Aleix Espargaro fended off Jorge Martin to claim his first-ever MotoGP victory and the first for Aprilia in the modern era in a tense Argentina Grand Prix.
Making his 200th MotoGP race start this weekend, Espargaro took pole on Saturday and carried it through to claim his first-ever grand prix win – ending a record wait for a victory in any class spanning 283 races back to 2004.
Aprilia made its MotoGP return in 2015 after bowing out at the end of a miserable spell in 2004, with it only taking its first podium last year at Silverstone after several seasons as the slowest manufacturer in the premier class.
Poleman Espargaro got a tardy launch off the line and allowed second-placed Jorge Martin on the Pramac Ducati to move into the lead.
VR46 Ducati rider Luca Marini briefly held second, but was shuffled back by Espargaro into Turn 2, while a fast-starting Pol Espargaro on the factory Honda slotted into fourth.
The opening-lap shuffle agave Martin a 0.4-second lead, while reigning world champion Fabio Quartararo dropped to the fringes of the top 10 from ninth.
Quartararo would continue to get pulled into the pack, dropping as low as 13th in the opening stages, while Martin and Aleix Espargaro moved a second clear of the riders behind.
Martin would sit at the front of the pack for the first 17 of 25 laps, absorbing pressure from Espargaro – who ran wide at Turn 1 on the 10th tour and dropped a second back – before the first raid on his lead came.
Espargaro nailed his run out of the Turn 3 right-hander and capitalised on a headshake for Martin’s Ducati to pull ahead into the braking zone of Turn 5. However, the Aprilia rider ran wide and allowed Martin back through. Meanwhile, Suzuki’s Alex Rins was looming behind at just over a second adrift.
Espargaro tried again into Turn 5 on lap 20 and once more ran wide. But on the following tour the Aprilia rider executed the perfect block pass to take the lead. Though he ran wide at the first corner on lap 23, Espargaro was able to break away from Martin across the final tour to secure an emotional first win by 0.807s.
Martin brushed off a disastrous start to the 2022 campaign having crashed out of the Qatar and Indonesian GPs to score his first points of the year in second, with Alex Rins opening up Suzuki’s account in third.
Joan Mir came through to fourth on the sister factory Suzuki, while Francesco Bagnaia on the factory team Ducati salvaged fifth having started 13th. KTM’s Brad Binder was a further 0.352s behind Bagnaia in sixth, with Maverick Vinales taking seventh on the second of the Aprilias.
Quartararo recovered to eighth after his dismal start, but was cast 3.6s adrift of former Yamaha team-mate Vinales.
VR46 rookie Marco Bezzecchi claimed a career-best ninth on his 2021-spec Ducati, with Enea Bastianini ceding the championship lead in 10th on his Gresini Ducati. Marini slid from third on the grid to 11th at the chequered flag, with LCR’s Takaaki Nakagami, KTM’s Miguel Oliveira, Jack Miller (Ducati) and LCR’s Alex Marquez claiming the final points.
A late crash for Pol Espargaro at Turn 2 took him out of fourth, while Johann Zarco also took a tumble at Turn 2.
Technical problems denied Yamaha’s Franco Morbidelli and RNF Racing’s Andrea Dovizioso the chance to fight for points.
Aleix Espargaro now leads the championship for the first time in his MotoGP career, the Aprilia rider seven points clear of Binder, with Bastianini nine points back in third.