Pol Espargaro has closed Scott Redding’s championship lead to 23 points with a vital victory in the San Marino Grand Prix. The Spaniard chased down long-time leader Takaaki Nakagami before overtaking two laps from home for his fourth win of the year while Redding claimed a hard fought sixth, losing 15 points to his arch rival.
Espargaro made a tremendous start to lead teammate Esteve Rabat through turn one but Nakagami quickly pushed between the two Pons Kalex machines with a late braking move into turn fourteen. The lead of Espargaro looked precarious from the moment Nakagami took second and at Quercia on lap four, the Japanese rider scythed past on the brakes.
For so long, Nakagami looked set for a hugely emotional win at the same venue where his compatriot Shoya Tomizawa lost his life three years ago but with seven laps to go, the complexion of the race changed. As Nakagami’s pace remained constant, Espargaro suddenly found another gear, setting the fastest lap on 22-lap-old tyres to wipe out the two second deficit. Sadly for Italtrans on home soil, there was an air of inevitability about their rider losing the lead and on the drag race to turn one on the penultimate lap, Espargaro nosed ahead decisively.
The usual late-race charge from Esteve Rabat failed to materialise, leaving the second Pons Kalex in third ahead of Thomas Luthi while Scott Redding was in the thick of a three-way fight for fifth. Dominique Aegerter managed to claw his way to the front but crucially, Redding snatched sixth with a last corner lunge on Johann Zarco.
Xavier Simeon edged out the second Marc VDS Kalex of Mika Kallio for eighth with Nicolas Terol completing the top ten but there wouldn’t be any points for British duo Danny Kent and Gino Rea who finished 19th and 22nd respectively.