Motorcycling-Espargaro wins Catalunya GP sprint after three race leaders crash

  • Cycling
  • Saturday, 25 May 2024

FILE PHOTO: Apr 14, 2024; Austin, TX, USA; Aleix Espargaro (41) of Spain and Aprilia Racing rides in warmups before the start of the MotoGP Grand Prix of The Americas at Circuit of The Americas. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo

(Reuters) -Aprilia Racing's Aleix Espargaro won the Catalunya Grand Prix sprint in front of his home fans on Saturday after three different riders crashed while leading the race, including Ducati's reigning champion Francesco Bagnaia on the final lap.

Gresini Racing's Marc Marquez finished an astonishing second despite starting 14th on the grid and losing a part of his aero package in a collision, while rookie Pedro Acosta celebrated his 20th birthday by completing an all-Spanish podium.

"It's like a fairytale, I don't have the words to describe it. The track was super slippery but when I saw the lap times (of the leaders) I knew it was impossible to finish with that pace," Espargaro said.

Espargaro had smashed the lap record to take pole but the Spaniard had a poor start, slipping back to fifth by the end of the first lap, while Bagnaia took the lead with Acosta on his tail.

Acosta soon took over the lead only for Trackhouse Racing's Raul Fernandez, aggressive on the throttle, to elbow past Bagnaia and then Acosta himself. Brad Binder then took advantage of the chaos to work his way up to second.

It all went wrong for leader Fernandez when he had just started pulling away, crashing out at the front at turn 10 and pounding the gravel with his fists in frustration.

Bagnaia, meanwhile, had moved up and had only Binder in front of him, until the South African crashed out at turn five.

Bagnaia himself then gave Espargaro -- who is retiring at the end of the season -- an early departure gift when he crashed on the final lap, handing the Aprilia rider his first sprint victory of the season.

Marquez was running third but once again this season he made a last-lap overtake, this time on Acosta, to grab second place.

"The track was slippery but the pace was there," Marquez said. "In the last lap I was able to go faster (even though) my rear tyre wasn't in very good shape."

Championship leader Jorge Martin of Pramac Racing finished fourth and has a 37-point lead over six-times MotoGP champion Marquez, who has now moved up to second in the standings.

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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