Espargaro, with the #93 turning the tables on the rookie at Turn 1 as they went toe-to-toe on the brakes.

As the lights went out, Bagnaia took the holeshot from second on the grid, with Acosta slicing up to lead the chase. Binder also got a fast start to move up but then lost out again to Raul Fernandez as the Aprilia slotted into third.

It didn’t take long for Acosta to attack for the lead, but it likewise didn’t take long for Bagnaia to hit back. Raul Fernandez was harrying them though, and as Acosta attacked into Turn 1 on Lap 3 and took it back, the Trackhouse machine lined up the reigning Champion at Turn 3.
Marquez held off Acosta round the final sector too, and what could have been a key title swing proved much less as Martin’s drama-free Sprint saw him take P4 despite not having initially had the pace for it. Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team) made a solid comeback from outside the top ten on the grid to complete the top five, and with that moves back into the top three in the standings too as Bagnaia drops to fourth.

Fabio Di Giannantonio (Pertamina Enduro VR46 Racing Team) was sixth – finishing in the same position he started and taking some solid Saturday points. Jack Miller brought the remaining Red Bull KTM Factory Racing machine to seventh after battling with Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing), who rounded out the top eight after charging from 12th. The final point in the Sprint went the way of Pertamina Enduro VR46 Racing Team’s Marco Bezzecchi, having charged up from P16 on the grid, with everything still up for grabs on Sunday.

MOTOGP – RACE: Bagnaia banishes Barcelona demons

The Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya delivered in style after an impressive ride from Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) to take an impressive win after crashing out of the Sprint on Saturday. The #1 showed why he is number one after risking everything to pull off a spectacular move at turn 5.

Bagnaia made the pass for the lead to defeat Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing), who showed sensational pace early on in the Catalan GP. However, Bagnaia soon began to rein in the 2023 runner up, creating a great show for fans around the world. Joining Bagnaia and Martin on the podium after starting from 14th on the grid with a soft rear tyre was Marc Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP), who celebrated with the fans in the packed grandstands as the #93 pulled off yet another podium comeback from P14 on the grid.

As the lights went out it was Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team), who took the holeshot from the word go, leading the way from Pedro Acosta (Red Bull GASGAS Tech3) on the opening lap with positions changing at every corner. Bagnaia was pushing hard on the first lap in an early attempt to stretch the field, with Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) soon slotting into third.

Acosta soon launched his first attack on lap three at turn 10, running wide and handing Bagnaia the lead once again. However, the turn 10 action did not stop there as one lap later Martin would show what he learned, pulling off an overtake on Acosta at turn 10 – the #89 was in second. One lap later in after a near identical pass Martin took the race lead and made the move stick at turn 10 once again.

Acosta was next to pass the #1, sending the crowd to their feet in delight and soon began to set all of his sights on Martin in the lead. The #31 pushed to the limit before it all came to a heartbreaking end after Acosta lost the front on lap 11 and dropped down to 20th after rejoining. Acosta was not the only rider to crash at turn 10 with Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), crashing out earlier on in the race. While, Agusto Fernandez would add to Red Bull GASGAS Tech3’s despair after also crashing out of the race.

This mistake from Acosta promoted Bagnaia into second position, with tension around the circuit building as a battle began to look imminent. Bagnaia was closing the gap down to the #89, as Bagnaia’s teammate Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team) was handed a long lap due to a shortcut at turn 1 and turn 2. Things would later go from bad to worse for Bastianini after he was handed a double long lap for not complying with the original penalty.

The gap at the front slowly began to come down as we hit the mid-way point of the Catalan Grand Prix. The gap reduced every lap before a crucial move at turn 5 for Bagnaia to steal the race lead on lap 19. While Bagnaia began to put the hammer down, all eyes turned to the battle for the final spot on the podium between Marc Marquez and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing). The #93 soon launched a move at turn 1 on lap 21, to take away Espargaro’s chance to complete a perfect farewell at home.

On the final lap, it was Bagnaia who put together a flawless lap to cross the line and take victory in Barcelona by almost two seconds after a fantastic ride. Martin was second after a strong race with Marc Marquez able to clinch yet another podium after starting from 14th on the grid.

Behind the podium battle was home hero Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing), who missed out on a dream farewell by 0.052s at the line after an emotional weekend for the #41. Fabio Di Giannantonio (Pertamina Enduro VR46 Racing Team) rounded out the top five positions in Barcelona to finish ahead of Raul Fernandez (Trackhouse Racing), who had a brilliant weekend and finished in sixth place – earning Trackhouse their best finish yet. It is also the Trackhouse Racing team’s best weekend ever in terms of points.

Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) crossed the line to finish in seventh – less than one second behind Fernandez. The #73 showed strong pace to finish ahead of the remaining Red Bull KTM Factory Racing machine of Brad Binder in eighth. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) took ninth, finishing as the only Yamaha inside of the points with teammate Alex Rins in 20th. Miguel Oliveira (Trackhouse Racing) took the final spot inside the top 10 to round off a great weekend for the American team.

“It was a frustrating race for me, as a long-lap penalty came at halfway point as I was forced to run off the track after an overtake manoeuvre by Alex Márquez, in a situation where I had no other option but to cut the first chicane. I hope there’ll be more consideration in the future in this type of situations, as I feel that I didn’t deserve this penalty. On the contrary, I thought Alex was the one who had to give me back the position, but it didn’t go this way. Now we need to focus on making amends in the next race.”
Enea Bastianini – P18

Augusto Fernández

“A shame to crash because I had a great start and I had the pace to make a real top ten result today. This was a big step for us and we have to take these small gains to keep the faith. We know we can do much better than where we are so the progress we are making is important. The crash was my fault but I don’t really understand why because I was managing the tire and was comfortable with the pace. We’ll try again in Mugello.”
Augusto Fernández – NC

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