With a spectacular final lap overtake by Francesco Bagnaia, Enea Bastianini won the Aragon MotoGP Grand Prix and broke Bagnaia’s winning streak for four consecutive races. It was Bastianini’s fourth win of the season.
“I won on [Bagnaia] on the last lap, and this time it was possible to attack,” Bastianini told NBC Sports. “I was able to win this race and now we are going to Japan.”
Bastianini pursued Bagnaia throughout the race. On the final lap, Bagnaia was forced to balance his need for the 20 championship points that came from second place with his desire to become the third rider in MotoGP history to win five consecutive wins. . The need for points was even more important because championship leader Fabio Quartararo crashed on the first lap and couldn’t earn any at all.
Bagnaia entered the race, dropping Quartararo’s lead by 61 points in the final four rounds. He scored another 20 points at the Aragon Grand Prix and is now 10 points behind with five rounds remaining.
“It was great,” Bagnaia said. “I did my best and on the last lap it seemed like there was more grip. Enea did an incredible job all weekend. It was already known that he and Fabio were the fastest, and Fabio had an accident on the first lap.
“Anyway, I did my best and on the last lap I didn’t feel like I could overtake Enea because I already took too many risks on the previous lap so 20 points was important and that’s okay.”
Extremely expensive Sunday for @FabioQ20hopes for the World Cup! 💥
— MotoGP™🏁 (@MotoGP) September 18, 2022
The battle for the championship took a dramatic turn on the first lap. Returning to MotoGP after several hand surgeries, Marc Marquez was determined to play a decisive role.
In the first two corners of the race, Márquez overtook seven riders to take the lead. In turn three, his rear wheel slipped and Quartararo had nowhere to go. Quartararo clipped Márquez’s bike and he flew out of his Yamaha to finish last and score no points.
“It was really unfortunate,” Marquez told NBC Sports. “In turn three I had a moment where I lost the back and Fabio was very close as usual on the first lap and then I got contact.”
Marquez suffered significant injuries and was also forced to retire.
Ahead of the pack, Bagnaya was chasing the book of records.
Leading early, he momentarily lost the lead to Bastianini until that rider went into the corner too hard and pushed him. Bagnaia lashed out and reclaimed first place, but failed to sway the rider who would become his teammate in 2023 at Ducati. Bastianini followed Banaya for most of the race, but he knew the pass had to be flawless. Coming out of the corner halfway through the last lap, he completed the pass.
The two leaders crossed under the checkers with a difference of 0.042 seconds when Bagnaya drove up to the winner’s rear wheel.
Taking 1st-2nd places, Bastianini and Bagnaia won the manufacturer’s championship for Ducati.
The battle for the last podium was also decided late in the race when Alex Espargaro made an equally dramatic pass to Brad Binder with two to go. Jack Miller rounded out the top five as the three riders were separated by about eight tenths of a second.
With a broken finger, Espargaro has reduced the gap to 17 points and is also in contention for the title.
In Moto2, rookie Pedro Acosta takes second win of the season over Aaron Kane and points leader Augusto Fernandez.
Fernandez has a marginal seven-point lead over fourth-placed Ai Ogura.
Americans Joe Roberts and Cameron Beaubier finished ninth and 11th respectively.
To paraphrase the Grateful Dead, what a long and unique journey Tanner Faust went through in his first season in the Extreme E series when he took early season lessons in Chile to compete in the Copper X Prix. And he learned his lessons well.
McLaren announced in February that it would expand its motorsport program with the Extreme E. They signed two talented rally drivers, Foust and Emma Gilmour, and put them on the first round in Neom, Saudi Arabia, with just a few days of testing behind them. Scorched by the sun of the Arabian desert, it was tested by fire.
The duo performed well in their debut, advancing to the final round and finishing in fifth place. As the Extreme E heads into another desert halfway across the globe to stage four, it’s time to catch up with Faust and ask about McLaren’s progress. Last weekend in one of the most extreme regions of the world – the Atacama Desert – the Copper X Prix competition was held.
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“The shock in the first race was the speed,” Faust told NBC Sports. “It was much higher than what we tested. We spent a lot of time around 100 miles an hour [in race trim] and our test speeds were more in the 60 to 70 mile range. Then when we sort of got around that, the car was upgraded so you can drive it even faster.”
In rally racing, some incidents are beyond the control of the driver. Even peeking out from behind another car can be dangerous due to potholes that have recently been dug into the ground or large bushes that seem to sprout between the circles. A couple of flips got Foust back on the ground, but the speed was there, and that was important.
“We’ve had some issues this season,” Fust said ahead of the Copper X Prix. “We had a good start; reached the final, which is not easy to do in this series. I had two throws in the first three competitions, but each time I added. Now we come into the 4th round in Chile with a pretty strong position. We have competitive moments in the team. We communicate and think very well about this Odyssey car.”
Fust’s words proved to be prophetic.
He won the Crazy Race – the Extreme E version of the Last Chance qualifier – and did so after clearing the course. Similarly, he reached the Saudi Arabian final, but this time it was better. There were those hard-earned lessons to draw on, and Fust had representatives behind him. He wasn’t about to be taken by surprise by any random obstacles.
In the Copper X Prix final, he put pressure on one of the best rally drivers in the history of the sport.
At the end of his stretch, after pitching sideways through a tight southpaw, Fust put his McLaren Extreme E Odyssey at the head of the pack in front of Sebastian Loeb as they headed into the switch zone. There he will hand over the car to his navigator Gilmour.
The Extreme E series is designed for male and female drivers, and both are behind the wheel.
After a driver change, Gilmour momentarily lost the lead to Loeb’s teammate Cristina Gutiérrez, but as they raced to the finish line, she took the lead and slipped under the checkers first.
“What an improvement for the team compared to this year,” Fust said after the race. “We struggled with some events being in the first year of competition. This weekend we showed real pace; Overtaking Sebastian Loeb was a highlight.
“Emma did a great job in the final. I was lucky enough to go from last to first in the Crazy Race and then to first in the final, but with some penalty flags, 20 seconds were added to our time, putting us in fifth place. It was great to cross the finish line first, I love this wide track and the NEOM McLaren Odyssey was fantastic here.
“Hopefully we can continue that momentum in Uruguay.”
Loeb and Gutierrez climbed to the top of the podiumbut the feeling of going under checkers first cannot be taken away.
Since the invention of automobiles, racing has played a socially responsible role in improving safety. As the Earth reaches a tipping point with climate change, racing must adapt to these new needs and demands, and this is where Extreme E’s unique strategy becomes increasingly important.
The Extreme E experience is about more than just racing. Each race is accompanied by a legacy program designed to repair the damage caused by climate change and erase the footprints caused by the events.
Faust, a biologist at the University of Colorado, had the opportunity to rekindle his interest and pay tribute to the environment ahead of the Copper X Prix.
Atacama is the oldest desert in the world, dating back 150 million years. It is the driest place on earth with the highest levels of ultraviolet radiation. Yet somehow life continues through underground rivers with oases dating back to the Incas…