Resilient Rossi Rallies to Third in Le Mans
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP's Valentino Rossi showed once again you should never count him out for the race, regardless of his starting position. He displayed a competitive pace aboard his YZR-M1 throughout today's entire Grand Prix de France, to take a strong third place on the podium. Maverick Viñales scored solid points with a seventh position result at the end of a challenging weekend and took over second place in the championship standings.
Rossi had a brilliant start, rushing from ninth to sixth place in the first corners. An early faller moved the Italian up another spot as he settled into the leading group. He subsequently lost a place to Danilo Petrucci, but moved back up to fifth when Andrea Dovizioso crashed out of the lead.
Johann Zarco also fell victim to a lack of grip, allowing Rossi up to fourth. The Doctor could smell a podium result and picked up the pace, soon taking third position from Jorge Lorenzo. He set a provisional fastest race lap of 1'31.426s with 13 laps to go, eager to close the gap to Petrucci and kick off a fight for second place, but the Yamaha-rider wasn't able to get close enough. He crossed the line in third place, 5.350s from the front.
Viñales struggled to match the pace at the start of the 27 lap race. He was in 11th place after the first sector, but was eager to keep up with the front-runners. He briefly moved up to ninth when a lack of grip cost him four positions. He had his work cut out for him, riding in 13th, but the Spaniard is no slouch. He gradually started to pick up places and snatched ninth as he became more daring on the soft front and rear tyre.
On a second wind, he started to consistently clock 1'33s-low times to reel in Alex Rins. On lap 19 and 20 he swiftly moved past him as well as Aleix Espargaró for seventh place, thus fuelling his motivation to keep fighting. He put in a personal best lap of 1'32.871s with two laps to go, but the margin to Lorenzo was too big to bridge. The young gun took the chequered flag 23.758s after the race leader but earned some valuable championship points.
Viñales' seventh place moves him up to second position in the championship standings with 59 points, 3 points ahead of teammate Rossi, who climbed up to fourth position. The solid results keep Yamaha in second place in the Constructor Championship with a 28-point margin to first, while the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team dropped to second position in the team standings and now have a 9-point gap to the top.
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP will be back in action in two weeks' time at the team's and Rossi's home Grand Prix, the Gran Premio d'Italia Oakley, held at the Autodromo del Mugello from June 1st - 3rd.
Position: 3rd – Championship: 4th – Points: 56
"Since yesterday, we've worked well. I was feeling quite pessimistic after qualifying, but we made two or three modifications to the balance of the bike that gave me more grip and also made me lose less in acceleration. Already this morning in the warm up I was not so bad, so I thought "I can do a good race", but starting from the third row is always difficult. You have to stay concentrated, but I had a great start and right from the first lap I was able to overtake. I was in the right group. The other positive thing was that after that lap I was fast, I did good lap times and I had a good pace, this is very important. I hope that we can continue to work strongly, like we did today, to further improve the bike."
Position: 7th – Championship: 2nd – Points: 59
"This was not the race I hoped for when I arrived here in Le Mans. It took me quite some time to get past a few rivals and when I arrived in seventh place the gap to the riders in front of me was too big. It's disappointing that I couldn't fight at the front today, and this is something we need to keep working on, but I did move up to second in the championship standings. This means we need to stay focused and keep working hard, starting at the test in Montmeló. I can't wait to go there so we can try to make another step before the next GP."
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP - Team Director
"Today's podium is important and encouraging for the team. Valentino really deserved the third place he earned today, because he never gave up throughout this weekend. He used all his experience and his resilience to prepare for this race and once again proved his pedigree, especially considering the set-back of yesterday's qualifying. Maverick had a difficult start and he needed a lot of time to overtake the riders in front of him. By the time he had a clear track he was able to ride good lap times, but by then the gap to the front was already too big. On a positive note, he did take over second place in the championship standings, but it's mainly Vale's podium result, at a track that caught out many riders today, that gives the team a boost for the next GP. However, first we'll be testing at Montmeló, to try the resurfaced track, and this will give us some further time to work on the bikes' balance."
Syahrin Powers to Strong 12th in Le Mans – Determined Zarco Has to Keep on Waiting for First Win
Hafizh Syahrin showed up with a brave performance at the home round of the Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team today. Following a cautious start, the MotoGP newcomer gained ground in the course of the 27 laps, fighting his way through the experienced field impressively to see the chequered flag in 12th position and won the duel against fellow rookie Franco Morbidelli.
Local hero Johann Zarco kicked off the race in an extraordinary way, riding in the top group from the early stages and was determined to celebrate his first premier class win in front of his cheering home crowd. While battling for the lead, the Frenchman unfortunately slipped out on the eighth lap and therefore has to wait for the next round, which takes place in a fortnight in Mugello, Italy, in order to try to make his dream come true.
Position: 12th – Championship: 17th – Points: 13
"In the race I was feeling very good, but it's a shame that I did a bad start and then I was behind a slow group, I had to pass one by one. I know, that my pace was very strong and I think I could have been inside the top 10 with this, but it's difficult to pass on this track and you also need to be really brave to pass in the first corner. I tried it many times, but in the end, I lost the faster group in front. This is a nice experience for me and I try to learn and to understand for the next races. Also, my confidence is coming back. In Mugello I hope I can give my best again, I try to stay focused and work hard on my physical condition and my riding."
Position: DNF – Championship: 3rd – Points: 58
"We experienced a difficult end of our home Grand Prix, after having great feelings. Anyway, we take home very nice memories with the pole position and showed a great performance. We worked well and, in the race, I was in second position. My start was quite bad, but in the first chicane I could almost immediately make up the positions again. Afterwards, it was difficult with Lorenzo, maybe I could have been faster, but I just didn't get through. Later on, I wanted to overtake him, but I did a little mistake. I think I was too fast in that corner, went a bit wider and the front closed. I didn't expect to crash, because my feeling on the bike was good. I should have maybe wait to have less fuel in the bike, which was the best moment for us during the weekend. Even with used tyres, the control was good and it happened at the beginning of the race. I should have waited a bit longer, but I didn't do it. Now I have to keep in mind, that sometimes you are lucky and sometimes you are not. Yet, I will keep doing what I do all over the world and keep the victory as a target this year."
Monster Yamaha Tech3 - Team Manager
"The French Grand Prix is over and I can't tell you that this isn't a scenario I didn't think about. Until Saturday night, Johann did the perfect weekend in my opinion, he got this unbelievable pole position, kept his head cool and looked like coping really well with the pressure of the home GP. This morning, we saw another Johann. There was this kind of warning when he crashed together with Lüthi during the Warm Up, which is not what he is normally doing. We could see, that he was nervous, he wanted to convince himself that everything was going well. The Warm Up is always the last time you are on the bike before you start the race, so it was an important moment. For the race, the exit of the grid was bad, but he recovered in the first chicane with an incredible braking maneuver and later on, we saw that Johann was struggling with Lorenzo in acceleration and he had to make up the whole time lost on the brake. Then Marquez came back and they started a three riders battle. I think Johann just kept the brake a bit too much and lost the front. Sure, afterwards you think it was not necessary to try to pass Lorenzo so early, as when the bike gets a bit lighter the pace would have come. I believe there was a podium, but I'm not a guy of 'if, if, if'. So, we learned, he learned, especially because it's a shame to do your first DNF after 21 consecutive points finishing races in your home Grand Prix. Anyway, thanks to Johann, thanks to the entire team. I'm sorry for the fans, because they were all dreaming and waiting for at least another podium and we couldn't deliver, but that's unfortunately part of the game. We try again next race in Mugello, which could be a bit difficult with the long straight. On the other side, we are very, very happy with Hafizh, who is back to his normal form and was the best rookie. Unfortunately, he lost a lot of time behind Morbidelli, otherwise I think a top 10 was highly possible, but the 12thposition and four points is great. Some tests in a few days in Barcelona will for sure help him to understand his MotoGP bike even more, but we are truly pleased with what Hafizh has been doing all weekend long. All the time he has a smile on his face, he is learning and shows a great attention to everything the team is telling him, plus good speed. Finally, we are very proud of him. Let's pack everything now and head to Barcelona for the next test."