MotoGP Weekend: Bastianini Wins In France

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Beast mode was ON at Le Mans as Enea Bastianini took a stunning third win of the season, with an all-Italian bike lock out on the rostrum. Not only that, Bastianini stormed through on Friday to break the lap record only to be broken again by Bagnia on Saturday! Miller was also finally back on the podium… 

FP1
Repsol Honda Team’s Pol Espargaro put in a 1:31.771 to end the first session of the weekend on top, the Spaniard with 0.109s to spare over compatriot Rins. Jerez winner Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) completed the top three ahead of reigning World Champion, home hero and Spanish GP sparring partner Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™), with Aleix Espargaro rounding out the front five.

2020 World Champion Joan Mir made sure it was both GSX-RRs in the top six at the start of the weekend, with Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing), Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) and Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) rounding out the top 10.



It was a drama-free session for the top ten, but less so for KTM. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) crashed at Turn 3, rider ok, and teammate Miguel Oliveira went down twice, at Turns 6 and 10. The Portuguese rider headed to the Medical Centre for an X-Ray on his hand and was given the all-clear. Tech3 KTM Factory Racing’s Raul Fernandez also fell at Turn 10, rider ok. Bastianini also crashed, at Garage Vert, and Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) went down at Turn 11. On the flip side, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) didn’t crash but did put in a memorable save as he picked up his RC213V on the kerb at Turn 8.

FP2
Bagnaia had been fastest for much of the 45-minute session before Aleix Espargaro took over, but Bastianini then clocked a 1:31.523. However, the Italian had the lap chalked off after a shortcut at Chemin aux Boeufs, but he regrouped with a 1:31.148s just before the chequered flag, aka a new lap record. No sooner had he reset Johann Zarco’s All Time Lap Record, which dates back to 2018, did the Italian have a spill when he lost the front at the Turn 3/Turn 4 chicane. Rider ok, top of the timesheets.



Aleix Espargaro also improved his laptime but remained second in the session, and overall, having notched up a 1:31.350. Rins had been second-quickest in FP1 and proved that was no fluke with third in FP2, too. Zarco grabbed some headlines too as he almost crashed at Turn 2 but pressed on through the gravel trap and rejoined, but despite that the Frenchman moved up to fourth overall. He ended the day as second Ducati, just pipping Bagnaia. Mir crashed in the session, rider ok, and Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) suffered a spill and a run off, rider also ok.


MotoGP Friday Top Three (Full Results Here)

1 Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) – Ducati –  1’31.148
2 Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) – Aprilia – +0.202
3 Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) – Suzuki – +0.297


Saturday
A magnificent performance from Francesco Bagnaia at the SHARK Grand Prix de France saw him secure consecutive MotoGP pole positions for the first time this season, and with a new All Time Lap Record to boot, beating the time Bastianini set on Friday. 1:30.450 is the fastest two-wheeled lap seen around Le Mans and it also gave Ducati their first pole at the Le Mans Circuit.

 

French favourites Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) and Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) had slightly tougher Saturdays. Quartararo will start fourth after getting pipped to the front row, and Zarco qualified sixth but has a 3-place grid penalty for disturbing another rider in Q2.

Q1
Having missed the top 10 cut in Free Practice, Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) and Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) navigated through Q1 to take their places in the battle for pole, with Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) denied by just 0.007. Red Bull KTM Factory Racing had a tough day at the office too, with Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira both missing the cut.



Q2
The first runs gave us our first Bagnaia and Quartararo showdown of the weekend. Both riders were keen to get a banker lap in early, and it was the Italian who struck first with an impressive 1:30.6 to sit on top. However, it didn’t take long for Quartararo to get the French fans on their feet as he responded by going 0.011s quicker on his next attempt. As the riders returned to their boxes, Round 1 had fallen the way of the reigning Champion.

As riders returned to the tarmac, they began to close the gap to the top. Zarco was the first to improve and put himself on the front row provisionally, while Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) had gone under Bagnaia’s pace-setting time in the first three sectors. Unfortunately for the two-time premier class race winner, his effort fell just short as he replaced Zarco in P3.

 

As the session ticked down, Bagnaia upped his game once more, posting a rapid lap to break the All Time Lap Record in Le Mans as well as towing teammate Miller into the top two. Moments later, Aleix Espargaro joined them on the front row after a blistering effort from the RS-GP, and all eyes were now on Quartararo.  

The pressure was on the Yamaha rider, and despite a clean two first sectors on his final time attack, he lost time in the third before losing even more completely in the fourth, leaving him with a P4 start come lights out. He’ll be joined on the second row by Bastianini in P5, and after Zarco’s penalty the Frenchman drops to P9, with Mir moving up to take sixth on the grid.



The Grid
The two Ducatis head the Aprilia, with Quartararo keen to push on from fourth. Bastianini was top Independent too, ahead of Mir now gaining a row as well as a place. Teammate Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) now heads the third row ahead of Martin, and it’s completed by Zarco.

 


MotoGP Qualifying Top Three (Full Results Here)

1 Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) – Ducati – 1’30.450
2 Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) – Ducati – +0.069
3 Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) – Aprilia – +0.157


Sunday
For the third time this season, Enea Bastianini has engaged Beast Mode. Another 25-point haul at the SHARK Grand Prix de France sees the Gresini Racing rider move to within eight points of the top of the Championship, take another Independent Team win and make quite a statement. After he and Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) had escaped to make it a duel for supremacy at Le Mans, the Beast struck for the lead and it wasn’t long after that that Pecco slid out of contention.. rider ok, but points haul taking a dent.

 

Meanwhile, Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) maintained it as a Borgo Panigale 1-2, with Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro making it three premier class rostrums on the spin for the Noale factory for the first time ever – just denying home hero and reigning Champion Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™). 

The atmosphere in the circuit hit fever pitch as riders revved up for the start of Round 7, and it was Miller who got the perfect launch from the line to take the holeshot ahead of Bastianini, who pushed his way through from the second row. Bagnaia was in third with Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins and Joan Mir split by Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) in P5. A poor start from Aleix Espargaro saw him drop to seventh, while Quartararo also went backwards, the Frenchman initially swallowed up by a number of riders before  starting to make progress forward.



A wild first lap came to a close with Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) aggressively lunging up the inside of both Quartararo and Nakagami to move into P7, and it was all go everywhere. Not least for home hero Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing), who was having an equally difficult start to the GP just behind, locked in a battle mid-pack with Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and the two making contact at Turn 6. The RC16 lost a front wing as a result.

The manic start continued back at the front, with Bagania and Rins both picking off Bastianini to drop him out of the podium places. Rins’ ambitions would come crashing to a halt at the beginning of the third lap though, with the Suzuki off track at Turn 2, through the gravel and back on at Turn 4. Unfortunately, he couldn’t keep his machine upright as it returned to the tarmac, temporarily rejoining but retiring soon after.



As a result, it was a Ducati one-two-three with the factory riders building up a gap out front, Miller ahead. Bagnaia was through on Lap 4 though, and the race began to settle slightly as riders found their groove. Just back of that fight, Mir led Aleix Espargaro, Quartararo and Marc Marquez.

By Lap 12, Bastinain was past Miller, the Gresini rider going through on the Aussie at Garage Vert. Soon after, there was some change just behind them too, with Mir hitting the deck and tumbling through the gravel at Turn 14. That allowed Aleix Espargaro and Quartararo to gain a position each, but they were still 1.1s away from Miller in third. There was also disappointment for Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) as he recorded a fourth DNF of the year after a Turn 9 fall.

 

On Lap 17, the fight for victory sparked into life as Bastianini began to swarm all over the back of Bagnaia out front, the GP21 locked on for a few laps to heap on some pressure. The Beast then made his first move at the Dunlop Chicane and the two went wheel-to-wheel up until Turn 6, with Bagnaia posting a classy riposte. The fight wasn’t over though, with Bastianini forcing an error from his Ducati counterpart at Garage Vert as Pecco ran it wide and dropped to P2. That left a second between them and in an effort to reel Bastianini back in, Bagnaia pushed it too hard around the final corner and slid into the gravel, and out of the race. Rider ok, but on a long, lonely walk back down pitlane.

From there, Bastianini just had to keep it steady to bring home his third victory of the year, while Miller was comfortable in second. Attentions switched the remaining podium place, with home fans willing on World Champion Quartararo in the closing laps. He closed and closed and closed but he could never quite get close enough to the Aprilia ahead, with Aleix Espargaro denying the fairytale French ending but continued the Noale dream.



Zarco made moves to get back towards the front, coming home fifth despite that tougher start. Marquez rounded out the top six, while Nakagami put in a very solid seventh place finish. Despite missing a wing from the early stages, Binder claimed P8, while his factory teammate Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) recorded a DNF. Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) and Maverick Viñales both claimed top 10 results in encouraging performances.

That’s a wrap on the French GP and it was certainly a race to remember, with the crowd an incredible protagonist too. Next up for MotoGP™ is the Tuscan beauty of Mugello, where we’re sure to see even more twists and turns in this fascinating World Championship… 


Enea Bastianini: “I’m really happy about this race, because it was also unexpected because the weekend started really complicated for me, with three crashes, a lot for me. Every time I’m consistent, but here it was really difficult. But in the race, I saw that my pace was really nice, like the group that was in front of me. At the end, when I saw Pecco very close, I understand, ‘Okay, now you have to stay behind.’ At the end, I tried to overtake him in the second corner to make Pecco a little bit nervous. In the end, he went long and I won this race. It’s all for my team because they work a lot at this Grand Prix to give me the best bike and it’s incredible, the job they did.”



MotoGP Podium (Full Results Here)

1 Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) – Ducati – 41’34.613
2 Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) – Ducati – +2.718
3 Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) – Aprilia – +4.182


Moto2
Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Augusto Fernandez has broken a drought of almost three years with victory at the SHARK Grand Prix de France, with he and teammate Pedro Acosta pulling clear in the early laps before the rookie crashed out the lead on Lap 11. Aron Canet (Flexbox HP40) finished second for another impressive podium, fending off Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) and Cameron Beaubier (American Racing). World Championship leader Celestino Vietti (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) limited the damage to his title hopes, finishing eighth despite starting 18th on the grid.

Acosta converted his first Moto2™ pole position into the early race lead while Fernandez slotted into second, one up on where he had qualified. Albert Arenas (Inde GASGAS Aspar Team) was third initially before being passed by Alonso Lopez (MB Conveyors Speed Up) on Lap 2, then Canet was into the podium places when he got by Lopez on Lap 5 at Turn 3.

By then, the top two had a margin over the rest of three seconds and growing. Still, Fernandez was keeping in touch with Acosta, thanks in part to a big wobble for the latter exiting Raccordement on Lap 5. A lap later, Lopez and Arenas were down in the gravel together, however, as the Aspar rider tried to go through a diminishing gap at Musee.

Meanwhile at the front, the pole-sitter had just started to put the hammer down when he lost the front through La Chapelle, rider ok but his hopes of a breakthrough Moto2™ victory dashed. That elevated Fernandez to the lead and Canet to second, but the man with the bowtie was coming under pressure from Beaubier and Chantra.

When Beaubier ran just a little wide at Musee on Lap 14, Chantra pinched third, then put a move on Canet a lap later. In doing so, he made room for the American to also go past Canet and reclaim third, but Canet turned the tables on Lap 18, passing Beaubier from a long way back at the Turn 3/Turn 4 chicane and making it stick.

As Fernandez continued to enjoy a margin of six to seven seconds over the rest, second-placed then Chantra outbraked himself at Garage Vert on Lap 18 and had to let his bike run wide. Not only did he cede position to Canet and Beaubier, the Thai rider had cost himself a full second of time, handing a free kick to his rivals in the battle for the podium.

Next it was Beaubier who invited some pressure when he ran wide at La Chapelle on the third-last lap, and Chantra made the pass a lap later as they ran through Turn 13. Meanwhile, Vietti was finally into the top 10, despite running through the gravel at Garage Vert earlier in the race.

Up ahead, Fernandez eased off in the closing laps and cruised to victory by an official margin of 3.746 seconds. The win is his first since the 2019 San Marino Grand Prix, and his first altogether for Red Bull KTM Ajo. A further 0.882 seconds behind Canet, who gained a little breathing space in second, was Chantra in third, with Beaubier a career-best fourth despite losing out on that first podium.

Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) prevailed in a late battle with Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) as they finished fifth and sixth respectively, ahead of Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team), Vietti, Jorge Navarro (Flexbox HP40), and stand in Stefano Manzi (Yamaha VR46 Master Camp Team).

Arenas managed to remount after his incident with Lopez but could only get back to 19th, missing out on the points. His Inde GASGAS Aspar team-mate Jake Dixon, who did not get away well from the middle of the front row, also pressed on after an early crash from eighth position, but finished even further back in 21st spot. Among those who did not make the chequered flag at all were Lopez and title contender Tony Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS).

Arbolino and Fermin Aldeguer (MB Conveyors Speed Up) went down in synchronised fashion at La Chapelle on Lap 2, although without contact, and that capped off a difficult day for the Elf Marc VDS Racing Team. Before the race had started, it was down to one bike due as Sam Lowes was declared unfit after reporting neck pain and the onset of dizziness after Warm Up. He’d had a nasty highside in Q2. In the World Championship, Vietti has moved to 108 points, second-placed Ogura is a slightly closer 16 points behind, and Fernandez has climbed to fifth.


Moto2 Podium (Full Results Here)

1 Augusto Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) – Kalex – 40’31.726
2 Aron Canet (Flexbox HP 40) – Kalex – +3.746
3 Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) – Kalex – +4.628


Moto3
In typical barnstorming Moto3 fashion, fans were out of their seats for a grandstand finish as a restarted race went down to the wire at the SHARK Grand Prix de France. Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Jaume Masia earned victory after a thrilling final corner move past Ayumu Sasaki (Sterilgarda Husqvarna Max) while Izan Guevara (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team) stole the final podium place with another dramatic final corner past poleman Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing). It’s the first time Masia has taken four podiums in a row and it moves him up to second in the standings, 17 off leader Sergio Garcia (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team).

The threat of rain loomed large over Le Mans on Sunday but initially, Diogo Moreira (MT Helmets – MSI) got a brilliant launch from the line to take the holeshot going into the Dunlop Curve, but the Red Flag soon came out as rain hit the final sector. There had been seven different fallers, including GASGAS Aspar duo Garcia and Guevara, Sasaki, Andrea Migno (Rivacold Snipers Team) and Riccardo Rossi (SI58 Squadra Corse), but riders all ok and all able to make the restart.

With a new race distance of 14 laps set, it was always going to be a tight affair with the sun shining again, and so it proved. In a carbon copy of the first race start, Moreira managed to push himself into the lead from the second row while a superb effort from Championship leader Garcia saw him move up into the podium places behind then-closest challenger Foggia. Behind them, there was lots of chopping and changing as Tatsuki Suzuki (Leopard Racing) battled with Migno and Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech3) throughout the first lap.

The race began to settle somewhat by the time the third lap rolled around, while Masia was finding his groove, picking off Suzuki at Garage Vert before getting the better of Foggia on the next lap at the Turn 3 chicane. The Italian tried to return the favour one lap later, but the Red Bull KTM Ajo rider fended him off. The race had lost Scott Ogden by this stage, with the VisionTrack rookie crashing out at La Chappelle, rider ok.

Behind Masia, Garcia had moved up to second after getting past the Leopard Hondas, while Öncü in P4 had entered the podium conversation. All the chopping and changing brought the leader of the second group, Sasaki, into contention too.

Back at the front, Foggia pushed himself back into second at the expense of Garcia. The GASGAS man tried to respond into the chicane, but it went awry and he was forced wide, costing him his drive out of the corner and dropping him to sixth overall. That gave Masia a couple tenths of breathing space out front, but it didn’t last long as he was soon reeled in by Foggia and Sasaki at S Bleu with just over three laps to go.

Coming into the endgame, Foggia led Sasaki ahead of Masia with Suzuki, Garcia and Guevara just behind. However, a move at Garage Vert returned Masia to P2. Coming over the line for the penultimate time, it was anybody’s race. The Dunlop Chicane is always a popular overtaking spot, and Masia lined up a successful attempt for the lead.

La Musee is another hot spot for overtaking, and that’s where Sasaki picked off Foggia, relegating the poleman to third. Having bided his time all race, the Japanese rider looked like he would steal the win with just two corners to go, taking the lead on the flick back left at S Bleu. The drama was still far from over, with Masia producing a sensational last corner lunge up the inside to take the win, while Guevara had done something similar to Foggia to deny the pre-season Championship favourite a podium.

Behind that podium shuffle, Suzuki finished fifth ahead of Carlos Tatay (CFMoto Racing Pruestel GP), with Garcia recording a P7 finish. Ryusei Yamanaka (MT Helmets – MSI) ended the day eighth, ahead of Öncü with Migno rounding out the top 10. Holgado, John McPhee (Sterilgarda Max Racing), Rossi, Moreira after a Long Lap and Kaito Toba (CIP Green Power) are the other points scorers in France.


Moto3 Podium (Full Results Here)

1 Jaume Masia (Red Bull KTM Ajo) – KTM – 24’04.119
2 Ayumu Sasaki (Sterilgarda Husqvarna Max) – Husqvarna – +0.150
3 Izan Guevara (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team) – GASGAS – +0.220


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