Aleix Espargaro and Aprilia wrote their names in history by taking a breakthrough win in the Argentine MotoGP™ at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit on Sunday.
In his 200th MotoGP™ start Espargaro qualified on pole position on Saturday and after stalking leader Jorge Martin (Pramac Ducati), stole the lead with five laps remaining.
It was the first win for Aprilia since the dawn of the four-stroke MotoGP™ era 20 years ago, and the first at any level of GP race for the 32-year-old veteran.
“I’m very happy, it’s been a long, long time. It was my 200th GP in the premier class,” an emotional Espargaro said.
As a bonus, the win moves Espargaro to the lead in the 2022 championship.
“It wasn’t an easy race, I didn’t have grip at all, I couldn’t do my best, I was trying to find a good configuration,” he added.
“We truly deserve it and the most special thing is we’re leading the championship.”
Martin held on for second place, his first finish of the 2022 season, while Alex Rins made it an all-Spanish podium on his Suzuki GSX-RR, ahead of teammate Joan Mir.
It was a tough weekend for the MotoGP™ teams, with freight delays prompting officials to cancel all track activities on Friday. As a results, Practice and Qualifying sessions were fitted into Saturday, leaving some teams scrambling to be ready for the race.
But that did not stop Espargaro from taking pole in convincing fashion and even when he dropped back from Martin in the race, his Aprilia RS-GP looked to be the bike to beat in the race.
That was backed up by the performance of his teammate Maverick Viñales who finished seventh, less than 7s back from the race winner.
He was separated from the top four by Pecco Bagnaia and Brad Binder. The Lenovo Ducati rider qualified in a lowly 14th place, but overnight changes to his GP22 racer allowed him to move through the pack – on the way even passing his teammate Jack Miller, who struggled to 11th place in the race.
Binder, who took a brilliant second place in the opening race of the season, raced his Red Bull KTM through the field from 12th on the grid, and now sits second in the championship points.
It was a tough race for Fabio Quartararo. The World Champion suffered a lack of rear grip on his Monster Energy Yamaha, but did hold off the Ducatis of rookie Marco Bezzecchi, round one winner Enea Bastianini and Luca Marini.
Espargaro leads the title race after three rounds on 45, ahead of Binder on 38, Bastianini and Rins on 36, Quartararo on 35 and Mir on 33.
Miller is in 11th place on 15 points, while Remy Gardner is in 22nd place on one point.
The next round of the 2022 World Championship takes place this weekend, the Grand Prix of the Americas at the Circuit of the Americas, just outside Austin, Texas.