MotoGP 2017 – Round Five – Le Mans – Grand Prix de France
Maverick Vinales victorious at Le Mans while Valentino Rossi folds at final hurdle
Images by AJRN
The first Movistar Yamaha duel of the season saw Maverick Viñales the man to take the stunning 500th win for Yamaha after a clash of the titans at Le Mans – with the tremors from the French GP felt throughout the Championship standings.
With both Yamahas dueling on the last lap, Valentino Rossi dramatically slid out of contention from behind his teammate to lose the Championship lead – and join Repsol Honda Team’s Marc Marquez on the list of those leaving Le Mans empty handed.
Maverick Vinales overcame early leader Johann Zarco to take the lead and then fended off the advances of his teammate to take Yamaha’s 500th GP win
The headlines came thick and fast, with Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) taking the lead off Viñales off the line and the two factory Yamaha machines slotting in behind.
The Frenchman held firm at the front in style until Viñales made his move and once past, the rider from Roses pushed to make a gap and leave the Frenchman to duel it out with his teammate.
The rookie held on with some stunning pace in his home race.
As the gap finally began to grow, Rossi pulled the pin from third to overtake the Frenchman and go on the charge. The ‘Doctor’ reeled his teammate in at the front, passed him, and then looked to escape – but the two blue machines were set for a spectacular last lap duel.
It was the ‘Doctor’ ahead as that last lap dawned, before an uncharacteristic mistake let Viñales back through and the number 46 pushed hard to close back in. Close in he did, before the final stroke of drama for the day suddenly found the nine-time World Champion sliding out, watching his teammate disappear into the distance.
The Championship leader was points leader no more, with Viñales crossing the line for 25 points to overtake Rossi and gain big ground over Marquez.
Home hero Zarco kept it calm under the huge pressures of the incredible home crowd to then cross the line in second for his first ever podium – with Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) completing the rostrum after an awesome slice through the field.
Pedrosa began the race in P13, was seventh after the first few laps and then pushed his way past Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) to set off after the frontrunners – closing in on Marquez before watching his teammate slide out.
Pushing to close in on the podium fight, the number 93 had pushed too hard and Pedrosa, after a magnificent win in Jerez and the drama in Le Mans, is now the man second in the title standings – only 17 off Viñales’ lead.
‘DesmoDovi’ fought off Crutchlow to take fourth from the Brit and then gain a gap, with the rider from Coventry completing the top five.
Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) took a top six finish to gain an impressive ten places from his difficult grid position, with Jonas Folger (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) in seventh.
Jack Miller (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) again hit his 2017 target despite a huge crash on Saturday to cross the line in the top ten in eighth, ahead of a fantastic home showing for Frenchman Loris Baz (Reale Avintia Racing) in ninth.
Andrea Iannone (Team Suzukia Ecstar) completed the top ten after a more difficult race but took good points, with Tito Rabat (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) in P11 ahead of both Red Bull KTM Factory Racing machines in the points once again.
Pol Espargaro bested the second ‘Bull’ of Bradley Smith by only half a second over the line, with the double points finish the perfect finish to a French GP that also saw the Austrian factory move through to Q2 for the first time with both riders.
Sam Lowes (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) took his first points in P14, with Alex Rins’ injury replacement Sylvain Guintoli (Team Suzuki Ecstar) scoring a point in fifteenth as the 2014 WorldSBK Champion had a solid ride back in MotoGP.
The paddock now heads for Mugello, where the yellow smoke will rise at the perfect venue for Rossi to take try and take some revenge.
MotoGP 2017 – Round Five – Le Mans – Grand Prix de France – Race Results
- VINALES Maverick 25 SPA 25 Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 43’29.793
- ZARCO Johann 5 FRA 20 Monster Yamaha Tech 3 3.134
- PEDROSA Dani 26 SPA 16 Repsol Honda Team 7.717
- DOVIZIOSO Andrea 4 ITA 13 Ducati Team 11.223
- CRUTCHLOW Cal 35 GBR 11 LCR Honda 13.519
- LORENZO Jorge 99 SPA 10 Ducati Team 24.002
- FOLGER Jonas 94 GER 9 Monster Yamaha Tech 3 25.733
- MILLER Jack 43 AUS 8 Team EG 0,0 Marc VDS 32.603
- BAZ Loris 76 FRA 7 Reale Avintia Racing 45.784
- IANNONE Andrea 29 ITA 6 Team Suzuki Ecstar 48.332
- RABAT Tito 53 SPA 5 Team EG 0,0 Marc VDS 50.036
- ESPARGARO Pol 44 SPA 4 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 52.661
- SMITH Bradley 38 GBR 3 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 53.179
- LOWES Sam 22 GBR 2 Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 55.432
- GUINTOLI Sylvain 50 FRA 1 Team Suzuki Ecstar 1’06.878
- ROSSI Valentino 46 ITA 0 Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 1 lap
- ESPARGARO Aleix 41 SPA 0 Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 5 laps
- MARQUEZ Marc 93 SPA 0 Repsol Honda Team 11 laps
- PETRUCCI Danilo 9 ITA 0 Octo Pramac Racing 11 laps
- REDDING Scott 45 GBR 0 Octo Pramac Racing 21 laps
- ABRAHAM Karel 17 CZE 0 Pull&Bear Aspar Team 23 laps
- BARBERA Hector 8 SPA 0 Reale Avintia Racing 25 laps
- BAUTISTA Alvaro 19 SPA 0 Pull&Bear Aspar Team
MotoGP 2017 – Round Five – Le Mans – Grand Prix de France – Championship Standings
- VINALES Maverick 25 SPA 85 Movistar Yamaha MotoGP
- PEDROSA Dani 26 SPA 68 Repsol Honda Team
- ROSSI Valentino 46 ITA 62 Movistar Yamaha MotoGP
- MARQUEZ Marc 93 SPA 58 Repsol Honda Team
- ZARCO Johann 5 FRA 55 Monster Yamaha Tech 3
- DOVIZIOSO Andrea 4 ITA 54 Ducati Team
- CRUTCHLOW Cal 35 GBR 40 LCR Honda
- LORENZO Jorge 99 SPA 38 Ducati Team
- FOLGER Jonas 94 GER 38 Monster Yamaha Tech 3
- MILLER Jack 43 AUS 29 Team EG 0,0 Marc VDS
- PETRUCCI Danilo 9 ITA 26 Octo Pramac Racing
- REDDING Scott 45 GBR 26 Octo Pramac Racing
- BAZ Loris 76 FRA 19 Reale Avintia Racing
- ESPARGARO Aleix 41 SPA 17 Aprilia Racing Team Gresini
- IANNONE Andrea 29 ITA 15 Team Suzuki Ecstar
- BAUTISTA Alvaro 19 SPA 14 Pull&Bear Aspar Team
- RABAT Tito 53 SPA 13 Team EG 0,0 Marc VDS
- BARBERA Hector 8 SPA 12 Reale Avintia Racing
- ABRAHAM Karel 17 CZE 9 Pull&Bear Aspar Team
- RINS Alex 42 SPA 7 Team Suzuki Ecstar
- ESPARGARO Pol 44 SPA 6 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
- SMITH Bradley 38 GBR 6 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
- LOWES Sam 22 GBR 2 Aprilia Racing Team Gresini
- GUINTOLI Sylvain 50 FRA 1 Team Suzuki Ecstar
Franco Morbidelli bests Bagnaia in cat-and-mouse contest in France
Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) took another incredible win at Le Mans in Moto2, extending his points lead after crashing out last time out in Jerez. First dueling Tom Lüthi (CarXpert Interwetten) and then holding firm under incredible pressure from rookie superstar Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46), Morbidelli’s win upholds the EG 0,0 Marc VDS team’s 100% win rate in 2017.
Bagnaia pushed hard to keep his compatriot close in another awesome rookie ride for second, with Swiss veteran and multiple Le Mans winner Lüthi taking third.
Lüthi got the best launch off the line, with Morbidelli moving up past Bagnaia as the two fought it out through the first corners and it looked like the Swiss rider could escape. An early crasher was Luca Marini (Forward Racing Team), with Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) slotting into the chase behind the top three as another to make a good start.
Morbidelli didn’t leave it long to pounce for the lead up front, with a stunning duel then unfolding between the Champion leader and his Swiss challenger before Lüthi ran wide as Morbidelli moved up the inside – and the number 12 found himself pushed back to fourth.
That left Bagnaia and Marquez chasing the Championship leader out front and Lüthi regrouping, with Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) lurking in fifth.
Bagnaia held firm closely behind Morbidelli in the lead, with a small gap appearing back to Lüthi as he tried to attack Marquez – but the rider from Cervera was holding firm. With a handful of laps to go the Swiss rider made it stick, leaving Marquez to bring it home in P4 after an impressive display despite a small fracture in his foot sustained on Saturday.
Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Racing Team) was a high profile crasher out of the top ten in a difficult day for the team, with Dominique Aegerter (Kiefer Racing) then left in a gap behind Pasini to fly the flag as fastest Suter once again in sixth. Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) took a solid seventh ahead of Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) after passing the Italian late on, with Xavi Vierge (Tech 3 Racing) in ninth ahead of more good form from Yonny Hernandez (AGR Team) to complete the top ten.
Hafizh Syahrin (Petronas Raceline Malaysia) took P11 in a solid points scoring finish, ahead of Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP) and Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Ricky Cardus. Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) took points in P14, with Axel Pons (RW Racing GP) locking out the fastest fifteen.
Remy Gardner finished 20th, continuing to rebuild his confidence after breaking his leg at the Argentine GP several weeks ago. Starting the weekend steadily, Remy overcame the mixed conditions to eventually qualify 23rd in the sole dry qualifying session, despite a small spill in FP3.
Gaining in confidence with every lap since his return to the paddock, today’s French GP, the home event for his Tech3 squad was tough, but nevertheless the #87 Aussie gave his all, gaining several places with another impressive opening lap before battling hard to eventually claim 20th at the flag.
“This weekend was all about gaining confidence and finding the feeling again with the bike which we did with every lap.Throughout the weekend the team did a great job and I actually did better in qualifying than I thought we could. The race itself was tough and I got quite tired towards the end but I gave it everything and I am sure that in Mugello it will be an even more positive result. I had a small issue with some front end chatter which gave me some vibration entering the corners during the race, however, to finish the race inside the top twenty is confidence boosting so I am already looking forward to the next race!”
Moto2 Race Results
- Franco Morbidelli (ITA – Kalex) 42’17.557
- Francesco Bagnaia (ITA – Kalex) + 1.714
- Thomas Lüthi (SWI – Kalex) + 5.837
Joan Mir (SPA) wins the wackiest race of the season
Moto3 Championship leader Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) took an imperious win in the French GP, extending his points lead once again in a race marred by drama, red-flagged and then restarted. Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) and Fabio Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) completed the podium over four seconds back on Mir, pulling clear of a classic Moto3 freight train to take the honours.
Polesitter Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) got a stunning launch in the original start before there was drama at the front with something down on track catching out almost half the field, creating a huge pile up into the gravel trap. The red flag came out and operation clean up began – with riders all given the ok and declared able to line up for the restart – and the grid headed back out for a shortened 16 lap race.
Off the line for the second time, Martin again got an incredible start to take off at the front, before Romano Fenati (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers) struck back to take over. The biggest loser off the line was Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46), who plummeted from second on the grid to outside the top twenty by the end of Lap 1.
Bulega had been one of those caught worst in the initial incident, as well as Niccolo Antonelli (Red Bull KTM Ajo), who then slid off – before a highside crash for Martin took the polesitter out of the hunt. Albert Arenas (Aspar Mahindra Moto3) then also suffered a crash, with some of those highest on the grid falling out of contention early on.
Fenati was out front trying to pull away from Championship rival Mir in second, before drama struck again and the Italian suddenly found himself sliding out at Turn 7 – leaving Mir out front and clear by over two seconds; an advantage that would only grow as the laps ticked on.
The chasers battled it out behind, with the deficit to Mir untouchable. The Platinum Bay Real Estate duo of Marcos Ramirez and Darryn Binder followed up their impressive races in Jerez again in Le Mans to get in the thick of it at the front, with Canet, Di Giannantonio, Juanfran Guevara (RBA BOE Racing Team), Enea Bastianini (Estrella Galicia 0,0), Jules Danilo (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers), wildcard Danny Kent (Red Bull KTM Ajo), Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46) and Jakub Kornfeil (Peugeot MC Saxoprint) on the chase – as Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and John McPhee (British Talent Team) pushed on to catch the group.
Over the line Canet moved to the front of the group to cross the line cleanly ahead of Di Giannantonio, with Ramirez taking another P4 to equal his career best from Jerez. Teammate Darryn Binder crashed out late on – but again showed impressive pace in an impressive race for the team.
Guevara took a career best in p5, ahead of a solid finish for Bastianini and an incredible showing at home for Frenchman Jules Danilo in seventh. Migno took eighth and Bo Bendsneyder beat wildcard new teammate Danny Kent to ninth, with the 2015 Moto3 World Champion completing the top ten.
Kornfeil took a solid points finish for the Peugeot MC Saxoprint squad in P11, ahead of an impressive comeback for BTT rider McPhee from outside the top twenty on the grid. Nakarin Atiratphuvapat (Honda Team Asia) scored his first points in P13, as Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Aspar Mahindra Moto3) and Marco Bezzecchi (CIP) completed the top fifteen.
Moto3 Race Results
- Joan Mir (SPA – Honda) 27’37.830
- Aron Canet (SPA – Honda) +4.252
- Fabio Di Giannantonio (ITA – Honda) + 4.365