Motorcycle Racing

Espargaro wins sprint after Bagnaia crashes from lead

Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia Racing Team

Set to end a barren sprint run without a win on Saturday since last year’s Austrian GP, Bagnaia fell off his factory Ducati at Turn 5 on the last lap of 12, while eight tenths clear of Aprilia’s Espargaro.

Espargaro, who started from pole but got beaten up in the early laps, had recovered to second on lap eight and was promoted to the lead when Bagnaia crashed.

It marks his first sprint win of the season and comes just 48 hours after announcing prior to his home race that he will retire from racing at the end of the 2024 season.

Given the events of the weekend so far, Espargaro called his win a “fairytale”.

“Has been amazing the last two days, like a fairytale,” he told the MotoGP world feed in parc ferme.

“I have no words to describe it. The race was very tough, track was super slippery, I lost the front of couple of times.

“When I saw the lap times we were doing, I was completely sure it was impossible to finish with that pace.

“In fact, people started to crash. I just tried to maintain the pace, maintain the rear tyre for the last laps.

“Pecco was doing great as well, but he was risking, so my goal was to push him to the last corner and it worked. I’m very happy.”

Marc Marquez came from 14th on the grid to second, besting Tech3 GasGas rookie Pedro Acosta on the final lap.

A tough race for championship leader Jorge Martin saw him salvage fourth from seventh on the grid, meaning his points lead has only shrunk by one to 37.

The 12-lap sprint had five riders leading at various stages, three of whom crashed out while heading the pack.

Bagnaia nailed the launch off the line from second on the grid to take the holeshot at the start, with Acosta moving into second from third-place starter Raul Fernandez (Trackhouse Racing), KTM’s Brad Binder and Espargaro.

Martin moved up to sixth in the opening turns, while Marquez survived Turn 2 contact with KTM’s Jack Miller – which left the Gresini rider missing wings on the left side of his fairing – to sit eighth off the line.

Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia Racing Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Acosta put a challenge on Bagnaia for the lead on the run to Turn 1 at the start of lap two, though the Ducati rider carved past again at Turn 5.

Acosta repeated that move on lap three, while Fernandez got opportunistic and scythed underneath Bagnaia at Turn 3, which then allowed Binder to overtake the Italian for third at Turn 4.

Fernandez then threw…

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