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Barcelona MotoGP: Quartararo dominates, heartbreak for Espargaro

Barcelona MotoGP: Quartararo dominates, heartbreak for Espargaro

Reigning world champion Quartararo – who announced he’d re-signed with Yamaha for two more years last Thursday – ended Friday’s practice “worried” about how the low grip at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona was affecting the Yamaha. 

But he showed no such signs of struggle as he led from lights to flag to strengthen his lead in the championship with his second win of the season.  

Quartararo grabbed the holeshot from third on the grid, jumping a poor-starting Francesco Bagnaia and poleman Aleix Espargaro on the Aprilia.  

Bagnaia’s race would last just a few more metres as LCR Honda’s Takaaki Nakagami crashed behind him, wiping out the Ducati rider with his head while his errant RC213V skittled Suzuki’s Alex Rins.  

The incident was put under investigation but no further action was deemed to be required, with Nakagami being taken to the medical centre for precautionary checks.  

Bagnaia did remount, but pulled into pitlane at the end of the second tour – his championship hopes wrecked. 

Ducati’s day got worse eight laps in when Enea Bastianini crashed out for the second-successive race, the Gresini rider’s championship aspirations taking a severe knock.  

At the front Quartararo, in clear air, quickly began to put daylight between himself and the pack behind on the opening lap as Espargaro came under attack from a rejuvenated Jorge Martin on the Pramac Ducati.  

Martin out-braked Espargaro into the first corner at the start of lap three, with Johann Zarco on the sister Pramac GP22 close behind in fourth.  

But Martin could do nothing to bridge the gap to Quartararo, who was 1.5s clear at the start of lap four and had that advantage up to two seconds by the end of the sixth lap.  

Espargaro took second back from Martin into Turn 1 on lap 10, while Quartararo opened up his lead to four seconds four tours later.  

By this stage of the race Espargaro’s medium front tyre began to cry enough and Martin was able to hound him again, the Pramac rider retaking second at Turn 1 on lap 16.  

But that position would change hands again as the Aprilia’s gentle nature on tyres allowed Espargaro to ease past the fading Ducati at the first corner with four laps to go.  

Espargaro quickly put space between himself and Martin, but Quartararo’s pace never faltered as he eased to the chequered flag by over six seconds.  

Quartararo’s day was made better by a sensational blunder from Espargaro, as the Aprilia rider celebrated a comfortable second a lap early having thought the race had ended at the end of lap 23.

Espargaro realised his mistake as he waved to his home crowd through the first few corners and quickly passed VR46 Ducati’s Luca Marini at Turn 5 – but fifth was all a crestfallen Espargaro would get for his efforts having lost eight seconds on the last lap.  

As a result, Martin was gifted second – his first podium since Argentina – while Zarco was promoted to third.  

Joan Mir also benefitted from Espargaro’s blunder, the Suzuki rider making a stunning launch from 17th to sixth on the opening lap and taking the chequered flag fourth.  

Marini shadowed Espargaro in sixth, with Maverick Vinales unable to make his soft rear tyre gamble work in seventh ahead of KTM’s Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira – who ran off track at one point trying to overtake his teammate – and Alex Marquez, who rose from last to 10th on his LCR Honda. 

Remy Gardner took 11th on the Tec h3 KTM ahead of fellow rookie Darryn Binder on the RNF Yamaha, with Franco Morbidelli (Yamaha), Ducati’s Jack Miller and Raul Fernandez (Tech3) taking the final points down to 15th.  

Honda’s Pol Espargaro had a miserable afternoon and was last of the classified runners in 17th behind Ducati test rider Michele Pirro, while RNF’s Andrea Dovizioso, Gresini’s Fabio Di Giannantonio and VR46’s Marco Bezzecchi also failed to finish.  

Quartararo is now 22 points clear in the championship of Espargaro, with Bastianini 53 adrift and 66 over Bagnaia.  

Barcelona MotoGP – Race results:

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