French Grand Prix, Le Mans: Raceday roundup – MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) took a record-breaking victory at the HJC Helmets Grand Prix de France, which sees the reigning World Champion equal Casey Stoner’s 38 premier class wins – and surpass Mike Hailwood’s win record. Alma Pramac Racing’s Danilo Petrucci was a superb second to take his first podium of the season – and from the front row – with Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) returning to rostrum in third place after a more difficult run of races for the ‘Doctor’.
Sadly, however, the French fairytale wasn’t to be for Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), as the home hero crashed out at Turn 8 on lap eight after re-passing Marquez for second in the fight at the front. Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was another rider to crash, falling out of contention on lap one at la Chapelle after making a good start. In yet more drama for the standings, Championship contender Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) made a rare error at the same corner four laps later, making Le Mans another pivotal race in the Championship.
At the start, it was Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) who got the holeshot from the second row, repeating his incredible launch of the Spanish GP to take off in the lead – and hold onto it. Zarco dropped from pole but then struck back almost immediately into the chicane to take second, with Petrucci, Dovizioso, Marquez and Rossi all close at the front until Iannone crashed out – leaving a gap back to Marquez as the two Ducatis and Zarco stayed close together at the front.
The Frenchman then headed slightly wide and Dovizioso struck, honing in on teammate Lorenzo in the lead and not leaving long before trying an attack. Getting the job done quickly, it seemed the Italian was then going to unleash his pace shown in practice – but he suddenly slid out of the lead and into the gravel, leaving the number 99 of Lorenzo’s Ducati out front.
Zarco and Marquez closed in before the reigning Champion shot past the Frenchman for second – but Zarco, in signature style, was quick to respond. The second bolt of drama was about to hit the race, however, as the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider then slid off at Turn 8 – leaving Marquez vs Lorenzo in the lead.
On Lap 10, the number 93 made his move before Petrucci followed the Honda rider through a lap later. Rossi and Miller soon carved their way past the five-time World Champion, who started the race on softer rubber, with Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) waiting in the wings.
The gap between Marquez, Petrucci, Rossi and Miller stayed consistent, with all four exchanging quickest laps. That was until six-time World Champion Marquez pulled the pin on Lap 16, setting the fastest lap of the race to bridge to gap to a second over the chasing GP18. From there, Marquez was able to stretch the gap tenth by tenth, with Petrucci also keeping nine-time World Champion Rossi at bay. Pedrosa was later able to pass Lorenzo for fifth, with the Ducati rider having to settle for sixth.
Further down the order, after failing to get the start he was looking for, last year’s winner Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) made his way back up to seventh after being outside the top ten for the first half of the race. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) had a great ride, holding onto eighth until the last lap but then coming home ninth. Passing him on the last lap was a superhuman Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol), who had a magnificent ride battling to P8 from 13th on the grid – riding through the pain barrier after a huge highside on Saturday.
Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) battled with Viñales and Espargaro throughout the race, eventually rounding out the top ten in his first ride at the track in the premier class, having missed the event in 2017 due to injury. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) picked up another solid result in P11 for some more good points for KTM, with Bradley Smith adding to the total in P14. Hafizh Syahrin (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) eventually got the better of Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) to finish as top rookie in twelfth, with Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) rounding the points scorers.
That’s it for Le Mans, and it’s now time to gear up for Mugello. Marquez extends his Championship lead to 36 points but the Italians will be out in force to try and stop him – can his momentum be stalled?
Sky Racing Team VR46 rider Franceso Bagnaia was simply unstoppable in the Moto2™ race at the HJC Helmets Grand Prix de France, converting pole position into a commanding victory to take his third win of 2018 – the first winner from pole in Moto2™ at the venue. Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) was the Italian’s closest challenger in second, with teammate 2017 Moto3™ World Champion Joan Mir securing his maiden intermediate class podium, crossing the line third.
There was drama before the race began for the man who qualified second, with Xavi Vierge (Dynavolt Intact GP) having to start from the back of the grid a mechanical problem before the Spaniard went out.
As the lights went out, Bagnaia made the perfect launch from pole and took the holeshot, with Marquez moving straight into P2. Third on the grid and World Championship contender Lorenzo Baldassarri (Pons HP40) didn’t get the start he would have wanted, and when pushing to make up positions on lap seven, the Italian crashed at Turn 2 – rider ok.
Back at the front, Bagnaia and Marquez pushed to create a gap back to Marcel Schroetter (Dynavolt Intact GP) and Mir, with Bagnaia then able to pull away for a comfortable win. Marquez kept it calm to take second and twenty points towards the Championship, with Mir able to turn his incredible pace this weekend into his first ever podium in the class – in only his fifth race.
Schroetter would finish the race fourth, his best ever Moto2™ result after a weekend of top pace and despite still recovering from injury. Meanwhile, teammate Vierge was a man on a charge, he caught and passed Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) by lap 14, and then reeled in rookie Romano Fenati (Marinelli Snipers Team) to get up into fifth. The Spaniard held off a late charge from Oliveira to finish a phenomenal P5.
Rookie Fenati was a season best seventh as his adaptation to the class continued, with Fabio Quartararo (MB Conveyors – Speed Up Racing) giving the French fans something to cheer about in P8 – his best result of the year so far. The Frenchman was locked in a battle with Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) in the latter stages of the race, and the South African took P9.
Stefano Manzi (Forward Racing Team) produced a stunning ride to round out the top ten, coming from 23rd on the grid, with the key name missing from that fight at the front proving to be Championship protagonist Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team), who crashed and leaves a GP with no points for the first time this year.
Joe Roberts (NTS RW Racing GP), after passing Sam Lowes (Swiss Innovative Investors) for P14, crashed from a first point scoring finish, with Isaac Viñales (SAG Team), Iker Lecuona (Swiss Innovative Investors), Eric Granado (Forward Racing Team) and Jorge Navarro (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) some of the other crashers, riders ok.
Despite Marquez’ best efforts, closing the gap to less than a second with four laps to go, there was no stopping Bagnaia. He heads to the Tuscan hills leading the World Championship by a healthy 25 points. The Italian has made a blistering start to 2018, can anyone stop him on home soil next time out?
Albert Arenas (Angel Nieto Team Moto3) claimed his first lightweight class win at the HJC Helmets Grand Prix de France in what was nothing short of a spectacular Moto3™ race. Teammate Andrea Migno claimed second to make it a perfect day for the Angel Nieto Team, with Marcos Ramirez (Bester Capital Dubai) standing on the third step of the podium for the second race in a row.
That was just the start, with all the drama coming in the final laps of the race. One of the biggest headlines was Championship leaders Marco Bezzecchi (Redox PrustelGP) and Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) – the two leaders for most of the race – crashing with just one corner to go. Bezzecchi, after being passed by Fabio Di Giannanotonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3), highsided trying to cut back through on his compatriot. Martin, right behind Bezzecchi in third, had nowhere to go – the Spaniard crashed out of a podium position.
The drama didn’t stop there. Di Giannantonio went on take the checkered flag, with the Italian elated to have claimed what he thought was his first ever Moto3™ race win. However, a three second time penalty for running over the chicane at Turns 10 and 11 midway through the race was added to his time – meaning Arenas took the race win.
Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse) was another who fell foul of the same rule, penalised for running straight over the first chicane. So although the Italian crossed the line third, a time penalty promoted Marcos Ramirez (Bester Capital Dubai) to make it the second consecutive race the Spaniard stands on the podium. Di Giannantonio was classified fourth, leaving him second in the World Championship, and Antonelli was classified fifth.
Another huge headline moment saw Jakub Kornfeil (Redox PrustelGP), battling for the lead throughout, showing off some outrageous motocross skills when he unavoidably hit Enea Bastianini’s Leopard Racing bike after the Italian fell on the final corner with a lap to go. The Czech rider was launched into the air, but spectacularly managed to land upright in the gravel – and cross the line sixth.
Tony Arbolino (Marinelli Snipers Team) had a strong showing in P7, with Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) brilliantly carving his way from the back of the grid to finish in the top ten. The Spaniard will leave Le Mans third in the Championship, ahead of Martin and only seven points off Bezzecchi the leader.
Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) came home ninth, with rookie Jaume Masia (Bester Capital Dubai) rounding out the top ten. The injured Darryn Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) had a great ride to finish P11, with John McPhee (CIP – Green Power) also coming from the back of the grid to finish in the points – the Scot came home P12.
Gabriel Rodrigo (RBA BOE Skull Rider) and Nakarin Atiratphuvapat (Honda Team Asia) were both fallers – riders ok. Meanwhile, Livio Loi (Reale Avintia Academy) jumped the start and was given a ride through penalty while battling for points.
The penalties and crashes mean the Championship standings have closed right up, but Bezzecchi is still leading the Championship heading to his home round at Mugello.