Le Moto GP in France


Photos: MotoGP

The thing about Marc Marquez is that in spite of once again utterly destroying his competition at Le Mans for the fifth Moto GP in a row, he really does seem to be in it for the giggles. He said, “I enjoyed today quite a lot, especially after the first lap! (when he got jammed back to 10th from pole position) …

“But after that I was able to do some great overtakes and when I saw Vale (Valentino Rossi) started to open a small gap I pushed 100%. I enjoyed it a lot!”

Probably the best Moto GP of the season.

The thing about Mika Kallio, who’s second in the Moto 2 standings behind team-mate Tito Rabat, is that he just seems so stereotypically Finnish – ice-cool, calm, relaxed. “The race was not easy at all. At first I led and tried to push, I tried to push … then he [Simone Corsi] overtook me and I said okay, relax, cool down, try to save a little bit the tires … Then he dropped the lap time just a little and I thought, okay, it’s time to go, I passed and put my head down to make a small gap.”

Definitely one of the best Moto 2 races in the last couple of seasons.

Mika Kallio (36) sits in second overall in Moto2 after his win.
Mika Kallio (36) sits in second overall in Moto2 after his win.

The thing about Jack Miller is that the 19-year-old Australian seems seasoned and experienced well beyond his years. After a hair-raising win in Moto 3, he said, “Definitely a nice one for the spectators, for sure! And also a great ending to a great weekend [for us].” Asked about the last-lap contretemps with Efren Vasquez, Miller shrugged and said, “I only did to him what he did to me half-way through the race.”

Definitely the best Moto 3 race I’ve seen, and perhaps the best race I’ve ever watched. Spectacular.

The Moto3 race was a real classic; Jack Miller (8) won.
The Moto3 race was a real classic; Jack Miller (8) won.

The Moto GP race was, uncharacteristically, filled with action from the start almost to the flag. A poor start and a near-collision with Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo on the first lap shoved Repsol Honda’s Marquez (who as usual had easily dominated practice and qualifying) back to 10th; from there the youngster (21 years and three months) made it look easy as he slid by other world champions at will, finally appearing on the tail of Valentino Rossi, who’d taken his factory Yamaha past the fast-starting Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) and Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda) and led most of the first half of the race.

The nine-time champion said, “For sure I’m very happy about the race and the result. I made a very good start and … I got in front and tried as hard as possible. I was waiting for Marc or Jorge and Dani to arrive, when Marc arrived I tried to … make the work difficult for him but in the crucial moment of the race I made a mistake in braking … and went wide. It’s a great pity as it was too easy for Marc. If not we could have fought a little bit because today I was not so bad, difficult to beat but for sure more fun. I hoped he would wait for me but he didn’t!”

Alvaro Bautista was third, and happy about it.
Alvaro Bautista was third, and happy about it.

Third went to a resurgent Alvaro Bautista on the Go&Fun Gresini Honda. After crashing out of three of the five races so far, the team and rider both desperately needed a result and the celebration after the race would do credit to a world championship.

Fourth went to a delighted and shocked Pol Espargaro in his first year in Moto GP. Taking Cal Crutchlow’s place in the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team, the youngster not only beat his brother Aleix for the first time, but came very close to a podium in only his fifth Moto GP race.

Rossi led for a while, when Marquez was shuffled back to 10th, but he couldn't hang on to the spot.
Rossi led for a while, when Marquez was shuffled back to 10th, but he couldn’t hang on to the spot.

“This weekend has actually been like a small dream!”, he said. “We improved after the test in Jerez but I would have never expected to be that competitive … I started to be more confident about a top five finish and when I heard the noise of Dani’s engine as he was catching up during the last laps, I just kept my head down aiming to take the fourth position over the line!”

Dani Pedrosa, Marquez’ team-mate, qualified poorly – ninth – and had a lacklustre race, finally moving up toward the end to collect fifth. He looked exhausted and drained after the race – only a week and a half after surgery on a wrist for arm-pump problems, and having suffered front tire problems all day.

Once again, Nicky Hayden finished well back of the pack on his Honda.
Once again, Nicky Hayden finished well back of the leaders on his Honda.

The top 10 was rounded out by Jorge Lorenzo (not a happy camper after a bad day), Stefan Bradl (ditto, also having had wrist surgery in the last two weeks), Andrea Dovizioso (top Ducati), Aleix Espargaro (top Open-class finisher, again), and Bradley Smith (Espargaro’s team-mate. Smith wasn’t any happier than Lorenzo or Bradl, while Dovizioso and Espargaro seemed resigned to their spots.

Moto 2

Mika Kallio’s (Marc VDS Racing Team) win was seriously well-judged; after an early burst, he settled in behind Simone Corsi for 2/3 of the race, then nipped past and slowly eased away. It was a perfect performance, with Corsi never far away, and eventually Kallio’s team-mate Esteve Rabat and Maverick Vinales on the Pons HP Kalex closed behind Corsi but didn’t look like chasing down Kallio.

Esteve Rabat leads Moto 2 standings for now.
Esteve Rabat (53) leads Moto 2 standings for now.

The results leave Rabat on top of the standings with Kallio close behind, then a big gap to Vinales and Dominic Aegerter, who had a terrific race-long battle with fellow Swiss Tom Luthi to collect a seventh and consolidate his spot in the championship.

Moto 3

What can you say about a race in which no fewer than eight riders are in the draft for the win on the last lap? There were more passes for the lead than laps in the race – and that in spite of the fact that Alex Rins led about half the laps in the middle of it all.

Jack Miller tucks in for the win.
Jack Miller tucks in for the win.

Aussie Jack Miller, riding on the Red Bull KTM for Team Ajo, Alex Rins (Estrella Galicia Honda), Isaac Vinales (Calvo Team KTM, and cousin of Maverick in Moto 2), and Efren Vazquez (SaxoPrint-RTG Honda), put on a spectacular display, with Miller and Vazquez in particular shoving and jamming at one another.

Miller’s post-race comment referred to a mid-race incident when Vazquez touched Miller, forcing him off-track; on the last lap Vazquez tried a hail-Mary up the inside pass on Miller only to have the Aussie cut across his front, forcing Vazquez wide and into sixth instead of a podium.

Efren Vasquez thought he was going to get his first win in 111 world championship starts, but Miller denied him.
Efren Vasquez thought he was going to get his first win in 111 world championship starts, but Miller denied him.

The frustrated Spaniard (he’s had 111 world championship races without a victory) actually lashed out at Miller on the cool-down lap, throwing a fist as he went by. It’ll be surprising if he isn’t assigned a penalty point or two for that little hissy fit.

Alex Rins collected second and Vinales made a relatively late charge to take the final podium spot. Fourth went to Francesco Bagnaia of Italy, riding one of the Sky Racing Team VR46 (as in Valentino Rossi) KTMs. His team-mate Romano Fenati, who won the previous two races, was also in the mix but dropped out late in the action with an engine or electronic problem.

The top 10 was completed by Alex Marquez (Marc’s younger brother), Vazquez, Enia Bastianini, Scot John McPhee (the young Scot’s best-ever finish), Alexis Masbou, and Jakub Kornfeil, who had a bad weekend.

Moto GP Championship standings after five of 18 races

1. Marc Marquez, Spain, Repsol Honda, 125 points
2. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 83
3. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Movistar Yamaha, 81
4. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Ducati Team, 53
5. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Movistar Yamaha, 45
6. Stefan Bradl, Germany, LCR Honda, 39
7. Pol Espargaro, Spain, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, 38
8. Aleix Espargaro, Spain, NGM Mobile Forward Yamaha, 37
9. Bradley Smith, U.K., Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, 34
10. Alvaro Bautista, Spain, Go&Fun Gresini Honda, 26

Join the conversation!