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Motorcycling-Espargaro leads Aprilia one-two in Catalunya

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BARCELONA (Reuters) – Aleix Espargaro claimed victory ahead of Aprilia team mate Maverick Vinales at the Catalunya Grand Prix on Sunday, as championship leader Francesco Bagnaia crashed on the opening lap while leading from pole position.

Sprint-winner Espargaro was second for much of the race, but the Spaniard took advantage of Vinales’ worn out front tyre to surge into the lead with four laps left and seal the win at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya – located seven kilometres from his home town of Granollers.

The win erased the memories of Espargaro’s premature celebration at last year’s Catalunya GP, when he was one lap away from sealing second position but thought the race was over and began waving to his fans.

Aprilia had looked on course for a clean sweep, but Pramac Racing riders Jorge Martin and Johann Zarco leapfrogged Miguel Oliveira (RNF Aprilia) to finish third and fourth.

After a chaotic start marred by two crashes, the race was restarted for 23 laps and Martin rocketed off the line to take the lead heading into turn one, but he was quickly overtaken by Vinales and Espargaro.

Despite his third-placed finish, Martin will be happy to have made up ground on Bagnaia in the overall standings.

Earlier on Sunday, the race was red-flagged after Enea Bastianini slipped on turn one and took out Marco Bezzechi, Johann Zarco, Fabio Di Giannantonio and Alex Marquez, before Bagnaia was launched into the air by a highside on the next turn.

Bagnaia’s crash left him stranded in the middle of the track and KTM’s Brad Binder was unable to swerve out of the way as he ran over the world champion’s leg.

Bagnaia was taken to the medical centre in an ambulance, before being transferred to hospital for further treatment. Both Bagnaia and Bastianini were unable to return for the restart, leaving Ducati without a rider in the race.

(Reporting by Aadi Nair in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)

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