Pol Espargaro won a battle of the Spaniards to beat Nico Terol to 125cc honors in a dramatic race at Aragon this morning, as erstwhile championship leader and race favorite Marc Marquez crashed out.
Marquez dominated free practice and qualifying and was expected to clear off into the distance come the race, but the Ajo Derbi rider made a poor start and got taken out by Swiss rider Randy Krummenacher at the first turn.
Krummenacher rode far too fast into the corner and wiped out Marquez, who collapsed onto the ground in despair as he realzed his race was over. Krummenacher claimed he had "no space" as he arrived into the corner, but officials decided he was at fault for the incident and black-flagged him.
Britain's Bradley Smith made a brilliant start from row two to lead the race on the opening lap, but he fell back to third as the quicker Espargaro (Tuenti Derbi) and Smith's Spanish Aspar Aprilia teammate Terol asserted their authority at the front.
Smith tried to go with them, but could not hang on and eventually finished nine seconds adrift of the lead duo.
Espargaro appeared to allow Terol into the lead at Turn 1 on lap four of 19, before Terol seemed to return the favour five tours later. Perhaps this was just tactical riding ahead of the crucial closing stages, because the battle for victory built to a thrilling crescendo in the final four laps.
Apparently struggling for grip, Espargaro fell six tenths adrift of Terol heading into lap 17, but he gathered it together for a final charge and closed onto the rear wheel of the leader's Aprilia heading onto the last lap.
A hard chop across Espargaro's bows at Turn 13 failed to put the determined Spaniard off and he got a great drive onto the back straight. As the packed stands of Spanish fans cheered the protagonists on, Terol covered the inside line heading towards the final turn, but Espargaro simply swept around the outside under braking to snatch the lead.
His bike squirmed and squealed coming onto the start/finish straight, but he held on to win the drag race to the line by just 0.050secs. Terol missed out on victory, but now takes over the championship lead from Marquez, with Espargaro also right in contention.
"The race was so difficult but fun," said the winner, who crashed heavily in practice. "I'm so happy because I needed a race like today. The feeling was so good with the bike."
Smith completed the podium; a comfortable six seconds clear of Espargaro's Tuenti teammate Efren Vazquez, who pleased the partisan crowd by making it three Spanish riders in the top four. He won a battle with front row starter Sandro Cortese, who finished a further three seconds down in fifth, shadowed by Japanese rider Tomoyoshi Koyama.
Pos Driver Bike Time/Gap
1. Pol Espargaro Derbi 38m14.248s
2. Nicolas Terol Aprilia + 0.050s
3. Bradley Smith Aprilia + 9.460s
4. Efren Vazquez Derbi + 15.999s
5. Sandro Cortese Derbi + 18.396s
6. Tomoyoshi Koyama Aprilia + 18.967s
7. Esteve Rabat Aprilia + 25.971s
8. Jonas Folger Aprilia + 26.129s
9. Danny Webb Aprilia + 39.717s
10. Luis Salom Aprilia + 42.719s
11. Adrian Martin Aprilia + 48.635s
12. Johann Zarco Aprilia + 56.065s
13. Marcel Schrotter Honda + 1m01.926s
14. Jakub Kornfeil Aprilia + 1m02.020s
15. Sturla Fagerhaug Aprilia + 1m15.030s
16. Zulfahmi Khairuddin Aprilia + 1m18.689s
17. Alberto Moncayo Aprilia + 1m18.852s
18. Marco Ravaioli Lambretta + 1m36.185s
19. Joan Perello Honda + 1m54.278s
20. Robin Barbosa Aprilia + 1m54.564s
21. Alejandro Pardo Aprilia + 1 lap
22. Josep Rodriguez Aprilia + 1 lap
Simone Grotzkyj Aprilia 15 laps
Louis Rossi Aprilia 13 laps
Pedro Rodriguez Aprilia 11 laps
Peter Sebestyen Aprilia 10 laps
Jasper Iwema Aprilia 8 laps
Kevin Hanus Honda 6 laps
Randy Krummenacher Aprilia 6 laps
Marc Marquez Derbi 0 laps