The Frenchman was untouchable at the Catalan GP as both Prima Pramac riders profited from a mind-blowing blunder by Aleix Espargaro
Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP’s Fabio Quartararo has sprinkled yet more magic over the Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya as he cruised to an inch-perfect victory in the Monster Energy Catalan Grand Prix.
The Frenchman put to bed the nightmare of 2021 by easing to his second premier class victory at the venue, cashing in on his closest Championship rivals’ despair to extend out his title lead. Prima Pramac Racing’s Jorge Martin and Johann Zarco completed the podium after profiting from a mind-blowing blunder by poleman Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) after the Spaniard celebrated a lap too early and threw away a secure second place.
The Grand Prix of Catalunya had barely got underway when drama of the highest order struck at the first corner. Espargaro and Quartararo got away cleanly from the front row of the grid, with Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) aiming to settle in to third spot.
Behind him, LCR Honda Idemitsu’s Takaaki Nakagami was trying to edge past his sparring partner from one week ago, Alex Rins, before the Japanese rider’s front-end folded and he wiped out the Team Suzuki Ecstar man. Nakagami’s head collided with the rear wheel of Bagnaia, which sent the Italian tumbling into the gravel trap as well. From the delight of Mugello to the despair of Catalunya, Bagnaia’s title bid had taken a huge dent.
Shocking opening corner clash from new angles
Quartararo avoided the chaos to hit the front and quickly began stretching out a lead. By the end of the opening lap, he was nearly a second clear of the rest – nobody was able to live with El Diablo. Further back, Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Joan Mir had made a dynamite start to find himself inside the top five, making up a sensational twelve places. Three laps had ticked by when Espargaro’s dream home win was pulled further from his grasp when Martin managed to squeeze his way through on the Aprilia man.
Mooney VR46 Racing’s Marco Bezzecchi was unable to build on last weekend’s career-best finish when he crashed out of 12th at Turn 10. Then yet more title drama struck when Enea Bastianini hit the deck for the second time in a week. The former title leader was under mounting pressure from Aprilia Racing’s Maverick Viñales before he then cracked under said pressure with a costly error at Turn 5. On the same lap, things got worse for Gresini Racing when Fabio Di Giannantonio crashed out as well – the Italian’s race coming to an end at Turn 13.
PODIUM TUSSLE HEATS UP
10 laps were completed when Aleix Espargaro was able to finally get the better of Martin. He quickly put daylight between himself and his fellow Spaniard as he set his sights on Quartararo ahead, who by this point in the race had an advantage of 3.3 seconds. A handful of laps ticked by and Espargaro was unable to cut into the Frenchman’s lead. In fact, the Aprilia rider was looking over his shoulder with Martin having caught a second wind. Nine laps remained and the Prima Pramac Racing man was able to bite back, settling back into second place.
Four laps to go and Aleix was able to dig deep. On the brakes into Turn 1, he squeezed past Martin for a second time as he tried to limit the damage in the title chase. The 32-year-old got the hammer down and stretched out a handful of bike lengths over Martin, with a fifth straight podium seemingly set to go his way.
One lap was left of the Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya with Quartararo en route to a hugely important second win of the season. Then the camera panned to Espargaro slowing down on the run down to the first corner, with what seemed like a technical issue cruelly having robbed him of a home podium. But then he began waving to the crowd, taking in the applause, and it was apparent the Aprilia man had made an unforgivable howler. As he celebrated one lap early, the Prima Pramac duo of Martin and Zarco flew past, then Mir and then Mooney VR46 Racing’s Luca Marini before he realised his mistake.
Unbelievable A. Espargaro error throws away home podium
He quickly buried his head beneath the bubble and managed to fight back on Marini to take fifth, but a career-first podium at the circuit he grew up a stone’s throw away from had slipped through his fingers. Quartararo came across the line to complete a lights-to-flag victory, well and truly making the most of his closest rivals’ misfortune. Martin and Zarco made sure two Ducati machines completed the podium, ahead of the brilliant Mir, who recovered through from 17th on the grid.
A despondent Espargaro took the chequered flag in fifth having lost what could be a vital nine points in the fight to be crowned World Champion. As we head to Germany in a fortnight, Quartararo now leads by 22 points following a day to forget for Espargaro, Bastianini and Bagnaia.
Marini backed up last weekend’s performance with another strong showing by claiming sixth spot. Viñales came home in a lonely seventh, before then Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) picked up eight points with eighth place following a race-long battle with his teammate Miguel Oliveira. Completing the top ten was the valiant Alex Marquez, who battled back from a tough day on Saturday to finish as the top Honda in Barcelona.
MotoGP™ Top 10:
1. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™)
2. Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) + 6.473
3. Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) + 8.385
4. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 11.481
5. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) + 14.395
6. Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) + 15.430
7. Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) + 15.975
8. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 21.436
9. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 26.800
10. Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) + 30.460