Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) is a wet weather master, but until now the Italian was always the bridesmaid in the rain. But no longer, as the number 9 put in a stunner in the Shark Helmets Grand Prox de France to take his second premier class win and first in the wet. It’s Ducati’s first victory at the Sarthe circuit too, with Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) marking his own first in second place as the rookie took a stunning maiden premier class podium – from 18th on the grid. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing completed the rostrum in another impressive ride in the wet, pipping Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) as the Italian was forced to settle for fourth – but far outscored his key title rivals.
Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) took the holeshot, the Australian characteristically quick off the line, with Crutchlow swooping through trying to take the long way round. Polesitter Quartararo lost out as he dropped behind Miller, Petrucci and Dovizioso, but he was quick to try and fend off an attack from Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing). He did initially, but the drama early on Lap 1 turned more heads: Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) skittled out, sending two crucial title contenders wide and dropping them right down the field: Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP).
Back at the front though, it was Petrucci who’d taken over in the lead, the Italian looking comfortable ahead of compatriot and teammate Dovizioso as they got through on early leader Miller. The three had a couple of seconds in hand ahead of Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), who had sliced his way through on Pol Espargaro to take over in the chase to catch the podium fight, but the Suzuki man was on a charge as Quartararo slipped backwards, Viñales continued his charge forwards and Mir remained relegated to outside the points as the latter two tried to recover from their early run off.
Pol Espargaro had Crutchlow for company, but soon there was another machine on the scene. Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda team) was showing incredible pace as the Spaniard caught and passed Crutchlow, and then he was homing in on Pol Espargaro – with fastest lap after fastest lap. And then all hell broke loose…
Rins, after catching the front group, had a nibble or two at Miller, before a few laps later the Suzuki man threw everything up the inside in a multi-buy for the lead – right after Dovizioso had taken over at the front. Dovi was shuffled back, contact ricocheted through the group and it was Petrucci who managed to emerge ahead, Rins second and Miller slotting back into third after running off and holding up his hand to give the advantage back.
And then there was more: a puff of smoke from the rear of Miller’s Ducati saw the Aussie forced to sit up and he was suddenly out with a mechanical – and then Rins suddenly slid out of contention. That shot of sudden drama left Petrucci with a couple of seconds in hand at the front, Dovizioso in second and Alex Marquez now up into third as the impressive rookie had sliced through on Pol Espargaro. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) was close behind too, with the podium far from decided.
The gap to Petrucci was coming down, butMarquez was also right on Dovi. And sure enough, the number 73 picked his moment to perfection and sliced through – then immediately starting to make a gap back and catch Petrucci. The laps were running out, but the rookie was on an almighty charge.
Pol Espargaro struck to take third from Dovizioso soon after, before the Italian found himself in a battle with Miguel Oliveira as well. Onto the last lap just ahead though, it was 1.2 seconds from Petrucci back to Marquez, the rookie taking a good chunk of tenths off but the time ticking down. And the number 9 in the leading was holding firm, perfectly poised on the way to a second Grand Prix win…
Ultimately, the Italian wouldn’t be caught as he crossed the line for Ducati’s first win at Le Mans, his second premier class win and a huge boost of confidence after a difficult season. Alex Marquez kept it upright to get the incredible return for his stunning pace – having only ridden in the wet on Friday – with Pol Espargaro holding Dovizioso at bay.
Oliveira ended up with his hands full in the fight for fifth, and some late race pace from home hero Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) saw the Frenchman mug the Portuguese rider to end the race as top Independent Team rider in fifth. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) took seventh and was the second Honda home as Cal Crutchlow crashed out, with Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team) in P8. And then came the three who begun the race on top in the title fight…
Fabio Quartararo won the tight, tight tussle for ninth as the Frenchman managed to fend off 2021 teammate Viñales late on, but it was a three-way scrap to the absolute last as Viñales then also managed to beat Mir to the line by almost nothing. The result? Quartararo extends his Championship lead to ten points ahead of Mir, and Dovizioso leapfrogs Viñales into third overall…
Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was the next man over the line in P12 after a tougher first race in the wet for the South African, with Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) taking P13. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) was 14th, was Iker Lecuona (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) completing the points and those classified in France.
That’s it from a dramatic Le Mans, and now we head for the very different MotorLand Aragon. Back to home turf for many and with some chances lost in France, the title fight remains incredibly tight – so don’t miss another dose of MotoGP™ next weekend!
- Danilo Petrucci – Ducati Team – Ducati 45:54.736
- Alex Marquez – Repsol Honda Team – Honda – +1.273
- Pol Espargaro – Red Bull KTM Factory Racing – KTM – +1.711
Top Independent Team rider
5. Johann Zarco – Esponsorama Racing – Ducati +4.310
Danilo Petrucci: “It was I think one of the first times in my life I was disappointed to see rain on the grid because I expected to be fast in the dry and after this morning I felt really good on the bike and I thought we could fight for the podium, I didn’t know if for the win, but then I saw the rain and I switched from medium to soft on the rear at the last minute… but then I immediately wanted to stay in front, because I wanted to stay far from the problems, and then I saw at the beginning we were three Ducatis, and then Rins coming fast… fortunately we have fans here and screens so I could see it. Then Dovi tried to pass me, we were close to each other but I thought there were too many behind so I immediatley passed him again, but then I said come on risk a bit! I tried to push and made a gap but I had a big moment at turn 4, I stayed up but then I saw Alex coming very fast, and I said come on push you can’t lose this race! And I was able to win! It’s incredible to come back on the top step.”
Moto2™: Duel Britannia: Lowes takes stunning win at Le Mans, late heartbreak for Dixon
The number 22 takes a dominant win in the end after heartbreak for Dixon and a drama-filled comeback for Roberts.
Sam Lowes (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) took a stunning win in the Shark Helmets Grand Prix de France, the Brit crossing the line in a class of his own to launch himself well back into the title fight. Compatriot Jake Dixon (Petronas Sprinta Racing) suffered some late heartbreak after a crash out the lead, with Remy Gardner (ONXOX TKKR SAG Team) then taking second as he attacked Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46) on the last lap. Drama hit for polesitter Joe Roberts (Tennor American Racing) before the race as he had a problem on the grid and was forced into pitlane to try and get the bike going, managing that and heading out late on the Warm Up lap… and not making it round quite in time before the lights went out…
Gardner took the holeshot from Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo), with the Australian streaking away in the lead initially and Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) heading through into second. Lowes was then soon through into the top three too, and the Brit then hopped past the two men ahead to take over at the front early doors.
Dixon was on a charge, however. The 96 sliced through to second not long after, with Martin an early casualty as he then crashed out. Next was Vierge, the number 97 highsiding in front of Gardner and that seeing Bezzecchi home in on third.
A moment then hit for Gardner too and the Australian was swarmed by Bezzecchi, as similar hit at the front too for Lowes. Into Turn 9, the Brit had a huge moment and headed off onto the run off and Long Lap penalty area, saving it but then left with quite a deficit to Dixon, who’d taken over at the front…
The laps ticked on, Dixon marched on and Lowes was left with the task to reel him in as the fight for third between Bezzecchi and Gardner stayed incredibly tight. Roberts, meanwhile, was absolutely charging through from the back, and the American was already picking off riders in the top ten…
Then, suddenly, disaster struck for Dixon. With a comfortable lead still intact, the tricky conditions suddenly caught the number 96 out – and out he slid. Heartbroken in the gravel trap as he lost out on the chance of a first win, Lowes was back in front and Dixon unable to restart.
For the number 22, that was all she wrote. Lowes kept it tidy over the last handful of laps to cross the line with an impressive near four-second gap, back on the top step for the first time in a few seasons – and putting himself right back in the title fight. Meanwhile, it all went down to a dramatic final lap for Gardner and Bezzecchi, the Italian defending throughout the final lap until an absolute last minute final corner lunge saw Gardner beat him to the line. For Bezzechhi though, the points are a valuable haul as the Italian moves up to within five points of Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) in second.
Augusto Fernandez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) took fourth after a solid ride, the last man in touch with the podium fight, with veteran Tom Lüthi (Liqui Moly Intact GP) taking a solid fifth place. And then came Roberts…
Despite the drama at the start and beginning the race even further back than the back of the grid, the American’s stunning charge saw him take home an awesome sixth place. A win it wasn’t and he’ll rue his luck, but it was a true stunner.
Fabio Di Giannantonio (Termozeta Speed Up) put in an impressive performance riding a little sore following his crash earlier in the weekend as he took P7, with Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP 40) and Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) next up as they took solid results in difficult conditions to score some big points hauls. Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) completed the top ten despite a tougher weekend for the German.
So where were the top two in the title? Bastianini took P11 in the end, a handful of points not seeing him gain big ground but he was ahead of Championship leader Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46), who failed to score. After a big highside on Friday left him bruised, the Italian impressed to finish but just missed out on points in P17.
Hector Garzo (Flexbox HP 40), Marcos Ramirez (Tennor American Racing), Stefano Manzi (MV Agusta Forward Racing) and Hafizh Syahrin (Inde Aspar Team Moto2) completed the points.
That’s it from Le Mans. No it’s on to Aragon and a whole new challenge, with Lowes in P4 now only an apt 22 points off… can Marini bounce back at MotorLand? Find out next weekend!
- Sam Lowes – EG 0,0 Marc VDS – Kalex 41:27.648
- Remy Gardner – ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team – Kalex +3.822
- Marco Bezzecchi– Sky Racing Team VR46 – Kalex +4.184
Sam Lowes: “You know I felt sorry for Jake and I want to say well done to him because he’s been doing well in the last few races and he was riding good then. It was easy to crash in those conditions but I felt really good, apart from locking the front into Turn 9, I just got it a little wrong a little bit on the damp patch. You could see it coming up and I just caught the edge of it and yeah, I was lucky to stay on, so then after I just took it easy. Jake had good pace and I didn’t want to get too close to him because when I’m behind I have a tendency to rush in a little bit, so I wanted to look after the front. So I tried to keep about a second and a half and then push towards the end but he was real strong but unfortunately he went down and yeah, I felt good, I felt good all weekend and that’s three podiums in a row and I’m really happy to get this win because it has been a long time since I won a race and we’re going into Aragon next week which is where my last win was so it was nice to get it before going back there. It’s really nice for me at the SHARK Helmets French Grand Prix, obviously being a long time SHARK rider, thanks to everyone for their support but yeah, it has been a very good day!”
Moto3™: Vietti victorious in France as the title fight takes another twist
The Italian wins and moves up to third overall, with Arenas back in the points lead as Ogura struggles and McPhee crashes out.
Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) took what could turn out to be a vital victory in the Moto3™ race at the Shark Helmets Grand Prix de France, the Italian striking when it counted to overhaul Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team) by a tenth and take home a valuable 25 points. Behind Arbolino, Albert Arenas (Gaviota Aspar Team Moto3) completed the podium and with that, took back the Championship lead as Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) ended up outside the front group and John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) failed to finish in France.
Arenas took the holeshot, streaking away into Turn 1 in clear air, but it didn’t take long for Arbolino to home in, with Jaume Masia (Leopard Raacing) slotting into third as he made up some ground after getting bogged down off the line from pole. McPhee lost out in a big way as the Brit went from front row to tenth, with Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) and Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) two to move up.
Arenas wasn’t allowed to escape. Masia striking quickly to take over in the lead on Lap 2, and so began the classic freight train fun. Masia led Arbolino and Rodrigo, with Vietti also leapfrogging the number 75 over the line next time around. The front quintet had made a small break, but Catalan GP winner Darryn Binder (CIP – Green Power) was on the chase and the South African soon caught them and got busy, the front group back to 16 riders line astern.
Some drama then hit though, as Alonso Lopez (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) collected teammate Romano Fenati and both Husqvarnas slid out, before Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) took a tumble not long after. That left a lead group of 13, and Masia remained at the head of the field – with Arenas for close company.
As organised chaos reigned at the front, Arenas sliced his way through to first and it was going well for the number 75, with McPhee down in tenth and points leader heading into the race, Ai Ogura, struggling to stay in the top twenty and outside the front freight train. That group was getting whittled down lap by lap too, with Sergio Garcia (Estrella Galicia 0,0) losing touch to make it 12 riders in the battle for P1.
With seven to go, that became 11 as Darryn Binder suddenly sat up, a mechanical problem forcing the South African out of the race and the front group scattering to move round the stricken KTM. That they did, and the fight raged on before Kaito Toba (Red Bull KTM Ajo) dropped off the back too with a crash. And there were more as, suddenly, the Championship took another huge twist: a crash for Jeremy Alcoba (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) took the Spaniard out of the group, and the man right behind him was unable to avoid the incident, getting collected: Championship challenger McPhee.
But the top eight marched on, Arenas among them, and Ogura had made his way to tenth by then – adding a valuable haul of points as he steadily made his progress from the P24 he’d dropped down to initially. Onto the penultimate lap it was Masia who remained in the hotseat at the front, but a sudden bobble for the number 5 suddenly saw him leapfrogged as Vietti was able to take charge, the Italian sweeping through from third to lead – and lead he did over the line for the final lap.
Would anyone be able to catch the Italian? They would not. Keeping it pinned to perfection, the number 13 didn’t give anyone a chance to attack – and managed to cross the line a tenth and a half clear to make a huge gain in the standings to boot, now third. Arbolino took second and is another who gains on the top overall after another impressive ride to the podium, with Arenas taking a rostrum finish in third – and back on top as the Championship leader.
Masia was forced to settle for fourth despite his exemplary race, that late wobble costing the Spaniard, with the top five completed by an impressive charge from Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46). And in sixth, finally there was an end in sight for Ayumu Sasaki’s (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) run of bad luck. After what seemed like an eternal reel of getting collected in other riders’ incidents, the Japanese rider had a drama free Le Mans to convert eighth on the grid to sixth in the race.
Fernandez takes seventh after losing a little ground late on, with Rodrigo completing the front group in P8. There was then a gap back to the next battle on track, but it was a familiar name who fought his way to the head of it: Ogura. The number 79 did the most damage limitation possible to move up from 17th on the grid and P24 early in the race, getting the better of Carlos Tatay (Reale Avintia Moto3) as the Spaniard completed the top ten.
Garcia, Filip Salac (Rivacold Snipers Team), Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing), Riccardo Rossi (BOE Skull Rider Facile Energy) and Stefano Nepa (Gaviota Aspar Team Moto3) completed the points in France.
Arenas has taken back the reins as we now head for his home turf, on 135 at the top as Ogura slips down to 129. It’s now Vietti in third, the Italian on 119 and gaining some serious ground, with Arbolino close behind and McPhee shuffled down to fifth. What will the shuffle look like in Aragon? Find out in only a week as we go again at MotorLand!
- Celestino Vietti – Sky Racing Team VR46 – KTM 37:37.384
- Tony Arbolino – Rivacold Snipers Team – Honda +0.142
- Albert Arenas – Gaviota Aspar Team Moto3 – KTM +0.198
Celestino Vietti: “A strange race, I didn’t expect this result, we are fast but I didn’t expect it a lot like today. I think we chose the correct tyre, and in the last part I think we had a bit of speed more than the other riders, a little bit. And in the last three laps I tried to go in front but all the riders – like Tony and Albert, Masia – braked very hard and for me it was very difficult to overtake them. But I’m very happy because we managed the race in a good way, and I’m happy for the team because we struggled a bit with three crashes this weekend, I’m happy, this is for them and we’ll try to continue in this way.”
Words and photos courtesy of www.motogp.com