Aleix Espargaro led an Aprilia 1-2 in a chaotic Catalunya Grand Prix rocked by a pair of huge crashes on the opening lap, including one which involved championship leader Francesco Bagnaia.
Espargaro and Aprilia teammate Vinales were fortunate to escape a major crash at the start of the race involving Enea Bastianini, the factory Ducati rider who eliminated Alex Marquez, Johann Zarco, Fabio Di Gianantonio, Marco Bezzecchi, and Marco Bezzecchi after losing the front of his bike at Turn 1.
However, it was Bagnaia who sparked the greatest deal of concern.
Championship leader Bagnaia unexpectedly high-sided on the exit of Turn 2, crashed hard to the ground, and then appeared to be hit on his legs by an unseen Brad Binder. Both of these incidents led to a protracted red flag interval.
This time, it was Enea Bastianini, a works teammate of Bagnaia’s, who was at fault. He approached Johann Zarco at a sharp angle from the inside and collided with him, sending a ripple effect through the pack and bringing down the two Gresini Ducatis piloted by Alex Marquez and Fabio Di Giannantonio as well as the VR46 Ducati Marco Bezzecchi.
The Ducati factory duo made their way to the medical facility in Barcelona while everyone else took the restart except Bagnaia and Bastianini. During the red-flag stoppage, Bastianini was given a long-lap penalty; this will likely be changed into a three-place grid penalty for Misano next week.
Espargaro, the sprint race winner, appeared to have performed slightly better the second time out, but he was still overtaken by Pramac Ducati’s Jorge Martin off the start. He subsequently had to give way to teammate Maverick Vinales at Turn 1 despite having improved significantly.
At Turn 4, Vinales successfully sent his Aprilia down the inside of Martin, and after immediately posing a threat of a breakaway, his teammate pushed Martin to take a wider line at Turn 10 two laps later, establishing an Aprilia 1-2 and launching himself after Vinales.
On the following lap, Miguel Oliveira again hounded Martin at Turn 4, locking out the top three positions for Aprilia. However, Oliveira’s 2022-spec RNF Aprilia was unable to keep up with Espargaro as Vinales was getting boxed in by his teammate.
The race then turned into a Vinales-Espargaro duel for the win. Vinales initially kept Espargaro at about three tenths of a second off, but Espargaro’s slow run through the last corner, wide entry into Turn 1, and subsequent errors caused him to fall to over a second behind just before the halfway mark of the race.
Espargaro, nonetheless, had closed the margin to less than a second by lap 14 of the 23-lap race, and with five laps remaining, he was right behind his fellow RS-GP.
Vinales attempted to stick it around the outside on lap 20 as Espargaro pulled alongside him on the main straight, forcing him to cut into the long-lap loop on the outside of Turn 1.
From that point on, the race for the victory was over. Espargaro pulled away to a lead of more than a second before his speed slowed, and he eventually triumphed by a margin of four tenths over Vinales.
It was Aprilia’s first-ever MotoGP 1-2, but a complete Aprilia podium lockout proved to be impossible as Oliveira was taken over by the Pramac Ducatis behind. Martin claimed the last podium spot after passing Zarco at Turn 10 on lap 10, placing him 50 points behind Bagnaia in the championship standings.
Zarco eventually finished fourth while Oliveira came in fifth. KTM’s Jack Miller had placed sixth after a strong start, but ultimately lost out to Marquez, who like Zarco had recovered successfully from his crash at the start, and Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo, who salvaged a respectable finish from a disastrous weekend for the M1 bikes and the Japanese squad in MotoGP as a whole.
The leading Honda rider, Marc Marquez, finished in 13th, one position behind Bezzecchi, who was only able to gain a few points following his tumble at the start and currently sits 71 points behind Bagnaia.
At the conclusion of a race-long struggle between the Gresini riders, Augusto Fernandez triumphed over Di Gianantonio as the squad rounded out the top ten. Meanwhile, Luca Marini edged off VR46 Ducati teammate Marco Bezzecchi for 11th place in what was a difficult weekend for the Valentino Rossi-owned team.
Three riders retired from the race due to mechanical failures: Pol Espargaro (Tech3 Gas Gas), Raul Fernandez (RNF Aprilia), and Binder (KTM). Binder had been on track to at least fight for a top-five finish.
2023 CATALUNYA MOTOGP, BARCELONA – RACE RESULTS
|1||Aleix Espargaro||SPA||Aprilia Racing (RS-GP23)||38m 56.159s|
|2||Maverick Viñales||SPA||Aprilia Racing (RS-GP23)||+0.377s|
|3||Jorge Martin||SPA||Pramac Ducati (GP23)||+2.831s|
|4||Johann Zarco||FRA||Pramac Ducati (GP23)||+4.867s|
|5||Miguel Oliveira||POR||RNF Aprilia (RS-GP22)||+7.529s|
|6||Alex Marquez||SPA||Gresini Ducati (GP22)||+10.590s|
|7||Fabio Quartararo||FRA||Monster Yamaha (YZR-M1)||+10.821s|
|8||Jack Miller||AUS||Red Bull KTM (RC16)||+10.880s|
|9||Augusto Fernandez||SPA||Tech3 GASGAS (RC16)*||+12.889s|
|10||Fabio Di Giannantonio||ITA||Gresini Ducati (GP22)||+13.280s|
|11||Luca Marini||ITA||Mooney VR46 Ducati (GP22)||+16.491s|
|12||Marco Bezzecchi||ITA||Mooney VR46 Ducati (GP22)||+16.561s|
|13||Marc Marquez||SPA||Repsol Honda (RC213V)||+21.616s|
|14||Franco Morbidelli||ITA||Monster Yamaha (YZR-M1)||+23.108s|
|15||Takaaki Nakagami||JPN||LCR Honda (RC213V)||+26.740s|
|16||Iker Lecuona||SPA||LCR Honda (RC213V)||+28.860s|
|17||Joan Mir||SPA||Repsol Honda (RC213V)||+33.929s|
|Raul Fernandez||SPA||RNF Aprilia (RS-GP22)||DNF|
|Brad Binder||RSA||Red Bull KTM (RC16)||DNF|
|Pol Espargaro||SPA||Tech3 GASGAS (RC16)||DNF|
|Francesco Bagnaia||ITA||Ducati Lenovo (GP23)||DNF|
|Enea Bastianini||ITA||Ducati Lenovo (GP23)||DNF|