MotoGP Catalunya: Quartararo dominates over late podium drama

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Picture: GeeBee Images

Monster Energy Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo showcased sensational and commanding pace to claim the Catalan GP by over six seconds on Sunday.

Leading from the opening corner, the MotoGP Champion never looked back for the Monster-sponsered victory. A battle brewing behind with Prima Pramac celebrating double delight as Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro misjudged the race distance, celebrating one lap early as his second place dissolved. Jorge Martin collecting the spoils just one day ahead of going under the surgeon’s knife, with Johann Zarco a delighted and unexpected third.

A blistering Barcelona saw the premier class line up with tyre choice firmly on their minds. The majority opting for medium front and rear Michelins bar the quartet of KTMs running hard fronts. Aprilia’s Maverick Viñales and LCR’s Alex Marquez took the soft rear gamble with just six riders running hard for the 24-lap battle. Prime position on the RS-GP saw Espargaro in pole for his home Grand Prix with constant rivals Pecco Bagnaia and Quartararo alongside. A trio of Ducatis behind once again with Gresini rookie Fabio di Giannantonio impressive for two races in a row from fifth.

Lights out and Quartararo launched to the lead through the opening corner as Bagnaia crashed out of contention after Takaaki Nakagami skittled out an unsuspecting Alex Rins with the accident initially under investigation before deemed a racing incident. Espargaro held his nerve in second from the satellite Ducatis of Martin and Zarco with his younger sibling in fifth. The second Repsol Honda of Stefan Bradl crashing out at turn ten.

Martin was through on the Aprilia for second as the pace picked up. Mir doing likewise on the remaining Repsol as Luca Marini and Viñales headed the Gresini pair of Diggia and Enea Bastianini in the top ten. The sole Suzuki told to drop a position as Bagnaia retired the stricken Desmosedici.

Quartararo held a 1’5s advantage after just four laps around the 4.6km layout and was building fast. Bastianini leapfrogging the mid pack on his way to seventh as his teammate faded in the opposite direction, to twelfth. Marco Bezzecchi was the next to succumb to the Catalan circuit with a fall at turn ten. His Mooney VR46 partner running sixth and on the back of the GSX-RR out front.

A two-second lead saw the reigning champion comfortable out front from Martin and Espargaro with Zarco a full second adrift of the podium battle after seven laps. Mir headed the second group as Marini and Bastianini trailed with Viñales on the wheels of the Gresini in eighth. Bastianini succumbed to his second DNF in a row as Ducati lost both its title challengers in the opening stages with turn five collecting the distraught Italian. Gresini’s heartbreaking growing as di Giannantonio slid out just a few corners later at turn 13.

Espargaro climbed to second as he finally found a way through on Martin on lap ten. Quartararo over three seconds ahead and running impressive pace out front. Marini setting his personal best one lap earlier as just four riders, including the leader, maintained mid 1’40 pace.

Quartararo’s lead was near-four seconds with 11 laps to go. Zarco running quickest of the trio behind as he looked to reel in his teammate with Espargaro holding a few tenths in hand over the Pramac pair. Mir, Marini and Vinales maintained their mid-pack positions with KTM’s Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira heading Marquez for the top ten. Further back Jack Miller ran 11th from the second fastest Yamaha, and rookie, Darryn Binder on the WithU RNF with Remy Gardner separating him from the factory M1 of Franky Morbidelli. Tech3’s final rider holding the last point on offer as Pol Espargaro dropped out to 16th.

Martin capitalised on Espargaro with nine laps to go, Zarco a threatening three-tenths back in the final podium battle with the Yamaha now over five seconds clear as his fellow Frenchman checked out.

Espargaro returned to second with four laps to go and immediately pulled a gap on the pursuing Pramac. Miller going backwards as the GP22 found itself in 14th.

Final lap drama saw the Aprilia fade to fifth as the Spaniard preempted the end of the race one lap too soon. Quartararo meeting the chequered flag six and a half seconds clear with Martin gifted second and Zarco third as Pramac celebrated a double podium.

Mir collected fourth in the late confusion with an embarrassed and crestfallen Espargaro fifth. Marini completing his second top-six result in succession from a rejuvenated Viñales with Binder, Oliveira and Marquez rounding out the top ten.

Gardner won the rookie battle in 11th from the younger South African with Morbidelli, Miller and Raul Fernandez taking the remaining points over Michele Pirro with Honda’s Espargaro completing a difficult day for the brothers in 17th.

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