Casadei fends off Zannoni for maiden MotoE win at Le Mans
Mattia Casadei (Pons Racing 40) is now an FIM Enel MotoE™ World Cup race winner! The Italian veteran saw off a serious challenge from compatriot Kevin Zannoni (Ongetta SIC58 Squadra Corse) in Race 1 at the SHARK Grand Prix de France to take his maiden win in the Cup. Zannoni threw everything into his bid for victory, but hit the deck on the final lap when he asked too much of his front tyre at Turn 13. Nevertheless, the speed was a warning shot for Sunday…
After that drama ahead, Dominique Aegerter (Dynavolt Intact GP) took second place and a valuable 20 points, with Hikari Okubo (Avant Ajo MotoE) completing the podium in a first rostrum finish for the Japanese rider.
There was drama as soon as the race started when Casadei’s team-mate and reigning Cup winner Jordi Torres fell in the pack as the they exited the Turn 3/Turn 4 chicane. Neither Niccolo Canepa (WithU GRT RNF MotoE™ Team) nor Xavi Fores (Octo Pramac MotoE™) were able to fully avoid the stricken Spaniard, but after a check up at the medical centre Torres was confirmed with a broken fibula; unfit but otherwise ok.
The net result of that opening lap was that Casadei led Zannoni, Okubo and Aegerter, with Casadei looking like he might break away. However, he was reeled in by Zannoni as the eight-lap contest reached its halfway mark.
After biding his time for a handful of laps, the SIC58 rider then had a big look at race leader as they sped through Turn 1/Turn 2 for the final time. Casadei fended off that attack but Zannoni did not give up, pusing to the limit and then sadly just over it as his challenge came to an end at the penultimate corner when he folded the front. Rider ok, and surely eager to recharge for a Race 2 charge.
Up ahead, Casadei won unflustered by 0.8 seconds, while Aegerter had hustled past Okubo at Turn 3 on the second-last lap. Okubo was a maiden podium finisher in third though, just ahead of Matteo Ferrari (Felo Gresini MotoE™), Hector Garzo (Tech3 E-Racing), Miquel Pons, and Eric Granado. The latter two, team-mates at the LCR E-Team, had managed to stay upright despite contact exiting Turn 14 in the closing stages of the race, and both will want more on Sunday.
Canepa made the chequered flag in eighth, Andrea Mantovani (WithU GRT RNF MotoE™ Team) took ninth as he sits in for Bradley Smith, and Alex Escrig (Tech3 E-Racing) was 10th all-told. Escrig had run as high as fourth in the early stages but lost three spots when he ran long at Chemin aux Boeufs (Turn 9/Turn 10) on Lap 2, then had to serve a long lap penalty for the shortcut. Fores ended up 12th and Zannoni was classified a finisher, but in 16th.
Granado won both races in Round 1 of the season at the Spanish Grand Prix, but his lead in the MotoE™ World Cup standings has now been cut to six points, with Aegerter second and Casadei 12 points further back in third.