Enea Bastianini wins Aragon MotoGP Grand Prix, stops Francesco Bagnaia winning streak


With a thrilling last lap pass on Francesco Bagnaia, Enea Bastianini won the Aragon MotoGP Grand Prix and ended Bagnaia’s winning streak at four consecutive races. It was Bastianini’s fourth win of the season.

“I gained on [Bagnaia] on the last lap and it was possible to attack this time,” Bastianini said on NBC Sports’ coverage. “I was able to win this race and now we go onto Japan.”

Bastianini stalked Bagnaia for the entire race, On the final lap, Bagnaia was forced to balance his need for the 20 championship points that came with a second-place finish and his desire to become the third rider in MotoGP history to win five in a row. The need for points was even more important because the championship leader, Fabio Quartararo, suffered a Lap 1 crash and failed to earn any at all.

Bagnaia entered the race having shaved 61 points off Quartararo’s lead in the last four rounds. He took another 20-point bite in the Aragon Grand Prix and now trails by 10 with five rounds remaining.

“It’s been great,” Bagnaia said. “I did my maximum and on the final lap it looked like there was more traction. Enea did an incredible job all weekend. It was already known that he and Fabio were the fastest – and Fabio had an unlucky crash on the first lap.

“In any case I did my best and on the final lap I didn’t feel like I was able to overtake Enea because I was already taking too many risks the lap before, so 20 points were important and it’s okay.”

The championship battle took a dramatic turn on Lap 1. Making his return to MotoGP competition after undergoing multiple surgeries on his arm, Marc Marquez was determined to be a factor.

In the first two turns of the race, Marquez blasted past seven riders into the lead pack. In Turn 3, his back tire slipped and Quartararo had nowhere to go. Quartararo clipped Marquez’s bike and he was pitched from his Yamaha, finishing last and earning no points.

“It was really unlucky,” Marquez said on NBC Sports’ coverage. “In Turn 3, I had a moment when I lost the rear and Fabio was really close like normal on the first lap and then I received the contact.”

Marquez sustained significant damage and was also forced to retire from the race.

At the front of the pack, Bagnaia was chasing the record book.

Leading early, he momentarily gave up the lead to Bastianini until that rider went too hard into a corner and pushed wide. Bagnaia pounced and retook the top spot, but was unable to shake the rider who will be his 2023 teammate at Ducati. Bastianini stalked Bagnaia for most of the race, but knew the pass had to be squeaky clean. Exiting a turn midway through the final lap, he completed the pass.

The two leaders crossed under the checkers 0.042 seconds apart as Bagnaia pulled up to the back tire of the winner.

With their 1-2 finish, Bastianini and Bagnaia clinched the manufacturers’ championship for Ducati.

The battle for the final podium position was also determined late in the race as Aleix Espargaro made an equally dramatic pass on Brad Binder with two to go. Jack Miller rounded out the top five as those three riders were separated by about eight-tenths of a second.

Riding with a broken finger, Espargaro closed his gap to 17 points and is also in title contention.

In Moto2, rookie Pedro Acosta scored his second win of the season over Aron Canet and points’ leader Augusto Fernandez.

Fernandez holds a slim seven-point advantage over Ai Ogura, who finished fourth.

Americans Joe Roberts and Cameron Beaubier finished ninth and 11th respectively.

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance

LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).