French Grand Prix: Weekend Review
On a day that saw all three classes of the MotoGP™ World Championship come up against the worst weather condition seen so far this season at the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France in Le Mans, it was Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo who retook the championship lead as he dominated in tricky conditions. He finished ahead of Ducati Team’s Valentino Rossi, who recorded his and the Italian outfit’s best result since joining them last season.
At the start of the race it was however Repsol Honda Team’s Dani Pedrosa who got off to one of his trademark starts followed closely by teammate Casey Stoner. Their lead was short lived, as Lorenzo charged past the pair and instantly pulled out a gap. Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow also made a good start in fourth, followed by a surging Rossi in fifth.
It was heartache for the French fans from the beginning as Power Electronics Aspar’s local rider Randy de Puniet dropped his bike on the grid, and had to head out on his spare one. Near the front, Rossi soon moved past Crutchlow to take fourth, with Dovizioso following suit almost instantly. Avintia Blusens’ Iván Silva’s race was ended early as he fell foul of the wet conditions, crashing out of the race in the opening stages.
With Lorenzo building a three second lead, Stoner pushed past Pedrosa to chase down his championship rival. Pedrosa seemed to struggling on the wet surface, with Rossi capitalising on this to take third with 21 laps left. The Tech3 pair passed Pedrosa even further down the order as they looked to hunt down Rossi.
Towards the back, Lorenzo’s teammate Ben Spies was struggling and had a wobble at the end of turn two, shortly after which he entered the pits. Cardion AB Racing’s Karel Abraham retired with 17 laps to go, with NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s replacement rider Chris Vermeulen also having to come in for a helmet change.
As Lorenzo was maintaining his lead around the three-second mark ahead of Stoner, it was the ensuing tussle for third between Crutchlow, Dovizioso and Rossi that was providing some breath-taking overtaking in horrific conditions. Ten laps before the end it was misery for Crutchlow as he lost the front in the first chicane, leaving the two Italians to fight it out for the final podium spot, with Rossi taking third just two corners later. The Brit managed to restart his bike and re-join in eighth. Meanwhile, Lorenzo had extended his lead to six seconds at the front with Stoner a further four seconds ahead of Rossi.
With five laps to go Stoner was held up slightly by Avintia’s Yonny Hernandez, who was being lapped, allowing Rossi to get to within half a second of the Australian world champion. Two laps later, Dovizioso crashed out of fourth tying to stick with the pair, while down the field Came IodaRacing Project’s Danilo Petrucci crashed out of 11th.
The last three laps gave MotoGP fans a racing delight, as old adversaries Stoner and Rossi swapped positions throughout. It was however Rossi who looked back to his old self as he passed Stoner in the first chicane on the last lap, after which he pulled out a lead big enough to secure second.
At the end it was Lorenzo who took the chequered flag to take an eight-point lead at the top of the championship ahead of Stoner, who came home in third. Pedrosa managed fourth, while LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl recorded his best ever result in fifth, ahead or Rossi’s teammate Nicky Hayden. Dovizioso, who managed to re-join after crashing, finished seventh ahead of his teammate Crutchlow, while Pramac Racing’s Héctor Barberá and San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista completed the top ten. Paul Bird Motorsport’s James Ellison put in a great performance to finish as top CRT in 11th.
Interwetten-Paddock’s Tom Lüthi put in a tremendous ride to take his season-first victory at the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France in Le Mans amid difficult conditions in a dramatic Moto2™ race.
Pons 40 HP Tuenti’s Pol Espargaró got the best start as he stormed into the lead along with Marc VDS Racing Team’s Scott Redding. The first chicane proved difficult as Came IodaRacing Project’s Simone Corsi was bucked off his bike, with the trio of NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Yuki Takahashi, GP Team Switzerland’s Randy Krummenacher and S/Master Speed Up’s Mike Di Meglio taking each other out a few corners later.
Espargaró was trying to pull away at the front, but Lüthi and Redding were closely on his heels, with Tech 3 Racing’s Bradley Smith and Federal Oil Gresini Moto2’s Gino Rea in tow. Takahashi’s teammate Alex de Angelis survived a scare as he slid back onto the track after coming off his bike, with the Moto2 pack doing tremendously well to avoid the rider.
Just as Rea looked to making headway, JiR Moto2’s Johann Zarco went up the inside, clipping the Brit’s front wheel, and sending him into the gravel, putting an end to his first race on the new Suter chassis. Meanwhile, Italtrans Racing Team’s Claudio Corti joined the front five, with Speed Master compatriot Andrea Iannone surging up the field as well.
With 17 laps to go, Espargaró ran wide, handing the lead to Lüthi and dropping into ninth in the process. Smith also had a run off track, but managed to re-join in 14th. Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol’s Marc Márquez, who did not have a terrific start, was fighting his way up to the front five, as he tussled with rain-specialist Zarco.
Drama followed shortly after as the Spanish championship leader went down after loosing control of his bike, and being unable to re-join. This left Zarco to challenge for a podium, and the Frenchman soon pushed past Redding into second, followed by Corti, who put in a bold move on the Brit. With 13 laps to go, Lüthi had pulled out a lead of just over three seconds.
Arguiñano Racing Team’s Ricard Cardús suffered a heavy high-side half way through the race, yet fortunately walked away unscathed. Further down the field, Espargaró was struggling to make up positions, as he was overtaken in eighth place by QMMF Racing Team’s Anthony West, who was showing his usual prowess in the rain.
Di Meglio, who had re-joined the race after his early crash, lost control of his bike once again with nine laps to go, putting an end to his race. He was followed shortly by Corti’s teammate Takaaki Nakagami who had a high-speed crash heading into the back chicane. With six laps left, Zarco had cut the lead to Lüthi to under a second, whilst West went past Blusens Avintia’s Julián Simón into sixth. West’s teammate Elena Rosell was not faring as well as the Australian, as she crashed out of the race.
French heartache soon followed, as Zarco lost the back-end of his bike as he continued to push hard in the wet, handing second place to Corti and third to Redding. The main tussle in the pack was for sixth place with Redding’s teammate Kallio, West, Espargaró, Simón and Smith swapping positions in the final few laps. The unpredictability of the race was to continue until the final corner as Smith dropped his bike in the last turn, and Simón having to push his bike across the finish line due to an electrical fault.
It was however Lüthi who put in a stunning ride to take the chequered flag ahead of Corti, who recorded his first ever podium, and Redding in third, recording his first podium for 22 races. Rounding out the top ten were Iannone, Kallio, Espargaró, West, Kiefer Racing’s Max Neukirchner, Thai Honda Gresini’s Ratthapark Wilairot as well as Smith, who managed to salvage a few points.
In the Moto3™ race of the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France in Le Mans, it was Frenchman Louis Rossi who kept his nerve to take his first ever win in treacherous conditions in front of his home crowd.
In a race that started in extremely wet conditions, it was Blusens Avintia’s Maverick Viñales who got away best, with AirAsia-SIC-Ajo’s Zulfahmi Khairuddin also making a tremendous start from 10th into second. JHK T-Shirt Laglisse’s Efrén Vázquez, who was second on the grid, suffered mechanical issues on the out-lap and was unable to start the race.
There were crashes early on as RW Racing GP’s Brad Binder took out TT Motion Events Racing’s Niklas Ajo, which was followed up shortly after with IodaRacing Project’s Jonas Folger and local rider, Caretta Technology’s Alexis Masbou, sliding off into the gravel.
Back at the front it was Bankia Aspar Team’s Héctor Faubel and RW Racing GP’s Luis Salom that went into the lead, as Viñales dropped off the pace slightly. However the conditions continued to take their toll, as Team Italia FMI’s Romano Fenati suffered a similar fate to last race as he also lost control of his bike, putting an end to his first French race. Technomag-CIP-TSR’s Kenta Fujii repeated his morning warm-up crash, rounding out a less than ideal day for the Japanese rider.
With 18 laps to go, a five-some of Faubel, Salom, Redox-Ongetta-Centro Seta’s Jakub Kornfeil, Estrella Galicia 0,0’s Miguel Oliveira and Viñales were involved in an entertaining battle for podium positions. In the following laps, further casualties of the weather were Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Danny Kent, Mahindra Racing’s Danny Webb, Ambrogio Next Racing’s Simone Grotzkyj and Caretta Technology’s Jack Miller, while Fenati’s teammate Alessandro Tonucci had to retire to the pits with a mechanical problem.
With 11 laps to go there was drama at the front as Faubel crashed out of first position, with Kornfeil crashing out of third a few seconds later, handing the first three places to Oliveira, Viñales and Rossi. Half a lap later, Salom followed suit as he slid off into the gravel in ever worsening conditions.
As a thrilling fight for fourth ensued between Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Sandro Cortese and Khairuddin, there was further turmoil at the front, as the surging Oliveira crashed out of the lead, handing the reigns to Viñales, who was being hunted down by Rossi.
This lasted for a lap only, as Viñales threw himself of his bike in the final corner, followed shortly by Khairuddin. The Malaysian managed to keep his bike going, while the race was over for the Spaniard. This left Frenchman Rossi in the lead by over 20 seconds, much to the delight of the home crowd, with Cortese and Bankia Aspar’s Alberto Moncayo in podium positions. Three laps before the end Cortese lost the front going into the first chicane, yet managed to keep the bike going to re-join in sixth, with Oliveira’s teammate Alex Rins slipping into third with San Carlo Gresini Moto3’s Niccolo Antonelli on his tail.
In the end it was Rossi who made the Le Mans grandstands cheer with delight as he took his first ever victory by a margin of 28 seconds in front of Moncayo and Rins. Antonelli could not quite challenge for the podium finishing fourth, in front of Red Bull KTM Ajo duo of Arthur Sissis and Cortese and Moto FGR’s Jasper Iwema.