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Race report
MotoGP Catalan GP

MotoGP Catalan GP: Espargaro wins sprint after Bagnaia crashes from lead

The retiring Aleix Espargaro was gifted victory in the MotoGP Catalan Grand Prix sprint after Francesco Bagnaia crashed out of the lead on the last lap of a dramatic race.

Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia Racing Team

Set to end a barren sprint run without a win on Saturday since last year’s Austrian GP, Bagnaia fell off his factory Ducati at Turn 5 on the last lap of 12, while eight tenths clear of Aprilia’s Espargaro.

Espargaro, who started from pole but got beaten up in the early laps, had recovered to second on lap eight and was promoted to the lead when Bagnaia crashed.

It marks his first sprint win of the season and comes just 48 hours after announcing prior to his home race that he will retire from racing at the end of the 2024 season.

Given the events of the weekend so far, Espargaro called his win a “fairytale”.

“Has been amazing the last two days, like a fairytale,” he told the MotoGP world feed in parc ferme.

“I have no words to describe it. The race was very tough, track was super slippery, I lost the front of couple of times.

“When I saw the lap times we were doing, I was completely sure it was impossible to finish with that pace.

“In fact, people started to crash. I just tried to maintain the pace, maintain the rear tyre for the last laps.

“Pecco was doing great as well, but he was risking, so my goal was to push him to the last corner and it worked. I’m very happy.”

Marc Marquez came from 14th on the grid to second, besting Tech3 GasGas rookie Pedro Acosta on the final lap.

A tough race for championship leader Jorge Martin saw him salvage fourth from seventh on the grid, meaning his points lead has only shrunk by one to 37.

The 12-lap sprint had five riders leading at various stages, three of whom crashed out while heading the pack.

Bagnaia nailed the launch off the line from second on the grid to take the holeshot at the start, with Acosta moving into second from third-place starter Raul Fernandez (Trackhouse Racing), KTM’s Brad Binder and Espargaro.

Martin moved up to sixth in the opening turns, while Marquez survived Turn 2 contact with KTM’s Jack Miller – which left the Gresini rider missing wings on the left side of his fairing – to sit eighth off the line.

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Acosta put a challenge on Bagnaia for the lead on the run to Turn 1 at the start of lap two, though the Ducati rider carved past again at Turn 5.

Acosta repeated that move on lap three, while Fernandez got opportunistic and scythed underneath Bagnaia at Turn 3, which then allowed Binder to overtake the Italian for third at Turn 4.

Fernandez then threw his 2023-spec Aprilia up the inside of Acosta at Turn 5, an aggressive move that opened the door for Binder to come through into second.

The Trackhouse rider proceeded to dart away from the pack, swelling his lead to eight tenths over Acosta come the end of lap four.

But Fernandez crashed at Turn 10 on the next tour, releasing Acosta into the lead before Binder jumped the Tech3 rider at Turn 1 on lap six.

Binder was breaking away on lap seven when he crashed at Turn 5 while leading, releasing Bagnaia to head the pack after the Ducati rider came out on top in a battle with Acosta on lap six and earlier in the seventh tour.

Bagnaia looked set to hold onto the lead as Espargaro, who moved ahead of Acosta for second on lap eight at Turn 1, couldn’t make any inroads into the Ducati rider.

But, on the final lap, Bagnaia slid off his GP24 at Turn 5, gifting Espargaro a lead of almost nine tenths to ensure victory.

Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia Racing Team

Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia Racing Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Marquez’s march towards the front continued on lap seven when he passed Martin for what was fifth at the time, before outbraking Acosta for third at Turn 1 on the final tour.

That became second when Bagnaia crashed, continuing his strong run of Saturday rostrums to four for 2024 so far.

He held Acosta at bay by 0.277s, while Enea Bastianini came from 11th to fifth on the sister factory team Ducati.

Fabio Di Giannantonio was seventh on the VR46 Ducati, with Miller, Aprilia’s Maverick Vinales and Marco Bezzecchi (VR46) rounding out the top nine to take the last points.

Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo came just 0.598s from a point in 10th, while Trackhouse Racing’s Miguel Oliveira and LCR Honda’s Johann Zarco crashed out.

MotoGP Catalan GP - Sprint race results:

   
1
 - 
5
   
   
1
 - 
2
   
Cla Rider # Bike Laps Time Interval km/h Retirement Points
1 Spain A. Espargaro Aprilia Racing Team 41 Aprilia 12

20'01.478

  167.4   12
2 Spain M. Marquez Gresini Racing 93 Ducati 12

+0.892

20'02.370

0.892 167.3   9
3 Spain P. Acosta Tech 3 31 KTM 12

+1.169

20'02.647

0.277 167.2   7
4 Spain J. Martin Pramac Racing 89 Ducati 12

+2.147

20'03.625

0.978 167.1   6
5 Italy E. Bastianini Ducati Team 23 Ducati 12

+2.980

20'04.458

0.833 167.0   5
6 Italy F. Di Giannantonio Team VR46 49 Ducati 12

+4.623

20'06.101

1.643 166.8   4
7 Australia J. Miller Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 43 KTM 12

+8.084

20'09.562

3.461 166.3   3
8 Spain M. Viñales Aprilia Racing Team 12 Aprilia 12

+8.245

20'09.723

0.161 166.3   2
9 Italy M. Bezzecchi Team VR46 72 Ducati 12

+8.643

20'10.121

0.398 166.2   1
10 France F. Quartararo Yamaha Factory Racing 20 Yamaha 12

+9.241

20'10.719

0.598 166.1    
11 Italy F. Morbidelli Pramac Racing 21 Ducati 12

+9.537

20'11.015

0.296 166.1    
12 Spain A. Rins Yamaha Factory Racing 42 Yamaha 12

+13.045

20'14.523

3.508 165.6    
13 Japan T. Nakagami Team LCR 30 Honda 12

+13.199

20'14.677

0.154 165.6    
14 Spain A. Marquez Gresini Racing 73 Ducati 12

+13.378

20'14.856

0.179 165.6    
15 Spain J. Mir Repsol Honda Team 36 Honda 12

+16.438

20'17.916

3.060 165.1    
16 Italy L. Marini Repsol Honda Team 10 Honda 12

+18.000

20'19.478

1.562 164.9    
17 Spain A. Fernandez Tech 3 37 KTM 12

+25.262

20'26.740

7.262 163.9    
18 Germany S. Bradl HRC Test Team 6 Honda 12

+33.751

20'35.229

8.489 162.8    
dnf Italy F. Bagnaia Ducati Team 1 Ducati 11

+1 Lap

18'20.068

1 Lap 167.6 Accident  
dnf Portugal M. Oliveira Trackhouse Racing Team 88 Aprilia 9

+3 Laps

15'04.033

2 Laps 166.9 Accident  
dnf France J. Zarco Team LCR 5 Honda 7

+5 Laps

11'51.230

2 Laps 165.0 Accident  
dnf South Africa B. Binder Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 33 KTM 6

+6 Laps

10'01.177

1 Lap 167.3 Accident  
dnf Spain R. Fernández Trackhouse Racing Team 25 Aprilia 4

+8 Laps

6'41.120

2 Laps 167.1 Accident  

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