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Aprilia march to 1-2 in Catalunya after scary crash

Monday, 4 September 2023

A terrifying first-lap accident that left Ducati teammates Pecco Bagnaia and Enea Bastianini in hospital preceded a restarted race and a red-letter day for Aprilia, with Aleix Espargaro taking his second Grand Prix win in three races.

Aprilia dominated the Grand Prix of Catalunya on a landmark day for the Noale factory, with Aleix Espargaro leading factory teammate Maverick Vinales home in a 1-2 result for his third MotoGP™ win, and second in the past three races.

Espargaro's double – the rider from nearby Granollers won the Saturday Sprint race too – came after the race was restarted following two horrendous first-lap crashes featuring factory Ducati teammates Enea Bastianini and world championship leader Pecco Bagnaia.


Bastianini steamed into the first corner at the start of the race and clattered into fellow Ducati rider Johann Zarco, the resultant chaos seeing three other Ducati riders (Marco Bezzecchi, Fabio Di Giannantonio and Alex Marquez) all crash out.

At Turn 2, Bagnaia – who was leading – high-sided his Ducati and fell into the path of the chasing pack, with KTM's Brad Binder running over the Italian's leg as the field scattered to avoid Bagnaia and his crashed bike.

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The race was red-flagged and restarted over 23 laps without Bagnaia and Bastianini; the former suffered contusions but no fractures, while Bastianini suffered fractures to his left leg and left hand.

With Bagnaia off the grid, Vinales escaped to a comfortable lead before being reeled in by Espargaro, who grabbed first place with a robust pass of his teammate on lap 20 to ease away to win by 0.3secs.

Ducati's Jorge Martin never featured in the fight for victory, but took third place and a valuable 16 world championship points to reduce Bagnaia's championship lead to 50 points with his fourth Grand Prix podium of the season.

Aussie watch

Jack Miller felt he'd made a breakthrough in Catalunya after a difficult batch of races at Assen, Silverstone and the Red Bull Ring, the KTM rider bouncing back from an uncompetitive showing in Saturday's Sprint race to finish eighth on Sunday.

Miller was just 16th in the 12-lap Sprint on Saturday as he bemoaned a lack of grip on the circuit's infamously slippery surface, and praised his team for turning his bike "upside down and inside out" on Saturday night to find a solution to his struggles, the Australian finishing closer to race-winner Espargaro over 23 laps on Sunday (10 seconds) than he did over 12 laps a day earlier (16 seconds).

Vinales' second place – the Spaniard's first Sunday podium since the season-opener in Portugal – saw the Aprilia rider demote Miller to ninth place in the world championship standings with 104 points after 11 race weekends in 2023.

Joel Kelso again showcased his one-lap pace in Moto3™, the Darwin 20-year-old qualifying on the front row of the grid for the fourth time this season after a brilliant lap for third after coming through Q1 on Saturday.

The CFMOTO Racing PruestelGP rider, who is searching for a new team next season after being told his contract wouldn't be extended with the German outfit after the previous round in Austria, paid a high price for running wide at the final corner on lap seven of the race, becoming detached from the front group and eventually crossing the line in 18th place, outside of the points.

In Moto2™, Australian Senna Agius stepped in as a replacement rider at the Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP team for the third event this year, after previously appearing in Spain and France as a substitute for the injured Darryn Binder.

Agius deputised for Binder again in Barcelona, and the 18-year-old qualified 21st before crashing out at Turn 7 on the eighth lap.

Surprise packet

Fabio Quartararo looked completely lost on Saturday after qualifying 17th and finishing 18th at a circuit where he won 12 months ago, so Sunday's turnaround to seventh place after reverting to an old Yamaha set-up has to be considered a successful save for the 2021 world champion.

The Frenchman held off Miller in the closing stages and was all over the back of Ducati's Alex Marquez for sixth at the chequered flag for his most successful weekend since round three in Austin, where he finished third in the Grand Prix for his only podium visit of the season.

Number to know

5: Before Sunday's Aprilia 1-2, the best Aprilia result at the Catalan GP was Espargaro's fifth place last year.

Catalunya Motorcycle Grand Prix: top 10

1. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) 38mins 56.159secs
2. Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) +0.377secs
3. Jorge Martin (Ducati) +2.831secs
4. Johann Zarco (Ducati) +4.867secs
5. Miguel Oliveira (Aprilia) +7.529secs
6. Alex Marquez (Ducati) +10.590secs
7. Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) +10.821secs
8. Jack Miller (KTM) +10.880secs
9. Augusto Fernandez (GasGas) +12.889secs
10. Fabio Di Giannantonio (Ducati) +13.280secs

Riders' championship standings (top 5)

1. Pecco Bagnaia (Ducati) 260 points
2. Jorge Martin (Ducati) 210 points
3. Marco Bezzecchi (Ducati) 189 points
4. Brad Binder (KTM) 166 points
5. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) 154 points

What's next?

Round 12: San Marino and Riviera di Rimini (Misano, Italy), Sept 8-10