Phenomenal Double French Podium for Movistar Yamaha MotoGP
After dominating the pace in most free practice sessions and qualifying for pole position at the Le Mans Bugatti Grand Prix race circuit, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP's Jorge Lorenzo rode his YZR-M1 to a flawless victory today at the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France to take over the lead in the championship standings. Teammate Valentino Rossi followed up his strong win in Jerez with a brilliant race on French tarmac, crossing the finish line in second place to collect twenty vital points.
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP's Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi repeated their 1-2 performances from Jerez at the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France, this time finishing in reversed order.
Lorenzo started the 28-lap sprint exactly as he had planned. As the lights went out he had a lightning start from pole position and took the holeshot to create 0.4s lead after the first lap. Followed by Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso, he put his head down and dropped quick laps to keep a consistent gap of little more than half a second until, with 23 laps left, it was time to break away.
With clear track in front of him and behind him, the triple premier class World Champion rode consistently fast lap times in the 1'33s to manage the gap to his pursuers that had rapidly grown to more than two seconds.
Lorenzo was in a league of his own and remained unchallenged for the rest of the race. Leading the race from start to finish, the freshly turned 29 year old marked his birthday by securing a perfect victory, with a more than ten second margin, and to top off the celebrations he also took over the top spot in the championship standings.
Teammate Rossi brought the heat to the racing action today, fighting his way up the order from his seventh place grid position. The Doctor had a challenging start from third row but quickly moved into sixth position before getting involved in a scrap with Pol Espargaró and Bradley Smith in the opening laps.
After muscling his way past his fellow Yamaha riders with strong but fair passes, he quickly went on to take fifth place from Aleix Espergaró after the third lap. The nine-time World Champion then set his sights on Marc Marquez and increased his pace as he closed down the 1.3s gap, posting a 1'33.293s, the fastest lap of the race.
With 20 laps to go Rossi moved up to fourth place as Iannone crashed out, which spurred him on to fight for a place on the podium. Having saved his tyres, he lined up his Spanish rival and under loud cheering from the fans he made his move in the Garage Vert corner on the next lap.
Now in his element he overtook his next target, Dovizioso, up the inside in Musée corner. Though he was unable to stretch his lead when in second place, he kept pushing his YZR-M1 to the limit until Marquez and Dovizioso got caught out in turn seven while trying to keep up with his pace. With twelve and a half laps left to go, Rossi was no longer under pressure. Unable to close in on his teammate, who had a gap of more than 5.2s, he focused on managing his advantage over Maverick Viñales in third place and landed a second consecutive podium finish, taking the chequered flag 10.654s behind his teammate.
Lorenzo's first place earns him 25 points, while Rossi adds 20 points to his score. These results put the Mallorcan in the lead in the championship standings on 90 points, five points ahead of his closest rival. Rossi stays third in the rankings with a 78-point total, seven points from second place.
Massimo Meregalli - Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director
"It was a perfect race day for us. After yesterday's qualifying we were feeling confident that Jorge and Vale would be able to take home a good result, but it's not until Sunday that the points get distributed. Both the team and the riders worked harmonically together and kept focused on getting the results we needed to achieve when it really matters. Similar to last year, Jorge rode a flawless race that started with a perfect launch off the line and finished with him taking over the lead in the championship standings. Vale lost some time at the start of the race, but still managed to repeat his brilliant performance from the previous year and rode a very strong and clever race to take a well-deserved second place. I want to say a big thank you to the whole team. Thanks to their hard work we head to Mugello, our home race, in a strong position in the championship."
1st / 43'51.290 / 28 laps, Championship: 1st, 90 points
"I'm very happy with this victory, because everything has been almost perfect. In the race I knew Marquez had the chance to fight for the victory with me, or if he wasn't very fast, he would have been second or third and that would have meant he would still have kept his first position in the championship, but he crashed. Now in the championship three riders scored zero or very little points in one race, so in some way we are starting the championship from zero again after those races, but with us being five points ahead."
2nd / + 10.654 / 28 laps, Championship: 3rd, 78 points
"I started quite badly from the third row so at the beginning it was very complicated. I had a quite good pace so I was able to push and I was quite fast, but you have to stay quiet because it was very easy to make some mistakes. Step by step I arrived to the back of Marquez and Dovi and at that moment I was a bit faster. I'm so happy, because when you start from seventh position and you take twenty points it's very good, also because they are twenty very important points. In the championship I'm twelve points behind Jorge and seven behind Marc. This means that between us three the championship is wide open and we have to concentrate. I'm just third at this moment, so I have to think race by race and especially think of Mugello and try to be competitive there."
Espargaro completes Le Mans challenge in fifth
Pol Espargaro concluded the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France with an impressive run to his best result of the season, with a 5th place finish, in front of 99,000 thrilled fans. The young Spaniard began the day by surging to third in the morning warm up which left him fully confident for the afternoon battle. Here, the former Moto2 World Champion launched into action from the head of the second row and met the first corner in third whilst determinedly battling with the leading factory MotoGP bikes. He built up his speed and despite running wide and getting shuffled back to 8th on lap 4, he remained focused plus maintained his consistent pace. Later in the race, on lap 21 he lunged past Aleix Espargaro and then comfortably opened a gap before crossing the finish line in 5th. This result sees him clinching the top independent position for the third time this season at the Tech3 team's home Grand Prix.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the garage, Bradley Smith suffered bad luck and unfortunately fell on lap 20 in the round 5 battle. The young British rider started the 28 lap sprint from the rear of the second row and bolted forward when the lights went out. He finished the first lap in 8th as he duelled with Valentino Rossi and then quickly set into his race pace. At just over half race distance he was running in 7th whilst maintaining his rhythm as he hunted down his teammate. However, several laps later the 25 year old fell at the 5th corner. Nevertheless, after the improvements made throughout the weekend in France, Smith aims to bounce back strongly at the next round at Mugello and challenge for the top independent rider honours.
5th / + 24.931 / 28 laps, Championship: 6th, 47 points
"Of course I'm pleased to conclude the weekend once more as the leading satellite rider and inside the top 5, yet after our strong performance in all the sessions I hoped to be a bit closer to the leading guys. However, after the Moto2 race, the track became really greasy and the bike slid so much especially during acceleration so it was quite tricky to ride. Moreover, I was not fully comfortable with the brakes during the whole race and I made several mistakes like running wide a couple of times. It's a pity because we worked really well in the morning warm up, but finally in the race, my feelings just weren't quite the same like in the practice sessions, so we could not repeat our pace. Anyway, we did the best job that we could at the Tech3 team's home race and after the positives of the event we will try even harder in Mugello. Unfortunately, I dropped a position in the championship standings, but I'm still 6th and everything is really tight as I am only points behind Maverick. Next up for us is Mugello which is a circuit that I really enjoy, so I'm looking forward to getting back on the Yamaha soon in Italy."
DNF / -9 laps, Championship: 14th, 20 points
"It goes without saying that it's a frustrating end to the weekend, especially because it's clear to see that it was the best weekend that we've had so far this year. I started well and the first ten laps or so were positive, but then I experienced a bit of a tricky period as I had a coming together with Pedrosa and I lost some time as I ran off track. However, after that, I felt that I was getting a second wind. I felt that my rhythm was getting stronger, plus I was able to improve my lap times so I focused on being as smooth as possible. At that moment, I saw that I was catching Aleix as well as Pol, yet I went too close to the limit as the front tyre was starting to drop away and I carried a bit too much corner speed so I rolled off the side of the tyre. I am very disappointed but more for the team than myself because they have put in a lot of effort and it would have been nice to celebrate with a strong result at our home GP. Nevertheless, I have to remain optimistic because until the race, it was a much better weekend than what we have experienced so far this season. At least we are back on track and next we go to Mugello, which is one of my favourite circuits on the calendar, with a MotoGP bike that I feel confident with. There is a lot of data that we can take from today's race plus, there are a few adjustments to make because we always want to improve and I still feel that we can make a better bike. This will be the plan when we go to Mugello and we will see how we get on there."