MotoGP Argentina Race Reports: Espargaro & Aprilia’s First Win

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The Gran Premio Michelin de la Republica Argentina will go down in the record books as the first ever premier class win for Aprilia and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing), so every manufacturer on the grid has now won a MotoGP race and every rider on the grid now has a Grand Prix victory.

The Argentina GP also marked Espargaro’s 200th premier class start, with the stage perfectly set to celebrate in style as the long road from 125s to 250s to MotoGP™, back to Moto2™, through the CRT era to MotoGP™ factory rider ended on the top step of the premier class podium.

It didn’t come easy either, with Pramac Racing’s Jorge Martin leading the way for much of the race and then battling it out, ultimately forced to settle for second but taking his first podium of the year. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) likewise took his first podium of 2022 and first since Silverstone last season, the Suzuki rider close to the duel ahead but not quite close enough to attack.

For the first time since 2019, it was lights out in Argentina and Martin got away superbly from the middle of the front row for the holeshot. Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) launched well to move up into P3 as well, just behind polesitter and older brother Aleix Espargaro as it got close but not full contact close at the front.

The top two, Martin and Aleix Espargaro, soon started to stretch clear. The gap was up to a second pretty rapidly as Pol Espargaro and Rins battled past Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) and a whole host of riders sat line astern. Reigning World Champion Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™), meanwhile, had dropped back to P13 from the second row, with Indonesian GP winner Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) behind him and the likes of Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing), Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu), Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) and Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) all making moves in the initial freight train.



The gap at the front extended and extended fast. Martin and Aleix Espargaro soon had a buffer of two seconds to Rins and Pol Espargaro, with Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) into P5 ahead of Marini, who in turn had Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing), Bagnaia and Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) for close company.

Lap 10 of 25 saw Aleix Espargaro run wide at Turn 1, losing 0.4s, and then the Aprilia man ran wide at Turn 5 – two mistakes in five corners costing the Spaniard 0.9s. That left Rins just a second in arrears as the Suzuki rider kept chipping away at the gap and Martin’s lead, with 15 laps to go, was up to just over a second. The response from Aleix Espargaro? The fastest lap of the Grand Prix – a 1:39.375, 0.4s quicker than Martin.

After Zarco crashed out earlier, the next to suffer a crash was then Pol Espargaro, rider ok. That promoted Mir to P4, but the 2020 World Champion had two seconds to bridge if he wanted to fight his teammate Rins for the final podium spot.

Up front meanwhile, Aleix Espargaro had regrouped and was now back to where he was before the double error – 0.3s behind Martin – and the first hint of a move came with eight laps to go. The Aprilia moved out the slipstream and was ahead, but it was only briefly. Hard on the anchors, Espargaro couldn’t get his RS-GP stopped at the apex and Martin was back through.



A lap later, it was copy/paste at Turn 5. Still no way through for Espargaro, who looked like he had a bit of pace in his pocket over Martin. But then, at the third attempt at Turn 5, the Aprilia was through. With four and a half laps to go, Aprilia and Espargaro were leading. With three to go, Martin hadn’t been dropped by Espargaro, and Rins was now 0.8s behind too. Two to go: 0.2s split the top two, and Rins was still just under a second behind.

Heading onto the last lap though, it looked like the stage was set. Espargaro had been able to give himself just over half a second of breathing space, and a monumentally huge lap was incoming for the number 41 and Aprilia – with just 4.8km of asphalt separating him from a dream debut victory. Turn 5 was safely negotiated. Turn 7 too. Three corners left quickly become two. Turn 13 was safely negotiated, no attack from Martin incoming, and finally, flicking his RS-GP left, Espargaro took the chequered flag in P1 for the very first time, handing Aprilia their first premier class victory and adding another entry into the record books.



Just behind, Martin had no answer in the end for Espargaro but second place is crucial to kickstart his World Championship after two DNFs in Qatar and Indonesia, putting him on the board. Rins completed the podium for his first visit to the rostrum in 2022, and in the end, Mir was only 0.5s away from his teammate and podium finish. That has put Team Suzuki Ecstar top of the teams’ standings, with Ducati top in the consctructors’ thanks to Martin. Aleix Espargaro, meanwhile, leads the riders’ Championship for the first time.

Bagnaia put in an impressive Sunday salvage to take P5, the Italian getting the better of Brad Binder. Viñales enjoyed by far his best weekend yet with Aprilia as he takes home P7, ahead of former teammate Quartararo. The reigning Champion took a lonely P8 in the end.

Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) upped the rookie ante with an impressive ninth place as he takes over at the top in the fight for Rookie of the Year, and the Italian beat compatriots Bastianini and Marini to it too. The ‘Beast’ loses the points lead after a P10, with Marini slipping down the order to P11. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) fended off Oliveira for P12, with Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) behind them as the Australian couldn’t make progress on Sunday afternoon and picked up a lowly P14. Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) claimed the final point in P15.

History made and party begun, that’s a wrap and we have some new winners in town as the paddock packs up and heads for Texas. What awaits in the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas and, maybe crucially, who? The top step has only belonged to two, so tune in next week to see the next chapter in the story – with the sport also celebrating a very special milestone: 500 Grands Prix of the FIM, IRTA, MSMA and Dorna Racing together.


Aleix Espargaro: “I’m extremely happy about this weekend in Argentina. Overall in Qatar and Indonesia I also felt very strong. I felt competitive, I think we had a solid weekend. Honestly, the race was not easy. I expected it to be a bit easier as this morning I felt very strong. But I think I had a smart race, and finally after this long period with Aprilia we achieved the victory and we are leading the championship. This is like a dream. We keep our feet on the ground, but I think we truly deserve this!”


 


MotoGP Podium (Full Results Here)

1 Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) – Aprilia – 41’36.198
2 Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) – Ducati – +0.807
3 Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) – Suzuki – +1.330


Moto2
Celestino Vietti (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) marches on in style in the 2022 Moto2™ World Championship, putting in another stellar performance in Argentina for win number two of the season. Idemitsu Honda Team Asia celebrated a double podium as Somkiat Chantra took back to back rostrum finishes, this time in second, and Ai Ogura fended off Aron Canet (Flexbox HP40) on the final lap to finish P3. It’s the first time two former Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup riders have shared the class podium. Fermin Aldeguer (MB Conveyors Speed Up) crashed after contact with Vietti at Turn 13, deemed a racing incident.

Polesitter Aldeguer got away the best, but alongside him, Augusto Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was more sluggish. A bad start then turned into a disastrous start for the number 37, as he made some contact with Ogura’s rear wheel at Turn 1 and crashed out of contention. Vietti made a great start from the third row to move up, the only rider keeping tabs on Aldeguer in the opening exchanges.

At Turn 1 on Lap 4, Vietti then carved past Aldeguer to take the lead. Chantra was holding third, the Thai rider a second away from Aldeguer’s rear wheel, as Canet also made great progress to climb up to P4. Vietti, Aldeguer and Chantra seemed to be holding station. But with 16 to go, drama struck. Vietti was slightly wide at Turn 13 and sniffing an opportunity, Aldeguer stuck his front wheel up the inside. The two came together and the rider coming off worse was Alduguer, who was up on his feet but out of the race.

Up ahead, Vietti also now had his hands full with Chantra. Canet was P3 but over a second off second, with Ogura keeping tabs on the Spaniard in P4 – and the Japanese rider was the fastest rider in the lead group. For a second time, Vietti was then wide at Turn 13, and this time it did allow Chantra to come through and take the lead. On the following lap though, Chantra was wide at the same corner, putting Vietti back in charge. Chantra stayed settled in behind Vietti for a number of laps then, with the action shifting to behind between Ogura and Canet. The battle allowed Vietti and Chantra sail 1.7s up the road from the duo, and with five laps to go, it looked like it was Vietti vs Chantra for victory.

With just over two laps to go, Vietti pulled the pin and the gap went up over a second heading onto the last lap. Chantra, in turn, was 3.8s clear of teammate Ogura, but the Japanese rider was absolutely not clear of Canet. With a place on the podium up for grabs, the Spaniard was swarming all over the back of him and lunged at Turn 5. Canet was wide though, allowing Ogura back through, but the Spaniard then tried again at Turn 7 and managed to hold it around the outside of Turn 8.

As it already had in plenty Moto3™ battles, it would come down to the penultimate corner. As Vietti sailed over the finish line for win two from three and Chantra secured his first back to back podiums, Ogura shot up the inside of Canet with a classic harsh but clean move, and the Honda Team Asia rider kept it pinned to the line to make it the first time two former ATC riders have shared the podium in the intermediate class.

Finishing less than a second behind Canet came Jake Dixon (Autosolar GASGAS Aspar Team) in P5, which marks a solid bounce back for the British rider after his Indonesian GP disappointment as he got the better of Tony Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) in the closing stages. Arbolino claimed a fantastic P6, with the Italian coming home over four seconds clear of reigning Moto3™ World Champion Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) in P7. Albert Arenas (Autosolar GASGAS Aspar Team), Bo Bendsneyder (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team) and Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) closed out the top 10.

Cameron Beaubier (American Racing) takes a P11 home from his first visit to Termas, the American now gets set for his home Grand Prix next weekend. Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP), Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team), rookie Manuel Gonzalez (Yamaha VR46 Master Camp Team) and Marcos Ramirez (MV Agusta Forward Racing) took the final points on offer.


Moto2 Podium (Full Results Here)

1 Celestino Vietti (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) – Kalex – 39’44.098
2 Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) – Kalex – +1.538
3 Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) – Kalex – +5.703


As last laps go, Argentina was pretty special from Sergio Garcia (Solunion GASGAS Aspar Team). The now-Championship leader went from third to first and attacked Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing) with some penultimate corner poetry to take his first win of the season. The Italian was quick to congratulate the move despite being forced to settle for second, once more banking some serious points as he and Garcia pull clear at the top. Ayumu Sasaki (Sterilgarda Husqvarna Max) went from front row to podium despite a Long Lap penalty the Japanese rider had to serve from Indonesia, finally putting bad luck to bed.

It was a perfect getaway from pole for Garcia, who comfortably led into Turn 1, but a slower start for teammate Izan Guevara on the outside of the front row. However, despite dropping to P5 on the opening lap, Guevara expertly picked his way back through and on Lap 2 at Turn 5, took the lead from Garcia. The two GASGAS riders immediately started stretching clear as second on the grid Sasaki took his Long Lap Penalty.

Jaume Masia (Red Bull KTM Ajo) set the fastest lap of the race on Lap 3 and had climbed from outside the top 10 into the top three, but with plenty of squabbling going on, the GASGAS leading duo were nearly a second up the road. By 14 laps to go though, Masia had bridged the gap and had Andrea Migno (Rivacold Snipers Team) in tow.

A leading quintet of Guevara, Garcia, Masia, Migno and Diogo Moreira (MT Helmets – MSI) held station at the front, but drama then unfolded for race leader Guevara. At Turn 3 with 12 laps to go, the sophomore’s machine said no more and through no fault of his own, Guevara was out of the race, dropping down the Championship standings in the process. Meanwhile, Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing) had made his way up to P5 from a tougher qualifying, and on Lap 11 of 21, the Italian snapped up a two-for-one deal at Turn 13 – Moreira and Masia dispatched, Foggia was now P3 and in the hunt for the win.

Turn 13 then staged arguably the biggest drama of the race. Trying to go through a door that wasn’t fully open, Migno collided with Masia and both were down with just over five laps to go. That left Garcia leading Leopard duo Foggia and Tatsuki Suzuki by half a second, with Riccardo Rossi (SIC58 Squadra Corse) and Sasaki in the top five, the latter after clawing his way back from outside the points.

After reviewing the incident between Migno and Masia from every angle, the FIM MotoGP™ Stewards deemed it a racing incident with some responsibility shared between both riders. Masia did however receive a warning for the “touch” to Migno’s helmet after the crash.

With two to go, Foggia was closing in on Garcia. Half a second became 0.2s in a couple of laps and at Turn 12, Foggia led. The Italian kept the lead onto the final lap from Garcia, with Suzuki, Sasaki and Rossi in the top five, but Garcia then found himself in the firing line as Suzuki sliced past to make it a Leopard 1-2. The Spaniard was able to respond, however, replying at Turn 9 and then locking on to Foggia just ahead. 

There was. The number 11’s burgeoning reputation as a rider who will always go full send on Sunday – and within the limit – has been well-earned and Argentina would prove no different. Slicing up the inside at the final corner, the GASGAS rider got it done, kept it, and gassed it to the line for victory with Foggia hot on his heels. Just behind them, Sasaki dived up the inside of Suzuki too and made that stick, back on the podium despite a Long Lap to turn proven speed in 2022 into points. Suzuki, for his part, was given a drop one position penalty for track limits on the last lap too – so he’s classified fifth as Rossi takes P4.

Impressive rookie Moreira continued to earn that moniker as the Brazilian took P6, just ahead of a big step forward for 2021 FIM JuniorGP™ Champion Daniel Holgado (Red Bull KTM Ajo) as he gets back to full fitness after injury struggles in preseason. Carlos Tatay (CFMoto Racing PrüstelGP), Kaito Toba (CIP Green Power) and his teammate Joel Kelso rounded out the top 10.

Elia Bartolini (QJMotor Avintia Racing Team) and Ryusei Yamanaka (MT Helmets – MSI) were P11 and P12 respectively, the duo finished ahead of Red Bull KTM Tech3 duo Adrian Fernandez and Deniz Öncü – both of whom had to take Long Lap Penalties for shortcuts. Ivan Ortola (Angeluss MTA Team) was the final point scorer in P15.


Moto3 Podium (Full Results Here)

1 Sergio Garcia (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team) – GASGAS – 38:23.433
2 Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing) – Honda – +0.146
3 Ayumu Sasaki (Sterilgarda Husqvarna Max) – Husqvarna – +0.375

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