Quartararo wins Catalan MotoGP, premature celebration costs Espargaro podium

Fabio Quartararo. Picture: MotoGP.com

Championship leader Fabio Quartararo has won the Catalan MotoGP while Aleix Espargaro lost second place when he began celebrating a lap too early.

Tech3 KTM’s Remy Gardner finished a career-best 11th, from 20th on the grid at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, while fellow Australian Jack Miller went from 11th to 14th on his Ducati Lenovo Team entry.

Both of the Prima Pramac Ducatis made the podium, Jorge Martin second and Johann Zarco third, but it was a disaster for the Bologna manufacturer’s two title contenders given both Enea Bastianini and Francesco Bagnaia failed to finish.

Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) was an innocent victim when he was taken out in the first championship-changing moment of the race, as the field braked at Turn 1 just after the start.

Takaaki Nakagami lost the front of his Idemitsu LCR Honda and went down near the front of the pack, his own head striking the rear wheel of Bagnaia’s Ducati and his bike collecting Alex Rins’ Suzuki Ecstar entry.

Stewards determined no further action would be taken, with both the Japanese rider who kicked off the incident and Rins were later taken to hospital for further checks.

Meanwhile, despite Aleix Espargaro making a very good start from pole position on his Aprilia, Quartararo outbraked him at the first corner and grabbed the lead on his Monster Energy Yamaha.

That move ticked off one crucial objective for ‘El Diablo’, whose YZR-M1 is sorely lacking in straight line speed and hence he could ill afford to let Aleix Espargaro get a break given Catalunya’s long main straight.

However, it got even better for him when Martin overtook #41 for second spot on Lap 3, while Zarco was lurking just over a second further back in fourth position.

By the time Aleix Espargaro re-passed the #89 Ducati on Lap 10, the #20 Yamaha was more than three seconds up the road.

Furthermore, Quartararo’s lead continued to grow, to five seconds when Martin got back into second position on Lap 16, and almost six once Aleix Espargaro had wrested the place back yet again on Lap 21.

Even so, the man who was born in nearby Granollers looked like limiting the damage to his title aspirations, and achieving a childhood dream, when he crossed the start/finish line half a second up on Martin at the end of Lap 23.

It was then that Aleix Espargaro began to slow with an apparent mechanical issue, which would have seemed the cruellest of blows until the real drama became clear.

He had in fact mistakenly thought that the race was over, and began waving to the crowd before realising that there was a lap still to go.

By then, #41 had dropped to sixth, and he managed only to re-pass Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Ducati) before actually taking the chequered flag.

With Quartararo romping to a 6.473s win, Aleix Espargaro’s howler meant the gap between them at the top of the championship has grown to 22 points instead of 13.

Martin made a welcome return to the podium prior to surgery on his right hand, and Pramac team-mate Zarco inherited third spot.

Joan Mir (Suzuki Ecstar) finished fourth, largely by virtue of the 12 positions he gained from lights out to the exit of the opening corners, after qualifying 17th.

Behind Aleix Espargaro and Marini at the end were Aprilia’s Maverick Viñales and Red Bull KTM team-mates Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira.

Alex Marquez came from dead last, after a practice crash kept him out of qualifying, to round out the top 10 in the race itself on his Castrol LCR Honda.

Gardner gained five positions from the end of the standing lap to the chequered flag, with fellow rookie Darryn Binder (WithU RNF Yamaha) finishing just behind in 12th, ahead of Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha).

Miller had qualified a lowly 11th anyway but he slipped as far back as 17th on Lap 4, got up to 11th again, then ceded three spots on Lap 22 and remained 14th thereafter.

On the second Tech3 KTM, Raul Fernandez got his first MotoGP championship point by getting home in 15th, with Ducati test rider Michele Pirro (Aruba.it Racing) and Repsol Honda’s Pol Espargaro the other finishers.

Bastianini was seventh when he crashed on Lap 8 and, while he retains third in the standings, is now 53 points away from the championship lead despite his three grand prix wins still being the greatest haul of anyone so far this season.

His Gresini Ducati team-mate Fabio Di Giannantonio lasted one lap longer before he too had a spill, with Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Ducati) and Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda) the other crashers.

Andrea Dovizioso (WithU RNF Yamaha) made for eight DNFs, although he simply pulled into the pits with seven laps to go.

The field stays at Catalunya for a post-race test, albeit one which Martin will skip due to his operation, before Round 10 at Germany’s Sachsenring in a fortnight from now.

Race results: Catalan MotoGP

Pos Num Rider Nat Team Bike Time/Gap
1 20 Fabio QUARTARARO FRA Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Yamaha 40:29.360
2 89 Jorge MARTIN ESP Prima Pramac Racing Ducati +6.473
3 5 Johann ZARCO FRA Prima Pramac Racing Ducati +8.385
4 36 Joan MIR ESP Team SUZUKI ECSTAR Suzuki +11.481
5 41 Aleix ESPARGARO ESP Aprilia Racing Aprilia +14.395
6 10 Luca MARINI ITA Mooney VR46 Racing Team Ducati +15.430
7 12 Maverick VIÑALES ESP Aprilia Racing Aprilia +15.975
8 33 Brad BINDER RSA Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM +21.436
9 88 Miguel OLIVEIRA POR Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM +26.800
10 73 Alex MARQUEZ ESP LCR Honda CASTROL Honda +30.460
11 87 Remy GARDNER AUS Tech3 KTM Factory Racing KTM +32.443
12 40 Darryn BINDER RSA WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP Team Yamaha +32.881
13 21 Franco MORBIDELLI ITA Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Yamaha +33.168
14 43 Jack MILLER AUS Ducati Lenovo Team Ducati +34.693
15 25 Raul FERNANDEZ ESP Tech3 KTM Factory Racing KTM +37.844
16 51 Michele PIRRO ITA Aruba.it Racing Ducati +44.533
17 44 Pol ESPARGARO ESP Repsol Honda Team Honda +46.199
DNF 04 Andrea DOVIZIOSO ITA WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP Team Yamaha +7 laps
DNF 49 Fabio DI GIANNANTONIO ITA Gresini Racing MotoGP Ducati +16 laps
DNF 23 Enea BASTIANINI ITA Gresini Racing MotoGP Ducati +17 laps
DNF 72 Marco BEZZECCHI ITA Mooney VR46 Racing Team Ducati +19 laps
DNF 63 Francesco BAGNAIA ITA Ducati Lenovo Team Ducati +23 laps
DNF 42 Alex RINS ESP Team SUZUKI ECSTAR Suzuki
DNF 30 Takaaki NAKAGAMI JPN LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda
DNF 6 Stefan BRADL GER Repsol Honda Team Honda

Race winner: 24 laps

Riders’ championship

Pos Rider Nat Pts
1 Fabio QUARTARARO FRA 147
2 Aleix ESPARGARO ESP 125
3 Enea BASTIANINI ITA 94
4 Johann ZARCO FRA 91
5 Francesco BAGNAIA ITA 81
6 Brad BINDER RSA 73
7 Alex RINS ESP 69
8 Joan MIR ESP 69
9 Jack MILLER AUS 65
10 Marc MARQUEZ ESP 60
11 Miguel OLIVEIRA POR 57
12 Jorge MARTIN ESP 51
13 Maverick VIÑALES ESP 46
14 Luca MARINI ITA 41
15 Pol ESPARGARO ESP 40
16 Takaaki NAKAGAMI JPN 38
17 Marco BEZZECCHI ITA 30
18 Alex MARQUEZ ESP 26
19 Franco MORBIDELLI ITA 22
20 Darryn BINDER RSA 10
21 Fabio DI GIANNANTONIO ITA 8
22 Andrea DOVIZIOSO ITA 8
23 Remy GARDNER AUS 8
24 Raul FERNANDEZ ESP 1
25 Michele PIRRO ITA 0
26 Stefan BRADL GER 0
27 Lorenzo SAVADORI ITA 0

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