Marc Marquez continued to tear up the record book in Le Mans with another commanding display that saw him take his fifth straight MotoGP win despite losing nine places on the first lap.
Starting from pole, Marquez was shuffled through the pack at the first chicane while other front row starters Andrea Dovizioso and Pol Espargaro raced into an early lead. But the young Spaniard produced another measured display to ride through the field and beat Valentino Rossi, who looked to be on for a first win of the season at one point, at the flag by 1.4 seconds.
The result meant Marquez became the first rider to win the opening five races of the season since Giacomo Agositini in 1972. To add to that he’s the first rider to win five consecutive races from pole position since Mick Doohan’s dominant run in 1997. And his eleventh MotoGP win from 23 starts made him the youngest rider ever to win five straight races in the premier class. Who did he take that record off? None other than Mike Hailwood. The list of records he breaks by the week is astonishing.
His qualifying performance suggested no-one would get close to him in the race, as he broke the outright lap record by 0.6 seconds. But noises coming out of the Movistar Yamaha garage, and in particular Rossi’s side, suggested a challenge would be finally forthcoming. “Marquez is very fast but I can fight with [him],” he said.
It seemed an early coming together would give Rossi that opening. Marquez lost five positions through the first chicane and then had to stand his Honda up to avoid a sideways Jorge Lorenzo at Garage Vert. Both Lorenzo and Marquez ran off track and with the latter finishing the first lap in tenth an upset was possible.
Andrea Dovizioso led the trio of Pol Espargaro, Stefan Bradl and Rossi in the opening laps before Rossi shot to the front on lap four. The Italian quickly built up a one second lead but Marquez was never far away and despite another brief off-track excursion at Garage Vert he reeled in the chasing pack.
He picked off the rapidly fading Dovizioso, Bradl and Espargaro on the run into the first chicane and by the thirteenth lap he had Rossi in his sights. The battle the packed grandstands inside the 2.6 mile Bugatti circuit came to see never quite materialised as Rossi ran wide at turn eleven to allow Marquez through. The race win was never in doubt after that.
Further back Alvaro Bautista enjoyed a spirited ride from seventh on the grid to take third away from Pol Espargaro for his first podium since Motegi, 2012. Behind the Monster Tech3 rider Dani Pedrosa, recovering from surgery to relieve arm pump, rode to fifth after coming out on top of a battle with Lorenzo. Had there been one more lap Pedrosa could have challenged Espargaro for fourth but, like in Jerez, he ran out of laps.
Lorenzo’s difficult season continued as he seemingly didn’t have an answer for Marquez and Pedrosa, leaving him sixth and seven seconds behind at the flag.
Stefan Bradl had a lonely ride to seventh ahead of a tight scrap for eighth which Dovizioso won out over Aleix Espargaro, Bradley Smith and Cal Crutchlow.
The result leaves Marquez in a commanding position in the championship. With a maximum haul of 125 points, only Pedrosa (83) and Rossi (81) are within reaching distance.
He said, “I am really happy with this win, which was different to the other victories. I made a mistake at the start; maybe I was too relaxed off the line. Although it might look easy to people, we are working extremely hard and this is the reward for the whole team!”
Rossi, celebrating his 150th podium finish in the premier class – more than any other rider has managed – said, “I got in front and tried as hard as possible but it was more difficult with the front today, maybe because the asphalt was hot. Anyway I tried the maximum and my pace was not so bad.”
A delighted Bautista in third said, “It’s good for us. In Jerez we did 1 step but today has been amazing. I didn’t expect to do a podium but in the first part of the race some riders made mistakes. I tried to get my rhythm and it’s a special result.”
Top 12 in the MotoGP race:
1. Marc Marquez Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 44m 3.925s
2. Valentino Rossi Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) 44m 5.411s
3. Alvaro Bautista Go&Fun Honda Gresini (RC213V) 44m 7.069s
4. Pol Espargaro Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1)* 44m 7.642s
5. Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 44m 8.002s
6. Jorge Lorenzo Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) 44m 11.013s
7. Stefan Bradl LCR Honda MotoGP (RC213V) 44m 15.452s
8. Andrea Dovizioso Ducati Team (Desmosedici) 44m 26.028s
9. Aleix Espargaro NGM Forward Racing (Forward Yamaha) 44m 26.551s
10. Bradley Smith Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 44m 27.033s
11. Cal Crutchlow Ducati Team (Desmosedici) 44m 29.705s
12. Scott Redding Go&Fun Honda Gresini (RCV1000R)* 44m 43.448s
Post first featured on paddockchatter.com; republished with permission.