Having been narrowly beaten at Mugello last time out, championship leader Fabio Quartararo returned to winning ways, taking a commanding victory at the Catalunya GP.
- Nakagami took out Bagnaia, Rins at Turn 1
- Bastianini crashed out for the 2nd race in a row
- A. Espargaro throws away podium after miscounting laps
Quartararo bags dominant victory
The MotoGP championship arrived at the second of four Spanish tracks it will race at this season, with Fabio Quartararo leading the championship and fresh off a second-place finish at Mugello.
The Italian race was won by Francesco Bagnaia, with Aleix Espargaro taking the final podium spot. Those three podium finishers were exactly the same men starting from the front row at Catalunya, with Espargaro taking a widely celebrated pole position at his home race, setting a new lap record in the process.
What was shaping up to be a dream home race weekend for Aleix Espargaro rapidly unravelled on Sunday, with the veteran Spaniard making a costly error in the closing stages of the race. First, he didn’t quite nail the start, being passed by Quartararo on the brakes at turn 1. He was then soon passed by a fast-starting Jorge Martin aboard his Pramac Ducati, against whom he duelled for most of the race, while Quartararo got away at the front.
Leading the race on his Yamaha, the Frenchman laid down a blistering pace at the front, despite the sizzling track temperatures and high rate of tyre wear usually experienced at the Catalan circuit. Just as impressive as his speed was the 24-year-old’s consistency, with the Yamaha man riding a faultless race on his way to a dominant 6.5-second victory.
Aleix Espargaro makes costly error
The Spanish pair of Espargaro and Martin swapped positions a number of times throughout the race, with Martin’s teammate Johann Zarco always closely trailing them. But Espargaro was able to make a crucial break in the closing stages of the race, passing Martin and pulling away to give himself some breathing space. The Aprilia man seemed all set to pick up second place and what would be his fifth podium in a row.
But in what can only be called a rookie mistake, the 32-year-old miscounted the laps remaining and began celebrating too early, slowing down to wave to the crowd at the end of lap 23 in the 24 lap race. By the time he realised his mistake and got back up to racing speed, he could only salvage fifth place. It was a truly heartbreaking end to an otherwise seriously impressive weekend from the Spaniard, but he has nobody to blame but himself.
Speaking after the race, Espargaro said he felt he had the speed to match Quartararo’s pace, but was overly conservative in the opening laps, in an attempt to conserve tyre life for the latter stages of the race. He was eventually caught out by a peculiar quirk of the Catalan racetrack, where the timing tower reads ‘L0’ for the final lap, rather than ‘L1’. His blunder promoted Martin to second and Zarco to third, putting both Pramac Ducati bikes on the podium.
Nakagami wipes out Bagnaia and Rins
If Espargaro’s race was a case of what could have been, then Bagnaia’s race was truly an unmitigated disaster, with the Italian finding himself on the ground at Turn 1 on the first lap. Starting from second on the grid, the Ducati Lenovo rider got a decent enough start, was a little conservative on the brakes for Turn 1, and entered the corner in 3rd place. He wouldn’t make it out of that turn, with Takaaki Nakagami outbraking himself behind, losing the front-end of his machine, and wiping out both Rins and Bagnaia in the carnage.
Bagnaia saw a potential 25 points slip away in what has already been a relatively underwhelming start to his 2022 campaign, but Rins had it even worse, suffering a broken wrist as a result of the crash. Both victims were vocal in their criticism of Nakagami’s overly ambitious braking move, for which the Japanese Honda rider managed to avoid any penalty from the race stewards.
Further back, Joan Mir went some way in making up for Suzuki’s disappointment with Rins, by charging through from 14th on the grid to take a strong fourth place finish. An improving Luca Marini equalled his best dry race MotoGP finish with sixth place, while fellow Italian and championship contender Enea Bastianini crashed out for the second race in a row while coming through the pack from a poor qualifying position.
2022 MotoGP championship standings
Quartararo came into this round with a slender eight-point lead in the championship, closely trailed by Espargaro, Bastianini and Bagnaia. But with all three of his main rivals failing to score big points in Catalunya, the Yamaha man now has some breathing room, leading the standings by 22 points over Aleix Espargaro.
2022 Catalunya MotoGP results
|2022 Catalunya MotoGP results|
|2||Jorge Martin||Pramac Racing|
|3||Johann Zarco||Pramac Racing|
|6||Luca Marini||Mooney VR46 Racing|
|8||Brad Binder||Red Bull KTM|
|9||Miguel Oliveira||Red Bull KTM|
|10||Alex Marquez||LCR Honda|
|11||Remy Gardner||Tech3 KTM|
|12||Darryn Binder||Yamaha RNF|
|15||Raul Fernandez||Tech3 KTM|
|16||Michele Pirro||Aruba.it Racing|
|17||Pol Espargaro||Repsol Honda|
|NC||Andrea Dovizioso||Yamaha RNF|
|NC||Fabio Di Ginnantonio||Gresini Racing|
|NC||Enea Bastianini||Gresini Racing|
|NC||Marco Bezzecchi||Mooney VR46 Racing|
|NC||Takaaki Nakagami||LCR Honda|
|NC||Stefan Bradl||Repsol Honda|