Aleix Espargaro was poised to take his second victory of the 2022 MotoGP season and the second win of his 12-year MotoGP career at the Catalunya Grand Prix. The Aprilia rider not only grew up a stone’s throw away from the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya but qualified on pole position with a record-breaking fastest lap.
Espargaro came into the race weekend only eight points behind Rider’s Championship leader Fabio Quartararo and with four consecutive podium finishes to his name. The Catalan GP looked like the perfect venue to reel in the Yamaha rider, but the Espargaro’s race was hard-fought from lights out.
On the approach to the first corner, Quartararo out-braked the Spanish rider, taking the early lead. He never relinquished it for the next 24 laps. As the reigning champ disappeared into the distance, Espargaro battled with Prima Pramac Ducati riders Jorge Martin and Johann Zarco for the majority of the race. After exchanging overtakes with Martin, Espargaro regained control of second place until an ill-fated error on the final lap ruined number 41’s podium chances.
Riding over the finish line on the penultimate lap, Espargaro mistakenly thought the race had concluded. Many believed he experienced a technical issue due to his leisurely pace, but his error became apparent when he started waving to the crowd. Realizing his blunder, Espargaro rejoined the field in sixth place before taking the checkered flag in fifth.
“It’s a mistake that, it’s not admittable at this category. It’s completely my fault,” confessed Espargaro. “My pit (board) was too close to the first corner, it was the first one, so I had no time to watch the laps, and the gap to Martin, I was pushing to the limit so I just watched the gap to Martin, +0.6, and then to watch the lap I watched the tower. And I saw L1, so I did one lap, and then I didn’t remember that here in Barcelona the last lap is number zero [L0], not one. So I closed the gas [throttle] on the straight.”
Espargaro’s gaffe cost him three places and nine championship points, in the end. Had Espargaro held onto second place, we would only trail championship leader Quartararo by thirteen points heading into the German Grand Prix. Instead, Quartararo enjoys a 22-point lead over the Aprilia man as we approach the mid-point of the season.
“I’m very sorry for my team,” Espargaro added. “Because I know I don’t have the speed of Fabio to win, but if I want to beat him in the championship, I cannot do these mistakes. Today I lost nine points, so I’m very sorry.”
Sources: Le Repaire Des Motards, The Race