World champion Marc Marquez took yet another dominant win in yesterday’s French Grand Prix at Le Mans, taking what was Honda’s 300th 500cc/MotoGP victory in the process.
After a skirmish with Jack Miller in the opening laps, Marquez hit the front on lap seven of 27 and pulled away to take the win by nearly two seconds from vice champion Andrea Dovizioso, who won an all-Ducati battle for the remaining podium places. Team-mate and fellow Italian Danilo Petrucci took third from Miller, with the trio separated by a second at the flag.
The race was characterised by cold track temperatures, which caught out a number of runners, including Joan Mir and Karel Abraham, who both crashed on the warm up lap. Yamaha star Maverick Vinales was another early casualty, being knocked off by a wayward Francesco Bagnaia, but Marquez was able to ride maturely and avoid incident at the classic French circuit.
“Of course here in Le Mans it’s always difficult with the temperature and the weather, especially today,” said the Spaniard. “I think this is the first time I have had a race where I had the soft tyre in the front but it was the safest option. I was focused on being consistent until I saw the gap increasing, I pushed a little bit more and into the low 32s until I saw I had two seconds. I’m happy with today’s result and it is fantastic to be able to take Honda’s 300th premier class win!”
Behind the leaders, Valentino Rossi came home fifth, just behind the Ducati trio, with Pol Espargaro giving KTM its best dry weather result with a very competitive sixth. “Simply a stunning result and almost unbelievable after less than two and a half years,” he said. “We are showing that we are on the way. I am so proud of this project. We are there because we were fifth, and we were there during the whole race. The competition is so high here with the best riders in the world and we are just five seconds from the winner and that factory. It is amazing and for sure gives us wings to keep working and be better in the next races to keep fighting for the top ten. I had so much fun today and was on the limit from start to the end and it was amazing to see we were catching Vale in some places and Petrucci needed to hit me to overtake me. This makes me feel really proud.”
Satellite Yamaha riders Frankie Morbidelli and Fabio Quartararo took seventh and eighth places respectively, the latter charging through in the latter stages after being handicapped by a poor qualifying session at his home Grand Prix.
Britain’s sole full-time MotoGP rider, Coventry’s Cal Crutchlow, was clearly an unhappy man after finishing ninth. The three time MotoGP race winner has shown plenty of pace in 2019 but never emerged beyond the mid-pack in France. “A disappointing day in terms of the result,” he rued. “I didn’t come here to finish ninth this weekend. So I’m disappointed in terms of where I finished, but the positive we have to take is that we got some more valuable data on the bike. Overall, I didn’t feel comfortable with the setting of the bike and the feeling I had with the bike and the tyres this afternoon, so we need to improve and work on that. We qualified in 15thand that always makes it difficult, but I got a good start and was ninth on the first lap and then finished ninth in the race. I wanted to reduce the gap to the leaders a little bit, but that was not possible today, so we’ll try again in Mugello. Congratulations to HRC for the incredible success of the 300 victories: I am proud to be part of it!”
There was some success for the Brits though, as John McPhee took his second ever Grand Prix win in the Moto3 race. The 24-year-old Scot has shown strong pace throughout his 2019 campaign, without being able to get a result to shout about. After gaining pole position on Saturday, the Brit was finally able to secure his Petronas Sprinta Moto3 team’s first victory and, after the race, he commented: “I can’t explain my feelings right now. I’m very excited. It has been a long time since I won and throughout the season we have suffered a lot. Transforming speed into results has been difficult, and finally we managed to achieve it yesterday by taking pole position. I have to thank the team because they have given me a lot of support. We have experienced hard weekends and we have been able to change the situation. My last victory was at Brno in the wet, so it’s amazing to also have a win in the dry. It’s my first victory of the season, but there is still a lot of time in which to take the season where we want it.
“Looking back at the first four races, I have kept calm and have continued to believe in myself. The speed has always been there and in each session we’ve shown a good pace thanks to the work by the team. It’s good that we’ve taken this good result that takes us into the top ten of the World Championship, but there is still a long way to go. Things are very even in this series and each rider pushes 100%. There have been ten different winners in the last ten races and that shows that Moto3 is a tough class. There are circuits at which I am normally not fast but at which I have done well, like for example Le Mans. It’s a good result for me ahead of the coming races.”
The MotoGP world championship returns in two weeks’ time, when the Italian Grand Prix is held at Tuscany’s dramatic Mugello circuit.