If it was a long wait for flight BSC4042 to return MotoGP to Argentina after Covid, fire and freight tried to spoil what is always a fantastic party, Aleix Espargaro’s wait for victory must have felt like an eternity. Although the latest page in MotoGP’s history book wasn’t written until the final couple of laps in Argentina, Espargaro managed to fulfil the prophecy and reward himself and Aprilia with a maiden victory in the premier class on his 200th start. And throw in there the lead in the world championship for a nice hattrick. Jorge Martin looked prepared to spoil the party for most of the 25 laps, but eventually seemed happy enough with second, while Alex Rins completed an all-Spanish podium.
Espargaro didn’t make the best of starts from pole position, allowing Martin to breeze past into turn one but quickly regrouped to chase down his compatriot, with Luca Marini, brother Pol and Rins in tow. However, Martin and Espargaro quickly extended a one second advantage by lap four, helped by some exchanges between the men behind, Pol Espargaro, Marini and the Suzukis particularly keen to make progress early on. Maverick Viñales, Brad Binder and Pecco Bagnaia were not too far behind at that stage, while Enea Bastianini joined the top 10 by lap two, but already had a one and a half second gap to recover on the group ahead. Meanwhile, Fabio Quartararo seemed to be in trouble, dropping to 13th and struggling to find a way past Johann Zarco, his compatriot inadvertently doing him a favour on lap six, by sliding out harmlessly at turn two.
As if to confirm that it takes two to tango, the leaders had separated into pairs by lap 10, Martin and Aleix two seconds ahead of Rins and Pol, with Joan Mir trying to go solo, away from a feisty lot including Marini, Viñales, Bagnaia and Binder. The Aprilia statesman made his first mistake of the weekend when he ran wide at the start of lap 10, quickly followed by a second mistake at turn five, allowing Martin a second of breathing room over the next couple of laps. Regardless, the Pramac rider didn’t get to enjoy his personal space for long, Espargaro quickly posting personal best times to bridge the gap once more by the halfway point of the race.
While the poleman bided his time for an attack, Rins maintained a respectable distance ahead of Pol Espargaro, but the Honda man accidentally helped him increase that, by crashing out at turn two with 11 laps remaining and leaving the Suzukis separated by two seconds. Viñales was a pretty lonely fifth, another second back, while Bastianini had made good progress to lead the battle for sixth but one liberally-taken line lost him a handful of positions and relegated him right back to 13th. Meanwhile, Bagnaia didn’t have an easy time finding a way past Marini and by the time he made a move stick, heading into the second half of the race, he was six seconds off the lead.
Back in the victory battle, Aleix Espargaro made the first move with eight laps remaining but running wide at turn five immediately returned Martin to the front. The poleman gave it another go two laps later, in the same place, with the exact same result, but third time was indeed lucky and put the premier class veteran into the lead with five laps remaining. There was still a little bit of a threat from behind, where the Suzukis were setting a hot pace but with a second to find for Rins and almost two for Mir. Despite a couple of mistakes taking him off the ideal line, Espargaro kept the lead heading into the penultimate lap of the race and even managed to extend a half second gap to his younger pursuer.
The final lap must have felt interminable for all involved, but Espargaro sealed the deal on his and Aprilia’s first premier class victory by eight tenths of a second. Martin didn’t look all that upset with second place, while Rins closed the gap to half a second to claim the final podium position, ahead of teammate Mir. Bagnaia’s progress stopped at fifth place, both him and Binder demoting Viñales in the final couple of laps, while Quartararo finished in a lonely eighth place. Ninth place was the battle of the Italian youngsters, rookie Marco Bezzecchi coming from 17th on the grid to beat Bastianini and Marini to the punch.
Aprilia's historic weekend puts Aleix Espargaro in the lead of the championship by seven points over Binder, with Bastianini dropping to third by nine points, tied with Rins.
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