MotoGP Press Release From Catalunya
Aleix grabs victory in an Aprilia duel after early drama in Barcelona

The "Captain" overhauls Viñales, Martin takes third after early race drama sees Bagnaia suffer huge highside out the lead but escape relatively unscathed

Sunday, 03 September 2023

Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) made history at the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya as he led a historic Aprilia 1-2 over the line. Teammate Maverick Viñales led for much of the race before being caught, stalked and then passed by his teammate, but it marked a milestone day for the Noale factory. Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) completed the podium.

Before that, drama on a first start saw a multiple-rider crash at Turn 1, right before a highside out the lead for reigning Champion Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team). Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) couldn't avoid the #1 fully but after examination at the medical centre and the General Hospital of Catalunya, Bagnaia was confirmed to have suffered no fractures in the incident.

Unfortunately, teammate Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team) was found to have injured his hand and ankle in the Turn 1 crash, and he was penalised for his part in the incident too. Bagnaia's highside and the incident at Turn 1 saw the Red Flag come out and the race restart with neither lining up on the grid.

A dramatic first start
As the lights went out for the first time, Bastianini went a bit too hot into Turn 1 and had nowhere to go as the field tipped in. The Italian caught the rear end of Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) seeing them both go down and ending in a multi-rider pile-up at the Turn 1 gravel trap, including Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) and both Gresini machines of Alex Marquez and Fabio Di Giannantonio.

Just seconds later Bagnaia's crash happened just a few metres ahead. On the exit of Turn 2 the Italian highsided out, with most avoiding both man and machine and only Binder caught up, also crashing out. That confirmed a red flag for the first start as both Bagnaia and Bastianini were then taken to the medical centre.

Pressing the reset button
With pole position empty and no Bagnaia, Martin took the holeshot this time around but Viñales came out the blocks guns blazing too, hitting the front quickly with a firm first-lap move. The number 12 led the way ahead of Martin, with Aleix Espargaro sitting in third with his hands full with Miguel Oliveira (CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP™ Team).

Viñales began to stretch out a few bike lengths on Martin as Aleix Espargaro was determined to make sure his teammate didn't break away and proceeded to push his way past Martin with 21 laps to go. Oliveira then decided to strike whilst the iron was hot and followed, moving up into third to create a historic Aprilia 1-2-3.

Lap by lap, Aleix Espargaro bridged the gap to his teammate, stalking him once he arrived on the scene.

Just behind, Oliveira was unable to hold onto the factory duo, and the Portuguese rider started to fade back into the clutches of Martin. The Pramac rider pounced on the RNF machine with 14 laps remaining.

After piling on the pressure, Aleix Espargaro then dropped back a few tenths after a mistake with 12 laps to go. But the number 41 dug back in and inched his way back onto the rear wheel of Viñales up ahead, setting up another shot at taking over in front.

With four laps to go, Aleix Espargaro then made his move. Side by side along the main straight, he then pounced on Maverick at Turn 1 and parked his RSGP up this inside of the #12. Brutal, fair, or both at once, Viñales was sent wide and through the long lap loop as Aleix pulled away in the lead.

The roles were now reversed, with Viñales on the back foot once back on track and looking to home back in on the lead. It looked impossible, then implausible, but by the final lap the number 12 was starting to get close enough to cause his teammate a sweat if he'd had a rear view mirror. But the metres were running out, and Aleix Espargaro kept it cool and collected under the pressure to shoot over the line and make some serious amends for his 2022 lap count mistake. Viñales, although not on the top step, made it a truly historic day for Aprilia as he came up just 0.377s short in second for that 1-2.

Martin crossed the line in a lonelier third place, off the Aprilias but ahead of his teammate Johann Zarco two seconds back in fourth. Oliveira slipped down to fifth place by the time the chequered flag came out, with a battle for sixth place being won by Alex Marquez a further 3 seconds back.

The Spaniard got the better of Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) and Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) who finished in seventh and eighth respectively. Augusto Fernandez (GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3) bagged P9 with a last gasp move on Fabio Di Giannantionio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™), who rounded out the top 10.

Luca Marini won a duel against teammate Bezzecchi for P11, just ahead of Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team). Binder was a notable retirement, suffering a technical issue and DNF after the restart.

At the head of the field, it was a weekend to remember for Aleix Espargaro and for Aprilia Racing. Not only did Aleix take both the Tissot Sprint and Grand Prix victories, but the Noale manufacturer came away with both their factory machines securing top 3 finishes in both events. MotoGP™ now turns its attention to the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli in Italy for the Gran Premio Red Bull di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini from the 8th - 10th of September.
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