The Frenchman puts in a masterclass as Bagnaia gets bowled out and Aleix Espargaro makes a late race error.
The Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya truly was a monster weekend for Championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™). The Frenchman put to bed any flashbacks of late heartbreak in 2021 to pull clear and throw down the gauntlet at the front, taking his second MotoGP™ win at the venue and extending his lead in a dramatic day for a number of key rivals.
An incident into Turn 1 first saw Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) and Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) suffer contact from Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) after a crash for the Japanese rider, all ultimately unable to continue in the race, and then another contender was out as Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) crashed out alone mid-race. Finally, there was a heart-breaking blunder for Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing). The number 41 was in second place when celebrated a lap too early – leaving him pushing to keep a place in the top five.
At lights out, Quartararo nabbed the holeshot and avoided the chaos to hit the front, quickly stretching out a lead. By the end of the opening lap, he was nearly a second clear of the rest, keeping that margin ahead of Aleix Espargaro. Martin then complicated life more for the Aprilia rider as he sliced past into second, and Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) was next on the chase. Just behind them, a fast-starting Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was already up to fifth and, once past, trying to shake off Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team).
As Quartararo pounded on, the focus shifted to the fight for second. With 15 to go, Aleix Espargaro struck and the number 41 pitched it perfectly at Turn 1 to move through, with Zarco, in turn, making a gain on Martin too. Quartararo was three seconds clear of the Aprilia, the Pramac duo were locked together, Mir was still holding off Marini and Viñales was up in seventh.
By this time, Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) had slid out, and Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) too. In between the two there was the second seismic shift in the title fight as Bastianini crashed out from P7. That meant two of the top four going in were now down and out, as Quartararo continued on at the front.
As ‘El Diablo’ continued to count down the laps, the race for second was far from over. After stalking Martin, Aleix Espargaro hit back with four to go, again mugging the Prima Pramac Racing rider at Turn 1 and getting the job done. Everything looked under control, but there was drama, drama just around the apex.
Over the line to start the penultimate lap, the Aprilia rider sat up into Turn 1. Was it a problem? A mistake? It was a heartbreaker, as Espargaro celebrated what would have been a fifth podium in a row but a lap too early. He realised not long after and slotted back in, duelling past Marini again as he watched the Prima Pramac duo disappear into the distance.
Up ahead, Quartararo crossed the line with a stunning advantage for a statement win, taking 25 points to extend his lead. Martin took second and Zarco third, with Mir then coming through to steal fourth late on after a stunning Sunday showcase from the Suzuki rider.
Aleix Espargaro crossed the line fifth for some still valuable points despite the pain of losing the podium, with Marini putting in an impressive race once again for sixth. Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) had a strong Sunday to take P7, ahead of another raceday comeback for Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) as the South African finished just ahead of teammate Miguel Oliveira.
Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) put in one of the rides of the day to complete the top ten despite starting last after sitting out qualifying following a big crash in practice. Marquez was diagnosed with no injuries on Saturday after a full check up, including cervical and neurological checks and an x-ray on his left arm, and after being passed fit to race in another medical review before Warm Up, the number 73 put in a stunner to move up to complete the top ten.
Remy Gardner (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing) managed to get the better of Darryn Binder (WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP™) as the two rookies took P11 and P12, with Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) a few tenths further back in 13th. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) took P14, ahead of Raul Fernandez (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing).
That’s a wrap on a seismic weekend in Barcelona, with Germany next on the horizon. With the King of the Sachsenring on the sidelines his record of winning the races he’s competed in there will remain intact… but there’ll definitely be a new face on the top step. Join us for more as MotoGP™ returns in two weeks!
Stewards update: The FIM MotoGP™ Stewards reviewed the Turn 1 incident between riders Takaaki Nakagami, Alex Rins and Francesco Bagnaia from every angle. On the evidence provided by the multitude of angles available to the Stewards, including footage from the helicopter, it was judged a racing incident with no further action to be taken.
Nakagami gained a number of positions in acceleration to move forward from his grid position. He was judged to have braked at a similar time to riders around him, gaining no significant distance on the brakes to indicate otherwise. Rider #30 then lost the front end and crashed, with motorcycle and rider thereafter making contact with Rins and Bagnaia.
The established threshold for such incidents to incur a penalty is for a rider to clearly be seen carrying much too much speed, with no reasonable expectation of making the corner.
1 Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) – Ducati – +0.635
2 Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) – Ducati – +6.473
3 Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) – Ducati – +8.385
Fabio Quartararo: “I felt good from the beginning. I knew I wanted to be first in the first corner and finally I managed to get something crazy. So, I’m so happy, great to see all the fans here. I want to thank them all for coming here; it was an amazing race, and I feel great. I was not controlling all the race but pushing from the beginning, and then saw how my rear tyre was going. It was really good, and I had some margin and was always increasing my lead. So, I’m so happy. Mugello and here was meant to be difficult, but two and one is a really great result.”
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