Aleix Espargaro overcame Francesco Bagnaia in a last-lap battle to win Aprilia’s first MotoGP race in the 2023 season.
In an amazing British Grand Prix at Silverstone, Aleix Espargaro won his second MotoGP race and the second for Aprilia after passing Pecco Bagnaia on the final lap.
Espargaro, who had only started in position 12, eventually overpowered Bagnaia, who had held the lead for a significant part of the race and appeared to have his rivals blocked off when conditions changed.
Similar to the sprint, KTM rider Jack Miller got off to the best start from the first row. This time, he managed to pass polesitter Marco Bezzecchi into Turn 1.
Bagnaia, who had passed the sprint winner, made contact with Alex Marquez behind them. However, as they approached Vale, he pulled up and overtook Bezzecchi.
The next time, Bagnaia passed Bezzecchi through Brooklands, but this time his run was so strong that he instantly took the lead from Miller exiting Copse.
The Ducati camp was able to control the early lead battle thanks to Bezzecchi, who later dispatched Miller into Stowe.
Bezzecchi’s title aspirations took a significant hit during the sixth lap, while chasing off Bagnaia, he came in too quickly into Stowe and lost the front, which resulted in his first non-score since Jerez three months ago.
However, almost soon after Bezzecchi quit, Bagnaia was faced with an additional challenge to face off with Espargaro.
Early on, the Aprilia rider trailed behind his teammate Maverick Vinales; however, as Marquez passed Miller coming into Copse, Vinales attempted to close up the gap as well but instead took Miller off course.
This put Espargaro in fourth place, but he swiftly overtook Marquez at Village to move up to third. After Bezzecchi slid off, Espargaro almost immediately overcame Bagnaia’s one-second advantage.
But as expected, getting past him proved to be a much tougher challenge. With Espargaro pushed behind Bagnaia, Vinales also drew closer, dragging KTM’s Brad Binder behind him after overcoming the South African at Village.
Considering Marquez had already quit with what appeared to be a gear selection challenges as a result of the contact with Bagnaia, neither of them needed to get clear of him.
The action kept going as light raindrops prompted race direction to display rain flags, allowing riders to switch their bikes with wet tires in the pit lane. A few laps later, when the quartet grew significantly closer together up front, rain began to fall at a greater rate.
Vinales passing Espargaro but then slowing down due to the impending rain gave Bagnaia a bit of space. Both Aprilia riders subsequently moved behind Binder.
Later Espargaro overtook Binder for second place with four laps remaining at Village, and once more quickly followed Bagnaia.
This time, the pass was initiated when Espargaro drew up next to Bagnaia on the last lap’s Copse exit, as he pushed him near the track’s edge and then just edged ahead of him into Maggots.
The remainder of the lap saw Bagnaia keeping pace with him, but Espargaro was able to hold him off and win by 0.215 seconds.
Even closer than that was the race for the final podium spot, but it was not between Binder and Vinales; instead, it was between Binder and a surging Miguel Oliveira, the RNF Aprilia rider who was perfectly on point in the demanding conditions and flying through from grid position 16.
However, Binder ultimately held off Oliveira’s challenge to finish third with a lead of 0.070 seconds, while Vinales settled for fifth position behind them.
Jorge Martin recovered from a race that appeared to be effectively over at the first corner after collision with Binder’s KTM pushed his Pramac-driven Ducati off the track and to the bottom of the field. Martin finished sixth.
Luca Marini on the VR46 Ducati, Miller, Johann Zarco of Pramac Ducati, and Raul Fernandez on RNF Aprilia rounded out the top 10; they were three tenths faster than Augusto Fernandez on Tech3 Gas Gas KTM, who had dropped out of the top 10 after losing 11 places on the first lap.
For the 20-lap race, Zarco was one of only two riders who opted for the soft rear rather than the more conventional medium rear and his as well as fellow gambler Enea Bastianini’s speed obviously dropped significantly.
Unfortunately Bastianini was unable to accrue any points. In the race for tenth place, Marc Marquez’s Honda struck him. Marquez immediately crashed as Bastianini brought his damaged Ducati into the pits to retire.
On his injury-recovery run, Pol Espargaro finished in 12th place. The Tech3 Gas Gas rider took it slowly but greatly benefited from riders ahead of him putting a risky bet on wet tyres.
These riders included Takaaki Nakagami, Iker Lecuona, Fabio Di Giannantonio, and Franco Morbidelli; the first two even managed to salvage some points by means of endurance.
A late-race reckless crash for Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo also helped both of them gain one position. When Quartararo collided with Marini’s Ducati, he had been battling in the top ten, He damaged his own front fairing, and some of it got lodged in his front wheel.
Nevertheless, he was able to get back to the pits, switch bikes and even finish 15th, earning a point.
Joan Mir, who crashed his Honda three laps into the race, was the other rider to retire.
Due to Bezzecchi’s elimination, Martin is once again Bagnaia’s closest challenger in the standings, although the incumbent champion now has a 41-point advantage with only 37 points remaining after every single weekend.
2023 BRITISH MOTOGP, SILVERSTONE – RACE RESULTS
|1||Aleix Espargaro||SPA||Aprilia Racing (RS-GP23)||40m 40.367s|
|2||Francesco Bagnaia||ITA||Ducati Lenovo (GP23)||+0.215s|
|3||Brad Binder||RSA||Red Bull KTM (RC16)||+0.680s|
|4||Miguel Oliveira||POR||RNF Aprilia (RS-GP22)||+0.750s|
|5||Maverick Viñales||SPA||Aprilia Racing (RS-GP23)||+2.101s|
|6||Jorge Martin||SPA||Pramac Ducati (GP23)||+7.903s|
|7||Luca Marini||ITA||Mooney VR46 Ducati (GP22)||+9.099s|
|8||Jack Miller||AUS||Red Bull KTM (RC16)||+9.298s|
|9||Johann Zarco||FRA||Pramac Ducati (GP23)||+9.958s|
|10||Raul Fernandez||SPA||RNF Aprilia (RS-GP22)||+19.947s|
|11||Augusto Fernandez||SPA||Tech3 GASGAS (RC16)*||+20.296s|
|12||Pol Espargaro||SPA||Tech3 GASGAS (RC16)||+66.120s|
|13||Fabio Di Giannantonio||ITA||Gresini Ducati (GP22)||+87.605s|
|14||Franco Morbidelli||ITA||Monster Yamaha (YZR-M1)||+88.913s|
|15||Fabio Quartararo||FRA||Monster Yamaha (YZR-M1)||+89.075s|
|16||Takaaki Nakagami||JPN||LCR Honda (RC213V)||+98.573s|
|17||Iker Lecuona||SPA||LCR Honda (RC213V)||+109.674s|
|Enea Bastianini||ITA||Ducati Lenovo (GP23)||DNF|
|Marc Marquez||SPA||Repsol Honda (RC213V)||DNF|
|Marco Bezzecchi||ITA||Mooney VR46 Ducati (GP22)||DNF|
|Alex Marquez||SPA||Gresini Ducati (GP22)||DNF|
|Joan Mir||SPA||Repsol Honda (RC213V)||DNF|