Italian Francesco Bagnaia won the Spanish MotoGP at Jerez on Sunday ahead of France’s world champion Fabio Quartararo, who increased his lead at the top of the championship.
Spaniards Aleix Espargaro and Marc Marquez took the next two places as Spaniard Alex Rins, who started the race level on points atop the standings, failed to score.
Bagnaia won six times last season as he finished second to Quartararo in the championship, but had struggled this season, finishing no better than fifth.
He said he was still battling shoulder pain in Spain, but he set a scorching time in qualifying on his factory Ducati to secure pole position.
At the start, he shot away from the pack and stayed ahead the rest of the way.
“It’s a beautiful day,” he said. “Finally this weekend everything went well. I am so happy. We are back at our full potential.”
Only Yamaha’s Quartararo could keep pace, but after pressing in the early laps, spent the rest of the race hanging on before finishing just over a quarter of a second behind.
“He was too fast today,” said Quartararo. “It was not a battle because we did not overtake, but it was intense and we enjoyed it.”
The battle and the overtaking were taking places several seconds behind the leader where Australian Jack Miller, on another Ducati, spent much of the race attempting to hold off the ever aggressive Marquez, with two more Spaniards, Espargaro, on an Aprilia, and Joan Mir, on a Suzuki, lurking close behind.
They provided breathless entertainment for a crowd of more than 60,000, the first time spectators have been admitted to the Andalusian circuit since 2019.
Marquez finally overtook, but as he tried to hold off Miller’s counter-attack, lost control on a corner, only saving himself from another crash by elbowing down on the tarmac and regaining his balance, but he lost pace, while the Australian misjudged his braking on the same corner.
Espargaro pounced. Swept into third and quickly pulled away to finish third, almost 11 seconds behind Bagnaia.
“It has been very difficult mentally,” he said. “I was much quicker than Jack and Marc and I couldn’t overtake them. So I wait for a mistake. Jack missed the brakes and Marc lost the front so I thought ‘this is my corner’.”
Rins meanwhile made a mistake and went off the track on lap eight and could only finish 19th.