#FrenchGP Le Mans, raceday roundup: MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3

 In MotoGP, News

MotoGP

For the third time this season, Enea Bastianini has engaged Beast Mode. Another 25-point haul at the SHARK Grand Prix de France sees the Gresini Racing rider move to within eight points of the top of the Championship, take another Independent Team win and make quite a statement. After he and Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) had escaped to make it a duel for supremacy at Le Mans, the Beast struck for the lead and it wasn’t long after that that Pecco slid out of contention.. rider ok, but points haul taking a dent.

Meanwhile, Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) maintained it as a Borgo Panigale 1-2, with Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro making it three premier class rostrums on the spin for the Noale factory for the first time ever – just denying home hero and reigning Champion Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™).

The atmosphere in the circuit hit fever pitch as riders revved up for the start of Round 7, and it was Miller who got the perfect launch from the line to take the holeshot ahead of Bastianini, who pushed his way through from the second row. Bagnaia was in third with Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins and Joan Mir split by Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) in P5. A poor start from Aleix Espargaro saw him drop to seventh, while Quartararo also went backwards, the Frenchman initially swallowed up by a number of riders before  starting to make progress forward.

A wild first lap came to a close with Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) aggressively lunging up the inside of both Quartararo and Nakagami to move into P7, and it was all go everywhere. Not least for home hero Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing), who was having an equally difficult start to the GP just behind, locked in a battle mid-pack with Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and the two making contact at Turn 6. The RC16 lost a front wing as a result.

The manic start continued back at the front, with Bagania and Rins both picking off Bastianini to drop him out of the podium places. Rins’ ambitions would come crashing to a halt at the beginning of the third lap though, with the Suzuki off track at Turn 2, through the gravel and back on at Turn 4. Unfortunately, he couldn’t keep his machine upright as it returned to the tarmac, temporarily rejoining but retiring soon after.

As a result, it was a Ducati one-two-three with the factory riders building up a gap out front, Miller ahead. Bagnaia was through on Lap 4 though, and the race began to settle slightly as riders found their groove. Just back of that fight, Mir led Aleix Espargaro, Quartararo and Marc Marquez.

By Lap 12, Bastinain was past Miller, the Gresini rider going through on the Aussie at Garage Vert. Soon after, there was some change just behind them too, with Mir hitting the deck and tumbling through the gravel at Turn 14. That allowed Aleix Espargaro and Quartararo to gain a position each, but they were still 1.1s away from Miller in third. There was also disappointment for Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) as he recorded a fourth DNF of the year after a Turn 9 fall.

On Lap 17, the fight for victory sparked into life as Bastianini began to swarm all over the back of Bagnaia out front, the GP21 locked on for a few laps to heap on some pressure. The Beast then made his first move at the Dunlop Chicane and the two went wheel-to-wheel up until Turn 6, with Bagnaia posting a classy riposte. The fight wasn’t over though, with Bastianini forcing an error from his Ducati counterpart at Garage Vert as Pecco ran it wide and dropped to P2. That left a second between them and in an effort to reel Bastianini back in, Bagnaia pushed it too hard around the final corner and slid into the gravel, and out of the race. Rider ok, but on a long, lonely walk back down pitlane.

From there, Bastianini just had to keep it steady to bring home his third victory of the year, while Miller was comfortable in second. Attentions switched the remaining podium place, with home fans willing on World Champion Quartararo in the closing laps. He closed and closed and closed but he could never quite get close enough to the Aprilia ahead, with Aleix Espargaro denying the fairytale French ending but continued the Noale dream.

Zarco made moves to get back towards the front, coming home fifth despite that tougher start. Marquez rounded out the top six, while Nakagami put in a very solid seventh place finish. Despite missing a wing from the early stages, Binder claimed P8, while his factory teammate Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) recorded a DNF.

Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) and Maverick Viñales both claimed top 10 results in encouraging performances.

That’s a wrap on the French GP and it was certainly a race to remember, with the crowd an incredible protagonist too. Next up for MotoGP™ is the Tuscan beauty of Mugello, where we’re sure to see even more twists and turns in this fascinating World Championship…

Moto2

Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Augusto Fernandez has broken a drought of almost three years with victory at the SHARK Grand Prix de France, with he and teammate Pedro Acosta pulling clear in the early laps before the rookie crashed out the lead on Lap 11. Aron Canet (Flexbox HP40) finished second for another impressive podium, fending off Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) and Cameron Beaubier (American Racing). World Championship leader Celestino Vietti (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) limited the damage to his title hopes, finishing eighth despite starting 18th on the grid.

Acosta converted his first Moto2™ pole position into the early race lead while Fernandez slotted into second, one up on where he had qualified. Albert Arenas (Inde GASGAS Aspar Team) was third initially before being passed by Alonso Lopez (MB Conveyors Speed Up) on Lap 2, then Canet was into the podium places when he got by Lopez on Lap 5 at Turn 3.

By then, the top two had a margin over the rest of three seconds and growing. Still, Fernandez was keeping in touch with Acosta, thanks in part to a big wobble for the latter exiting Raccordement on Lap 5. A lap later, Lopez and Arenas were down in the gravel together, however, as the Aspar rider tried to go through a diminishing gap at Musee.

Meanwhile at the front, the pole-sitter had just started to put the hammer down when he lost the front through La Chapelle, rider ok but his hopes of a breakthrough Moto2™ victory dashed. That elevated Fernandez to the lead and Canet to second, but the man with the bowtie was coming under pressure from Beaubier and Chantra.

When Beaubier ran just a little wide at Musee on Lap 14, Chantra pinched third, then put a move on Canet a lap later. In doing so, he made room for the American to also go past Canet and reclaim third, but Canet turned the tables on Lap 18, passing Beaubier from a long way back at the Turn 3/Turn 4 chicane and making it stick.

As Fernandez continued to enjoy a margin of six to seven seconds over the rest, second-placed then Chantra outbraked himself at Garage Vert on Lap 18 and had to let his bike run wide. Not only did he cede position to Canet and Beaubier, the Thai rider had cost himself a full second of time, handing a free kick to his rivals in the battle for the podium.

Next it was Beaubier who invited some pressure when he ran wide at La Chapelle on the third-last lap, and Chantra made the pass a lap later as they ran through Turn 13. Meanwhile, Vietti was finally into the top 10, despite running through the gravel at Garage Vert earlier in the race.

Up ahead, Fernandez eased off in the closing laps and cruised to victory by an official margin of 3.746 seconds. The win is his first since the 2019 San Marino Grand Prix, and his first altogether for Red Bull KTM Ajo. A further 0.882 seconds behind Canet, who gained a little breathing space in second, was Chantra in third, with Beaubier a career-best fourth despite losing out on that first podium.

Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) prevailed in a late battle with Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) as they finished fifth and sixth respectively, ahead of Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team), Vietti, Jorge Navarro (Flexbox HP40), and stand in Stefano Manzi (Yamaha VR46 Master Camp Team).

Arenas managed to remount after his incident with Lopez but could only get back to 19th, missing out on the points. His Inde GASGAS Aspar team-mate Jake Dixon, who did not get away well from the middle of the front row, also pressed on after an early crash from eighth position, but finished even further back in 21st spot. Among those who did not make the chequered flag at all were Lopez and title contender Tony Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team).

Arbolino and Fermin Aldeguer (MB Conveyors Speed Up) went down in synchronised fashion at La Chapelle on Lap 2, although without contact, and that capped off a difficult day for the Elf Marc VDS Racing Team. Before the race had started, it was down to one bike due as Sam Lowes was declared unfit after reporting neck pain and the onset of dizziness after Warm Up. He’d had a nasty highside in Q2.

In the World Championship, Vietti has moved to 108 points, second-placed Ogura is a slightly closer 16 points behind, and Fernandez has climbed to fifth.

Moto3

In typical barnstorming Moto3™ fashion, fans were out of their seats for a grandstand finish as a restarted race went down to the wire at the SHARK Grand Prix de France. Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Jaume Masia earned victory after a thrilling final corner move past Ayumu Sasaki (Sterilgarda Husqvarna Max) while Izan Guevara (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team) stole the final podium place with another dramatic final corner past poleman Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing). It’s the first time Masia has taken four podiums in a row and it moves him up to second in the standings, 17 off leader Sergio Garcia (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team).

The threat of rain loomed large over Le Mans on Sunday but initially, Diogo Moreira (MT Helmets – MSI) got a brilliant launch from the line to take the holeshot going into the Dunlop Curve, but the Red Flag soon came out as rain hit the final sector. There had been seven different fallers, including GASGAS Aspar duo Garcia and Guevara, Sasaki, Andrea Migno (Rivacold Snipers Team) and Riccardo Rossi (SI58 Squadra Corse), but riders all ok and all able to make the restart.

With a new race distance of 14 laps set, it was always going to be a tight affair with the sun shining again, and so it proved. In a carbon copy of the first race start, Moreira managed to push himself into the lead from the second row while a superb effort from Championship leader Garcia saw him move up into the podium places behind then-closest challenger Foggia. Behind them, there was lots of chopping and changing as Tatsuki Suzuki (Leopard Racing) battled with Migno and Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech3) throughout the first lap.

The race began to settle somewhat by the time the third lap rolled around, while Masia was finding his groove, picking off Suzuki at Garage Vert before getting the better of Foggia on the next lap at the Turn 3 chicane. The Italian tried to return the favour one lap later, but the Red Bull KTM Ajo rider fended him off. The race had lost Scott Ogden by this stage, with the VisionTrack rookie crashing out at La Chappelle, rider ok.

Behind Masia, Garcia had moved up to second after getting past the Leopard Hondas, while Öncü in P4 had entered the podium conversation. All the chopping and changing brought the leader of the second group, Sasaki, into contention too.

Back at the front, Foggia pushed himself back into second at the expense of Garcia. The GASGAS man tried to respond into the chicane, but it went awry and he was forced wide, costing him his drive out of the corner and dropping him to sixth overall. That gave Masia a couple tenths of breathing space out front, but it didn’t last long as he was soon reeled in by Foggia and Sasaki at S Bleu with just over three laps to go.

Coming into the endgame, Foggia led Sasaki ahead of Masia with Suzuki, Garcia and Guevara just behind. However, a move at Garage Vert returned Masia to P2. Coming over the line for the penultimate time, it was anybody’s race. The Dunlop Chicane is always a popular overtaking spot, and Masia lined up a successful attempt for the lead.

La Musee is another hot spot for overtaking, and that’s where Sasaki picked off Foggia, relegating the poleman to third. Having bided his time all race, the Japanese rider looked like he would steal the win with just two corners to go, taking the lead on the flick back left at S Bleu. The drama was still far from over, with Masia producing a sensational last corner lunge up the inside to take the win, while Guevara had done something similar to Foggia to deny the pre-season Championship favourite a podium.

Behind that podium shuffle, Suzuki finished fifth ahead of Carlos Tatay (CFMoto Racing Pruestel GP), with Garcia recording a P7 finish. Ryusei Yamanaka (MT Helmets – MSI) ended the day eighth, ahead of Öncü with Migno rounding out the top 10.

Holgado, John McPhee (Sterilgarda Max Racing), Rossi, Moreira after a Long Lap and Kaito Toba (CIP Green Power) are the other points scorers in France.

 

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