French GP, Le Mans: Weekend Review
Dani Pedrosa has become the first rider to win two races in the 2013 MotoGP™ season, coming from sixth position on the grid in mixed conditions at the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France in Le Mans. He now leads the championship from Repsol Honda Team teammate Marc Marquez, who fought to the podium after a poor start as Britain’s Cal Crutchlow finished a GP career-best second.
For the second year in succession, the field was presented with a wet track for the start of the race, with all competitors duly electing to fit the soft compound wet weather tyres for both front and rear wheels, although this resulted in an extremely difficult final laps as the tarmac dried out.
Pedrosa’s ride to a first victory at Le Mans in the premier class was a calculated but exciting one. Having crashed in qualifying, he stayed out of trouble at the start and passed Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo. The Honda rider then caught Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso, who had fought into the lead from a front row start and continually re-passed Pedrosa whenever the latter made a mistake. The final swapping of places came at half distance.
The weekend was a memorable one for Crutchlow. On Saturday the Englishman sustained a fracture to the top of his shinbone, causing immense pain in the knee, but from fourth on the grid he made the most of the mixed conditions and stormed passed old teammate Dovizioso in the closing stages. The Ducati rider led for a chunk of the race and ultimately just missed out on a rostrum result as Marquez fought back from a poor getaway and a selection of off-track moments. The Spaniard therefore maintained his 100% podium finish record for 2013.
Nicky Hayden confirmed Ducati’s strongest day of the campaign to date by finishing fifth from GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista, but it was a somewhat disastrous afternoon for Yamaha Factory Racing. Lorenzo struggled to make an impression and slid down the order to seventh with major set-up issues, whereas Valentino Rossi – who had previously battled with his teammate – fell while under pressure from Hayden. The Italian recovered to 12th behind Pramac Racing’s Andrea Iannone, whose temporary teammate Michele Pirro rose to eighth ahead of Tech 3’s Bradley Smith.
LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl finished tenth after suffering a small fall due to issues with his visor and general visibility. Aleix Espargaro again celebrated the top CRT spot in 13th, although the Power Electronics Aspar rider had to fight past Came IodaRacing Project’s Danilo Petrucci and took advantage of a crash for teammate and local favourite Randy de Puniet. Gresini’s Bryan Staring, NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Claudio Corti, Came IodaRacing Project’s Lukas Pesek and PBM’s Yonny Hernandez also all retired, but no rider suffered injury.
Britain’s Scott Redding triumphed in Moto2™ for the first time as he won a rain-affected Monster Energy Grand Prix de France in Le Mans today. It was a one-two finish for the Marc VDS Racing Team as Mika Kallio finished second, but there was disaster for numerous championship contenders who slipped out of contention.
Redding’s emotional victory makes him the first British rider to win at Le Mans since Alan Carter took the chequered flag in the 250 race of 30 years ago; his own previous career win had been in the 125 class at Donington Park in 2008. This afternoon’s success was no easy feat, as at the start the 20-year-old had plummeted to ninth position off the wetter, right-hand side of the track following heavy rain overnight.
Takaaki Nakagami led in the early stages from Pol Espargaro, with both Espargaro and championship-leading Tuenti HP 40 teammate Esteve Rabat falling in harmony at Musee corner, dropping down the order on Lap 3. Nakagami was left with a three-second advantage, but the Italtrans Racing Team man lost control at the same corner just four laps later as sprinkles of rain made for a greasy track surface.
The intermediary conditions contributed to retirements for no less than ten riders, including Mapfre Aspar Tech Moto2 pairing Jordi Torres and Nico Terol, Interwetten Paddock Moto2 Racing’s Tom Luthi and the independently-funded Gino Rea, who had remarkably reached a high of 12th position from 31st on the grid.
A strong recovery ride from Redding saw him rise to the front on Lap 8, passing Johann Zarco who had delighted the French crowd by leading. Redding’s teammate Kallio looked to threaten as he typically grew stronger and pushed on in the second half of the race. Heavier rain towards the end threw a spanner into the works for Redding, but red flags flew on the 24th of 26 laps. As the result was declared at the end of Lap 22 (the last which all riders had completed), Kallio inherited second position despite being overtaken by Xavier Simeon before the stoppage. Nevertheless, the Belgian Desguaces La Torre Maptaq rider still achieved a first ever podium finish.
Technomag carXpert’s Dominique Aegerter and Came Iodaracing Project’s aforementioned Zarco were fourth and fifth from NGM Mobile Racing’s Mattia Pasini, JiR Moto2’s Mike di Meglio and Italtrans’ Julian Simon. Anthony West and Alex de Angelis completed the top ten for QMMF Racing Team and NGM Mobile Forward Racing, respectively, as reigning Moto3™ champion Sandro Cortese scored his first Moto2 points, in 13th place for Dynavolt Intact GP. In 15th, the final point was collected by Tech 3 Racing’s Frenchman Louis Rossi, who had won the Moto3™ race at Le Mans 12 months ago.
Maverick Viñales won Sunday’s Moto3™ Monster Energy Grand Prix de France in Le Mans from pole position, thus becoming the first two-time race victor of the 2013 season. The well-judged ride saw the Team Calvo rider head up an all-Spanish podium from previous race winners Alex Rins and Luis Salom.
Rain had been forecast for the race, but ultimately no drops would fall over the course of the 24 laps. Viñales enjoyed a clean start this afternoon, but it was Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3’s Jonas Folger who – from a front row start – swept into the lead under braking for Turn 3.
It took Viñales two attempts to make the move stick, but he eventually edged back past Folger on the ninth lap. The German would soon drop to fourth place, behind Estrella Galicia 0,0’s Rins and Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Salom, as he overshot the Chemin aux Boeufs chicane. Rins’ teammate Alex Marquez finished inside the top five for the first time since Qatar, having overtaken front row starter Miguel Oliveira who lost control of his Mahindra Racing bike and crashed at the start of Lap 4. If any lap was a winning one for Viñales, it was the penultimate, as he delivered a scorching fastest lap of the race to extend the leading advantage to just under one second.
There were several touches between bikes and no less than seven riders failed to make the finish. Kiefer Racing’s Florian Alt fell just seconds after Oliveira had departed the race while GO&FUN Gresini Moto3 duo Niccolo Antonelli and Lorenzo Baldassarri, plus Marc VDS Racing Team’s wildcard Jules Danilo, made unforced errors. The biggest moment came on Lap 21, as Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Zulfahmi Khairuddin highsided at Chemin aux Boeufs while running seventh, landing across the bows of Avant Tecno’s Niklas Ajo and duly removing both men from the action.
The Khairuddin-Ajo incident very much shook up the running order. Jakub Kornfeil was sixth for Redox RW Racing GP as San Carlo Team Italia’s Romano Fenati and Ambrogio Racing’s Brad Binder were promoted to seventh and eighth places. In 15th, German Philipp Oettl fended off fellow rookie, Marc VDS’ Livio Loi, to score his first ever point for Tec Interwetten Moto3 Racing.