Aleix Espargaro won the MotoGP World Championship Sprint Race Saturday afternoon at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, in Spain. Riding his factory Aprilia RS-GP, Espargaro won the 12-lap race by 1.989 seconds.
Defending World Champion and current World Championship point leader Francesco Bagnaia was the runner-up on his Lenovo Team Ducati Desmosedici.
Espargaro’s teammate Maverick Vinales finished a close third.
More, from a press release issued by Dorna:
Aleix Espargaro storms past Bagnaia to take Sprint win in Barcelona
Aprilia make it double podium delight as “the Captain” becomes the sixth different Sprint winner, with Bagnaia forced to defend hard against Viñales
Saturday, 02 September 2023
How’s that for the statement? Local hero Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) sealed victory in the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya Tissot Sprint with a storming ride at the front, becoming the sixth different Saturday winner of the season so far. The “Captain” got the better of Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) as the World Championship leader had no answer for the flying Aprilia ahead, instead forced to defend against the next one: Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing). The number one plated Ducati was the meat in the Aprilia sandwich but just held on to deny Aprilia a 1-2 as Viñales looked for a way through on the final lap.
The Captain vs The Champion
Tensions were rocketing as the grid got off onto their warm lap with spots of rain beginning to threaten the Catalan GP Tissot Sprint. Wet bikes were being prepared but the time had come for lights out and there was no looking back now. The weather, luckily, held firm.
As the lights went out, it was a clean start for Bagnaia and Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing), and Bagnaia defended the lead from pole as, nevertheless, the two Aprilias fended off the fast-starting Pramac machine. Viñales almost immediately shot through into second past Martin, and Bagnaia, Viñales, Espargaro was the order as they crossed the line for the first time. Espargaro then took over from his teammate at Turn 1 though, the Captain beginning his charge.
Bagnaia powered on though, the odd drop of rain not affecting the track conditions. But the number 41 Aprilia was soon locked on and the duo began to pull away from the rest of the field.
Viñales was initially left to defend 3rd place as Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Miguel Oliveira (CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP™ Team) were snapping at the Spaniard’s heels.
With six laps to go, it was game on in Barcelona as Aleix Espargaro attacked for the lead. And he took it, immediately putting the hammer down in an attempt to break away from the Ducati. Bagnaia had no answer as the Aprilia stretched out half a second in one lap, doing a Bagnaia – of late – on Bagnaia.
Espargaro proved to be untouchable at the front as he went on to take the Sprint victory by just under two seconds, putting down a pace that not even the reigning World Champion could match. He had his hands full elsewhere.
Viñales was catching the Championship leader as the laps ticked down, and he was bringing Binder with him. Sure enough, Bagnaia fell into the clutches of the chasing Viñales with two laps remaining as it became a Ducati vs Aprillia scrap for 2nd place.
As the last lap arrived, Viñales was riding pillion to Bagnaia as he desperately looked for a way through. Bagnaia put in an incredible defensive performance, however, and was simply too strong on the brakes to allow the Aprilia a chance. He did consider it at the final corner, but no dice.
Binder did all he could to stay in the fight but found himself eight-tenths back from the top three by the time the chequered flag dropped.
Battles all the way through the field
Slightly further back, Martin bagged P5 after an eventful Sprint. The Spaniard pushed his way past Oliveira after dropping down the field early on following a run off round Turn 2. Oliveira took sixth, and will be gunning for more on Sunday.
Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing), meanwhile, was almost two seconds back from Oliveira in P7, but he nabbed that late as he pulled a VR46 on Mooney VR46 rider Marco Bezzecchi at the final corner.
Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team) picked up the final Sprint point in P9, as the Italian made some more steps back towards his brilliant best.
One early moment saw Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) and Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) come together in a mid-pack sandwich at Turn 1, with MM93 winning out and the latter duo sent wide. Alex Marquez came back to P10, just ahead of Marc.
Check out the full results and then get ready for the MotoGP™ race at 14:00 local time (GMT+2), with more history on the cards. Aprilia have never had two bikes on the premier class Grand Prix podium… can they achieve the feat on Sunday? Can Aleix do the double, or Viñales take that third win with a third different MotoGP™ machine? Or is Bagnaia ready to ride for some revenge? Make sure to come back on Sunday for a MONSTER Catalan Grand Prix!