Espargaro capitalises on Bagnaia's late heartache as Marquez thrills again

The Spaniard continued to impress in Barcelona after a brilliant Sprint victory with Marquez fending off Acosta for second position

Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) took victory in a dramatic Tissot Sprint at the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya, keeping it faultless to the flag as not one, not two, but three different leaders slid out.

First was a heartbreaker for Raul Fernandez (Trackhouse Racing) as the maiden front row starter was building a gap and then overcooked Turn 10 in the early stages. Second was a tumble at Turn 5 for Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) just after he’d fought off the affections of rookie Pedro Acosta (Red Bull GASGAS Tech3), and then finally and arguably crucially, reigning Champion Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) saw his hopes of a first Sprint win of the season turn to dust on the final lap as he slid out at Turn 5.

Marc Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) vs Acosta then became the battle to complete the podium behind Espargaro, with the #93 turning the tables on the rookie at Turn 1 as they went toe-to-toe on the brakes.

As the lights went out, Bagnaia took the holeshot from second on the grid, with Acosta slicing up to lead the chase. Binder also got a fast start to move up but then lost out again to Raul Fernandez as the Aprilia slotted into third.

It didn’t take long for Acosta to attack for the lead, but it likewise didn’t take long for Bagnaia to hit back. Raul Fernandez was harrying them though, and as Acosta attacked into Turn 1 on Lap 3 and took it back, the Trackhouse machine lined up the reigning Champion at Turn 3.

Then it was all change in glorious but relatively clean havoc at the front, with Raul Fernandez emerging as the race leader after barging past Acosta. The Trackhouse machine was absolutely flying as Binder and the rookie duelled just behind him, both the position and some extra RC16 glory on the line. Once Acosta made it stick at Turn 1, Fernandez was already eight tenths clear. But suddenly, it then all came apart for the Trackhouse rider as he slid out at Turn 10, rider ok but head in hands.

From there, Binder vs Acosta looked like it would light up the battle for the lead, but the 33 got the upper hand and started to build a gap – leaving Bagnaia to wrestle with Acosta instead. Soon enough though the second race leader to slide out became Binder, the front end of the KTM saying goodbye at Turn 5.

That left the lead as a duel between Bagnaia and Acosta, or vice versa. Turn 1 was the battle ground and the rookie pulled what was fast-becoming his Barcelona signature move, but the #1 was quick to find an answer up the kerb on the inside of Turn 3. Brutal? Yes. Job done? Yes. From there Bagnaia started to build a gap, and Espargaro was on the march next to test out Acosta’s defenses, finding a way through to take up the chase on the reigning Champion.

That left the master and the apprentice locked in battle over third: Acosta led Marc Marquez. And this time, in a beautiful reverse of that statement Turn 1 move the #31 has been revelling in, it was Acosta under attack as the #93 sailed into the corner side by side with the rookie, taking over in third.

The final drama was dealt on the very final lap. Seeming like he had it in his pocket, Bagnaia was then suddenly sliding out at Turn 5, seeing what could have been a key haul of points disappear in the gravel trap as Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) suffered a tougher Sprint outside podium contention. Espargaro swept through for the spoils, in just enough clear air to ensure he held on for that fairytale win.

Marquez held off Acosta round the final sector too, and what could have been a key title swing proved much less as Martin’s drama-free Sprint saw him take P4 despite not having initially had the pace for it. Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team) made a solid comeback from outside the top ten on the grid to complete the top five, and with that moves back into the top three in the standings too as Bagnaia drops to fourth.

Fabio Di Giannantonio (Pertamina Enduro VR46 Racing Team) was sixth - finishing in the same position he started and taking some solid Saturday points. Jack Miller brought the remaining Red Bull KTM Factory Racing machine to seventh after battling with Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing), who rounded out the top eight after charging from 12th. The final point in the Sprint went the way of Pertamina Enduro VR46 Racing Team's Marco Bezzecchi, having charged up from P16 on the grid, with everything still up for grabs on Sunday.

Next up is the Catalan GP with lights out on Sunday at 14:00 local time (UTC +2), so make sure you keep up to date with all the action on!

Top 10:

1 Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing)  
2 Marc Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) +0.892
3 Pedro Acosta (Red Bull GASGAS Tech3) +1.169
4 Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) +2.147
5 Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team) +2.980
6 Fabio Di Giannantonio (Pertamina Enduro VR46 Racing Team)  +4.623
7 Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) +8.084
8 Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) +8.245
9 Marco Bezzecchi (Pertamina Enduro VR46 Racing Team) +8.643
10 Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) +9.241




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