Espargaro Hangs On To Beat Rabat In Barcelona

Pol Espargaro brought his championship challenge back to life after fending off Esteve Rabat for victory on home soil in Barcelona. The two Pons teammates were nose-to-tail throughout but Espargaro hung on in the end and with Scott Redding fourth behind Thomas Luthi, he has now closed to within 35 points of the Briton.

Espargaro made no mistake off the line to lead around turn one but Redding was swallowed up despite making a decent start from second. Rabat was straight through into second with Takaaki Nakagami pushing Scott down to fourth. Further back there was mayhem though as several riders took the run-off between turns one and two, including Sandro Cortese whose superb grid position was wasted thanks to an accident for Toni Elias which collected the German.

With the Pons riders getting away, Redding knew he had to make short work of Nakagami and regained third halfway around lap two, followed through by Luthi, and a leading group of four was starting to form. Redding however didn’t have the speed down the straight to trouble the top two and instead, he came under threat from behind as Luthi deprived him of third on lap six.

By half distance, four were becoming two as the Pons Kalex pair pulled away but the order between the two was about to change with Espargaro leaving the door open for Rabat at turn three, choosing to follow his teammate for a spell. That period of patience would last three laps before Pol dived back through into turn four and despite coming under intense pressure in the final few laps, the pre-season title favourite hung on to win by 0.081s.

Even with Pol’s home glory, the happiest man on the podium would surely have been Luthi after claiming his first podium finish since returning from a horrendous pre-season testing injury. Redding was a distant fourth, minimizing the damage to his championship lead, with Nakagami taking fifth ahead of the impressive Randy Krummenacher. Johann Zarco was seventh for Ioda ahead of Dominique Aegerter, the third Swiss in the top ten, with Mika Kallio ninth on the second Marc VDS Kalex, losing six points to his teammate in the title chase.

Likewise, Nicolas Terol saw his title hopes damaged after missing out on the points altogether in sixteenth, two places ahead of Kyle Smith. Terol was beaten to the flag by Danny Kent who opened his points account with an excellent thirteenth.