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MotoGP Jerez: Masterful Marquez back on top




In MotoGP sometimes you have weekends where things mostly go as you expect them to, for example, last time out at Austin, the Marquez script was played out to perfection.

Then there are the races where the end result isn’t quite what you imagined and Jerez definitely fits into this category.

Marc Marquez showed strong pace throughout the weekend and despite qualifying in 5th he was pretty much a certainty to fight for the win. That turned out to be true, but everything else that happened? Not so much.

When the lights went out at the Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto, it was under bright blue skies with track temperatures just reaching 40 degrees. We knew race day would be a warm one and despite being resurfaced the track surface still gets very slippery as the mercury rises.

Cal Crutchlow started from pole but it was Jorge Lorenzo that got a rocketing start off the line ahead of Dani Pedrosa and Johann Zarco.

Lorenzo’s choice of the soft front tyre meant that he had to push early and it was reminiscent of Jorge’s days at Yamaha as he smoothly weaved his way out front.

Marc Marquez had made a good start but didn’t improve on 5th until the final corner of the first lap when he passed Crutchlow to move up into 4th. Bradley Smith made the most progress on lap 1, with the KTM rider moving up 7 places to 14th. But it was considerably worse for Aleix Espargaro as his Aprilia broke down on the first lap due to an engine issue; both he and his team-mate were actually running new engines on raceday but that didn’t work out so well for the Spaniard.

On lap 2 Marquez made the move up to third after again making a move at turn 13, this time on Zarco and it was the World Champion that set the fastest lap as he turned his attention to his team-mate in front of him.

Valentino Rossi made a small amount of progress when he passed Andrea Iannone for 8th before Jorge Lorenzo ran wide at turn 6 and Pedrosa briefly came through to take the lead before Lorenzo cut back for turn 7. Marquez then made the move on his fellow Honda at the Alex Criville turn 11 with a fantastic pass up the inside of the fast turn that moved him into 2nd.

By the 5th lap, Lorenzo had a lead of just 0.2 over Marquez, while behind him Crutchlow had passed Zarco for 4th at turn 1 as the French rider struggled with the front-end of his Yamaha, and Dovizioso and Rins fought it out for 5th.

That battle was short-lived as Alex Rins crashed out at turn 11 on lap 6 after losing the front, giving the Suzuki rider a gravel bath and his 3rd DNF this season.

Attention then turned to the fight for 8th as Petrucci passed Rossi at turn 9 before running in too hot, allowing The Doctor to cut back as they headed into the next corner.

Lap 8 and the next faller hit the floor. This time it was Cal Crutchlow as he lost the front at turn 1, before rejoining at the back of the field. The British polesitter later retired on lap 17.

That meant that Dovizioso had seen both of the riders in front of him fall and with the Italian showing good pace it looked as though his hope of fighting for a podium might come true.

Back out front and Marquez was all over Lorenzo, as the Ducati rider was visibly battling movement from his bike in some of the turns. Turn 13, at the corner named after him, Lorenzo lost the lead as Marquez moved up the inside as they came to the end of lap 8. Realistically, the soft front tyre had allowed Lorenzo to push early on but with the riders around him still in the 1’39s while he was in 1’40 it seemed to have run out of a little bit of pace.

One lap later and Dovizioso passed Pedrosa for 3rd at turn 13, making it a provisional double Ducati podium, while his fellow Italian, Rossi, found himself in a Pramac sandwich between Petrucci and Miller back in 8th.

The next two laps saw two further crashes with Abraham falling at turn 1 before rejoining and Luthi ditching it at turn 11 and leaving a considerable amount of gravel on the track in the process.

That proved problematic on the next lap, when, as the fans paid tribute to Angel Nieto on the 13th lap (12+1), Marquez came round to the Alex Criville corner and saw the rocks on the track too late and suffered a big slide with his rear tyre. Perfect reactions kept the Spaniard onboard but it was a dangerous situation with so much debris on the racing line. Yellow flags were being waved but if someone had crashed that wouldn’t have been satisfactory.

It didn’t disrupt Marquez’s rhythm though and by the next lap, he had pulled a 1.1 lead over Lorenzo, who in turn was being doggedly followed by Dovizioso who just couldn’t find a way past. Lap 15 saw Dovi attempt to pass at turn 13 but he had to pull out of it as he almost hit the back of his team-mate and lost his position to Pedrosa in the process. He swiftly took 3rd back though, retaking the place at turn 1.

The start of lap 16 was also an impressive milestone for Valentino Rossi as it marked the completion of his lap around the Earth. Since joining Grand Prix racing back in 1996 The Doctor has completed 8730 laps in 369 races, taken 115 wins, 227 podiums, 64 pole positions and secured 9 world championships. The end of lap 15 meant he had travelled the same distance as the circumference of the Earth (40,075km) and it’s a record no-one is going to be beating any time soon.

Then came lap 18. It started with Marquez having a 2.28second gap over Lorenzo and Rossi briefly passing Petrucci at turn 1 before the Pramac rider took the 7th position back. It ended in disaster.

Dovizioso was still clinging to the back of Lorenzo as he desperately looked for a way past his team-mate. At turn 6 he saw his opportunity and passed Lorenzo up the inside on the brakes. But as often happens at the Dry Sack corner he ran wide, with Lorenzo also running off-line as he prepared to cut back and hold his position.

But while the Ducatis had run wide they had left behind them a wealth of space that presented Pedrosa with the chance he’d been waiting for and he slipped up the inside, keeping a tight line to the kerb.

Lorenzo then cut back to the inside line, without realising Pedrosa was now in that space and crashed into the side of the Repsol Honda. That set a pinball action into effect, with Pedrosa flung to the moon as his bike jerked underneath him, while Lorenzo was deflected wide into the path of Dovizioso with both Ducatis hitting the floor and going spinning into the gravel, while Pedrosa picked himself up from another huge highside that had left his bike stricken in the middle of the track, calling for some quick avoidance tactics from the following riders.

Dovi was angry with Jorge, letting his Italian blood show through his hand gestures, which Jorge returned by gesturing towards Dani, who was more preoccupied with the amount of pain he was in after landing incredibly hard on his right hip. Dovi then tried to rejoin the race with the wrong Ducati (which I’m fairly certain would be against the rules, although I don’t think it’s explicitly mentioned anywhere..) before all 3 were left to return to the paddock on scooters.

That now left Marc Marquez with a huge advantage, his gap increasing from 2 seconds to 7 in the space of one corner as Zarco now moved into second with Iannone in third. The riders who had been fighting for 7th now found themselves looking at a fight for the podium with Petrucci, Rossi and Miller all chasing down the Suzuki.

On lap 20, Vinales finally made it past Morbidelli for 8th, while Miller passed Rossi for 5th and Petrucci passed Iannone for 3rd, with both moves coming at turn 6.

Further back the KTM trio of Kallio, Pol Espargaro and Smith were sitting pretty in a line from 11th to 13th, with occasional changes in order.

With Marquez already on his 24th lap, Rossi passed Miller for 5th at turn 13, before Iannone took 3rd back from Petrucci at turn 5 and Vinales passed Bautista for 7th at turn 10.

Onto the last lap and Rossi could clearly smell a podium and his pace was strong but it came a little too late and he couldn’t quite make up the gap to Petrucci.

Meanwhile, Marquez had such a big lead that he was relaxed enough to start waving at the fans as he came through the Peluqui corner at turn 10 before again dancing over the line. This time it was something apparently called “flossing/ the backpack kid dance/ twist-twist” depending on who you are. I’m willing to show my age and ignorance here and say I have no idea what the hell he was doing but Marc says “all the kids are doing it, and I’m a kid”.

Following the World Champion, and new championship leader, to the chequered flag, was Johann Zarco and Andrea Iannone, while Nakagami split the KTM trio, slotting into 12th between Espargaro and Smith.

For Marc Marquez, it was another masterclass in domination.

Regardless of what happened behind him, this was his race to win and he did so with terrifying command over the rest of the grid. It hadn’t been the easiest weekend at a track he often struggles at, but after 3 crashes and a difficult qualifying, in the race no-one else came close. He was understandably delighted with the win and showed that through his celebrations (some of the most exuberant we’ve seen in a while from Marc). Winning at Jerez is an important marker for both him and Honda and is a sign of good things to come.

Johann Zarco admitted that he got lucky with the fallers in front of him, particularly because he’d been struggling to make it past Pedrosa for a number of laps. But as the Frenchman continues his run of scoring points in the last 21 races and takes his 3rd podium of the year, following his 8th successive front row, he moves to second in the championship and is really showing his potential in the early stages of this season.

His Tech 3 team-mate Hafizh Syahrin just missed out on the points back in 16th but had been suffering a lot of pain throughout the weekend, but especially on race day. In Austin, he’d had two heavy crashes, before having a fast bicycle crash in training that left him with a big scrape on his left hip. By the halfway point the Malaysian was running out of energy and his boss Herve says he hopes that Hafizh will stop cycling downhill from now on.

Third went to Andrea Iannone as he secured not only his first ever back-to-back MotoGP podiums but Suzuki’s 3rd podium in-a-row for the first time since 2008. The Maniac is performing really well so far this year and he looks happier off-track as well. He was disappointed to have made a mistake with his tyre choice after changing to the hard rear on the grid, but happy with another strong weekend and the progress they made with the bike after struggling in the slower corners on Friday.

The other Suzuki of Alex Rins again ended up being brought back on a truck as he failed to finish for the 3rd time in just 4 races. The Spaniard said he didn’t understand why he had lost the front as the data showed that he didn’t do anything different but with 2 days of testing at Mugello later this week he needs to find some consistency because the pace is there.

Danilo Petrucci brought home 4th for Pramac and while he was happy with the position, the Italian was disappointed to have not been able to catch Iannone for the podium as he had to defend from Rossi. He’d shown decent pace in the weekend and after saying on Saturday that he didn’t think they were quite at top 5 level for the race, 4th is a strong result.

Jack Miller followed him home 2 places later in 6th and was happy with a good result, despite not being able to hold off Rossi and felt that it had been a good weekend overall as he returns to almost full fitness after his pre-Austin shoulder injury.

5th was secured by Valentino Rossi but he was quick to point out that he got lucky with the crashes in front of him and that despite having an ok race they shouldn’t be in a position where they’re happy to finish 5th. Jerez was another difficult weekend for the Factory Yamahas as their old woes with lack of acceleration due to lack of grip and spinning returned. Valentino places these issues as 25% mechanical and 75% electronic, and it’s on the software side of things that he really wants Yamaha to focus their attention.

Speaking after the race he said that “if we want to fight for the podium and the victory, Yamaha have to help us and in not too long a time”. He was more openly critical of the lack of development than normal and it’s important to remember one thing: when Valentino says something, he does so for a reason. He’s already worked out what he wants to say and what he wants the outcome to be. He doesn’t speak without thinking and he knows how much weight his words hold, especially when spoken publicly.

He wants action from Yamaha and fast, and the Hamamatsu factory would do well to listen.. they’ve fallen behind in their electronic development, especially after so much focus on their chassis issues last year, and they’re being left behind. If anyone from Magneti Marelli is looking for a new job give Lin Jarvis a call.

The other Yamaha finished in 7th after a difficult race for Maverick Vinales that saw the Spaniard struggle to make it past Morbidelli and Bautista until he found a bit more grip late on.

The main issue for Yamaha, aside from the actual problem, is their lack of consistency, and I don’t mean in results. While being able to get a podium one week and then struggle to finish in the top 5 the next is problematic, the fact that their issues aren’t even presenting consistently is possibly even more of a challenge.

In Austin, Vinales went for a more aggressive style with a bit less electronic interference and it worked, he loved it. In Jerez, with less grip and higher temperatures that simply doesn’t work. Last year, they struggled at Jerez, found some improvements in the test, had a great race in Le Mans and then got lost once it got hot again at races like Barcelona. Don’t be surprised if they’re strong in France in 2 weeks time, but don’t be fooled into thinking that that necessarily means problem solved (although it would be great if it did).

Alvaro Bautista took the flag in 8th, which is a good result for the Angel Nieto team rider at the circuit that now holds the name of “el maestro”. More important than the final position for Bautista though was the good feeling they’d found with the bike from FP4 after working on the front-end of the bike. After the race, Alvaro said “I felt that I was riding the bike rather than it riding me” which is always a good sign.

His team-mate Karel Abraham finished 18th after crashing and remounting and the Czech rider had suffered from a bad feeling with the front from the start of the race, giving him an unstable bike that ultimately led to him crashing.

It was also a good result for the rider in 9th, Franco Morbidelli, as the rookie gets an important top 10 finish thanks to a strong start, although the Moto2 World Champion did have to slow down towards the end of the race as his tyres dropped off. His fellow Marc VDS rookie, Tom Luthi, was unable to finish the race after crashing out and had struggled with the front of his Honda with a full tank at the start of the race and was unable to keep the pace before he lost the front.

Rounding out the top 10 was the first of the KTMs, wildcard Mika Kallio onboard the first evolution of the 2019 bike. The Finnish rider felt that they were getting closer to the level they had finished at in 2017 and that his newer version of KTM had suffered less with grip and spinning than his team-mates.

Pol Espargaro followed him home in 11th and the Spaniard hadn’t found the right feel from the start so while he was disappointed to finish behind Kallio, he was able to take the positives from the factory’s development work. Bradley Smith completed the trio in 13th, after losing pace with the others in the second half of the race and was also happy to see the bike Kallio was riding showing promise.

Japanese rookie Takaaki Nakagami found it difficult to feel the grip in the higher temperatures and focussed on the need to improve his starts and performance over the early laps, but 12th is still a good result for Taka after some struggles during the weekend.

His team-mate Cal Crutchlow was forced to retire in the latter stages of the race after crashing and rejoining. The British rider said that his hard front tyre had been overheating because as he lacked rear grip he was trying to make up time on the brakes but at turn 1 he maybe just leant too much and lost the front. He also thought he might’ve touched the white line but was unsure. After qualifying on pole he had been confident ahead of raceday but his comments about having to manage the front tyre carefully proved true.

Tito Rabat took the flag in 14th after a difficult weekend that was compounded by a not-so-good start and lack of good feel with his bike. His Avintia team-mate Xavier Simeon finished 17th and was equally unhappy, saying “we went worse and worse every lap” as the Belgian rookie lacked pace and was unable to push.

The sole Aprilia to make it to the line was Scott Redding in 15th but his issues with grip that had plagued him throughout the weekend continued and Aleix Espargaro had been forced to retire early on as his new engine decided it didn’t really fancy 25 laps around Jerez. Aprilia, like Suzuki & Ducati, will be testing at Mugello ahead of Le Mans.

Then we come to the 3 that brought the biggest talking point of the race; Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso. Thankfully all 3 were “ok” and Dani didn’t further damage his already broken wrist but did have a lot of pain and swelling in his right hip.

First, we’ll start with the completely innocent party, Andrea Dovizioso. Dovi had been happy with the feeling they’d found on the bike after some big setup changes and fitting the aero fairing and his pace and speed were good. Unfortunately, for the Italian, he had arrived at Jerez leading the World Championship and he leaves it 24 points behind Marquez in 5th. Dovi knew nothing and could do nothing about the crash, the first sign of trouble for him was when he was smashed into by his team-mate.

Giving his opinion on what happened, Dovi said “I was unlucky, I braked very late.. both did a mistake, I think. Dani is the rider behind so he can manage better the situation and he didn’t because he enter too fast and I think this happened because Jorge and Dani were too on the limit.. Jorge, I think he also did a mistake because he didn’t really care about the inside line because he was a little bit out of the line, it’s true that from the helmet is impossible to see inside but you have to take care and he didn’t”.

Andrea also said that he felt Jorge’s decision not to have the size of the group displayed on his pitboard was a mistake but Jorge brushed that off saying just because you know there are 3 of you, doesn’t mean you know where all 3 are.

For Lorenzo, he was reluctant to explicitly blame Pedrosa and assigned it mostly to bad luck, while apologising to Dovi. The Spartan was happy with his good start and speed and it was a very impressive first few laps at the front for the Spaniard as he made the most of his soft front tyre. Jerez is one of Jorge’s favourite tracks and he was pleased with the work they had done on the bike to make it smoother.

On Pedrosa’s side he showed good pace throughout the race and while he found it tricky to pass the Ducatis, he made it equally problematic for others to overtake him. With his wrist still lacking some strength and range of motion, he had a strong weekend, particularly with his second place on the grid.

Like Dovi and Jorge, Dani pointed out that they are 3 of the cleanest riders in the class and rarely cause problems (although they often get caught up in them). But Dani was less impressed with Race Direction after he went to speak to them (not Race Director Mike Webb as he was busy overseeing the Red Bull Rookies) after the race for clarification after it was deemed a racing incident.

It was a decision Pedrosa disagreed with, he explained “I asked them how they judge: Was I on the correct inside line? Yes. Were the other guys on the outside coming back from a mistake, re-joining the right line? Yes. So who has preference in this case, the guy who is inside or those who are outside? The one on the inside. So, who was at fault? But I didn’t get an answer, only that they had already made their decision and that if I didn’t agree with it, which I don’t, to appeal against Jorge if I wanted. But I didn’t want that, as I don’t want Jorge to be penalised, only for them to understand correctly what is happening on track.”

For Dani the issue is with riders not looking when they rejoin the inside line, for Jorge, it’s that the rider behind needs to be more aware when they move up the inside. For Dovi, it’s both.

Essentially they’re all right. Dani would’ve known when he made the move that Jorge would be cutting back to the inside line, because that’s what racers do. But he did everything he could by sticking very tightly to the inside of the corner. Once he was leaned over on the bike he couldn’t see anything on the left and so had no idea where the Ducatis were.

Jorge would’ve been blind to Dani too, because his peripheral vision inside his helmet wouldn’t have allowed him to see Dani until it was too late for him to do anything about it. But he should’ve been more aware that there could be another rider on the inside because if he’d been in Dani’s position it’s exactly where he would’ve been.

It was an ambitious pass, but you have to be ambitious to make an overtake at turn 6. You could have them replay that same incident 10 times and for the majority of cases they’d maybe have a little contact as they went for the same line but no-one would crash and they’d all just carry on.

Ultimately, the blame can be split pretty evenly between Lorenzo and Pedrosa, both should’ve been more aware but neither were reckless or dangerous with their actions. And Dovi should stop walking under ladders because his luck is awful.

The Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez saw Marc Marquez back on the top step of the podium in another display of dominance, but unlike some, I don’t find that boring. The way he manages a race when he’s able to pull out at the front is a marvel to watch, and if you don’t want him battling because you think he’s “dangerous” then you might have to get used to it, because when he can leave the others for dust, he will.

For Marc, it was his 63rd Grand Prix win and 37th in MotoGP, which equals Mike Hailwood’s tally in the premier class with the 6th most victories on the big bikes. It was also his 105th GP podium and 66th in MotoGP, which continued the trend of having at least one Spanish rider on the podium at Jerez since 2004. It was, however, the first time since 2013 that the polesitter hasn’t won the race in MotoGP (while the curse of the Moto3 polesitter not winning since 2005 continues).

Michelin also reached a milestone as they took their 400th Premier Class win and Bibendum even made a special visit to Parc Ferme to celebrate, getting a kiss from Iannone and a shaking from Marquez.

On Thursday, the Circuito de Jerez took on the name of the man who made motorcycling in Spain what it is today, Angel Nieto, and with a statue in tribute to him now in place, parade laps from his sons Pablo and Gelete on 2 of his old bikes, applause from the fans on the 13th (12+1) lap of each race, and a special bust going home with race winner Marc Marquez, it was a weekend that would’ve done him proud with great racing across the classes.

Now, attention briefly turns to testing, with many staying at Jerez for one day, although KTM will stay on Tuesday as well, while others will head to Mugello before everyone heads North to Le Mans for the French Grand Prix.

Marc Marquez now leads the championship by 12 points from Johann Zarco and it’s the 4th change of leader in 4 races. What will Le Mans have in store? We have just 2 weeks to wait until we find out.

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One Year On: Remembering Nicky Hayden




The news that Nicky Hayden passed away was devastating to the whole of the motorsport family.

This article first appeared on Motofire on May 22nd 2017. We’ve republished it here today to commemorate the anniversary of Nicky Hayden’s passing.

Nicky was a champion to his core; from the way he raced to his fierce devotion to his family and the way he made time for everyone. He fought for every single position on every lap of every race and never once gave up. He was firm, leaving no room for doubt on track, but he was always fair and he was one of the hardest workers you’ll ever know, even in a world that includes nothing but riders who push themselves to the limit constantly.

In every way, Nicky was a shining star; images of his tear-stained face when he won his championship in 2006 will forever be ingrained in the collective MotoGP memory, his joy was so tangible that you could have wrapped yourself up in it. And that was Nicky, always inclusive. Whether it was a quick-witted remark in that wonderful Kentucky drawl that we’ll miss so much, his easy manner that made him a friend of everyone who knew him or the way he never turned someone away when they wanted a photo or an autograph. Nicky came from a racing family and he became an integral part of an even larger one.

Losing anyone is always heartbreaking but the loss of a rider when they were out training, doing something as everyday as cycling, makes Nicky’s death at just 35 years old even harder to comprehend.

Nicky holds a place in the MotoGP Hall of Fame, his status as a Legend firmly cemented long before he left for World Superbikes. But he holds something even more valuable; a spot in the collective heart of the entire motorcycle racing family.

His accent will forever raise a smile, at least for me, and his own superstar grin will now bring with it an indescribable sadness. But remember Nicky as he would’ve wanted; that fierce big-hearted champion who pushed himself and everyone around him to be their very best and as that young man who brought so much joy and who left us far too soon.

My thoughts are, of course, with all of the Hayden family, Nicky’s fiancee Jackie, his friends and his teams both past and present.

Now, I’m going to wipe away the tears and watch Valencia 2006 again. I hope you join me to remember Nicky Hayden; a champion, a gentleman and a star that can never truly be extinguished.

This article first appeared on Motofire on May 22nd 2017. We’ve republished it here today to commemorate the anniversary of Nicky Hayden’s passing.

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MotoGP Le Mans: Marquez destroys the competition, but is he destroying the sport?




Saturday at the French Grand Prix saw the excitement of the home fans ramped up to fever pitch; Johann Zarco had hit the first milestone of a perfect home Grand Prix by qualifying on pole.

As a French rider with a French team, wearing French leathers and helmet and riding on French tyres, pole position at the French Grand Prix seemed to be written in the stars. It was race number 5 and so is he.

La Marseillaise echoed around the Le Mans Bugatti Grand Prix race circuit as the riders sat on the grid, but would we be hearing it again at the end of 27 laps and would we see the return of the flipping Frenchman to the top step?

The short answer is no.

In sunny Le Mans, where we lay our scene (that’s the only Shakespeare reference I promise), the excitement level of the record number of fans packed into the grandstands was as high as the track temperature (44 degrees).

When the lights went out, things had immediately not gone to plan for Zarco as he essentially went backwards as those around him got better launches off the line. Jorge Lorenzo tore off like a demon from 6th and led into the long sweep of turns 1 and 2. Zarco then made an incredible move on the brakes into turn 3 as he moved up the inside of multiple riders and sat up Marc Marquez before slotting into 2nd, while the World Champion was left unsettled by the move and dropped back a couple of places.

It was a crash-heavy weekend in France, with 109 over the 3 days and 28 on race day across the classes, something largely attributed to the high level of grip from the surface; great when it’s there but when it goes it disappears suddenly. The first in MotoGP came just 6 corners in when Andrea Iannone slid out of the race as the rear of his Suzuki came around on him.

“A win without risk, is a triumph without glory”

Over the line to start the second lap and Lorenzo led from Zarco and Dovizioso, with Petrucci, Marquez and Rossi not far behind. The other Yamaha of Vinales was back in 11th, while both Alex Rins and Pol Espargaro had made good progress on lap 1 and had each moved up 7 places to 8th and 11th respectively.

Back at the front and Zarco was chasing down Lorenzo and his hopes of home glory, but was visibly getting out of shape, unsurprising considering that he often struggles with a full fuel tank. The next two crashes of the race came in quick succession with Alvaro Bautista falling at turn 6 and Tito Rabat crashing out at turn 8.

Lap 3 and Zarco ran wide at La Chapelle (turn 6) which gave Dovizioso an opportunity he wasn’t going to ignore as the Italian moved through into second behind his team-mate. Dovi then spent a lap chasing down Lorenzo, before getting close enough to make his move on lap 5.

Dovi took the inside line at turn 3 and took the lead, but it was one that was destined to end almost as soon as it began. Coming into turn 6, Dovi was just a little wide and had a slight bobble. It may have been minor but it was enough to disrupt the contact between tyre and asphalt, and before he knew what was happening Dovizioso was sitting in the gravel at La Chapelle looking completely baffled.

Lorenzo found himself in the lead once more ahead of Zarco and Marquez, while behind them the second group of Petrucci, Rossi and Miller were closing the gap to the front.

On lap 7 at the ‘S’ Bleus, Marquez made his move on Zarco, with an inch-perfect pass up the inside in the change of direction. He wasn’t able to keep 2nd for long though as at turn 3 on the next lap, Zarco again passed the Championship leader up the inside, although slightly less aggressively this time.

5 corners later at Garage Vert, Zarco hit the floor and in turn blew Marquez’s championship hunt wide open. Zarco had come into turn 8 just a little hot and wide and simply lost the front.

There would be no French winner at Le Mans in 2018 and the fans who have taken Zarco to their heart were understandably devastated. But there’s a French proverb that says “A vaincre sans peril, on triomphe sans gloire”, which basically means that a win without risk, is a triumph without glory. Zarco had to go for the glory on Sunday. This wasn’t about the championship, it was all about winning at home. Unfortunately, the risk didn’t pay off.

As Zarco arrived back at his box with his damaged Yamaha M1, Dovizioso was sitting in the Ducati garage with his head in his hands. Both had the chance of fighting for a win at Le Mans, both had pushed too soon and paid the price.

Back on track, Marquez took the lead from Lorenzo on lap 10 at La Chapelle, with a hard, but ultimately fair, move up the inside. Lorenzo then dropped back to 3rd one lap later as Petrucci passed him at the Musee corner at turn 7. Scott Redding crashed out moments later at the same corner, marking another difficult weekend for the British rider.

Lap 13 and this time it was Valentino Rossi passing Lorenzo with a perfect move up the inside of Garage Vert that left no room for retaliation. It continued to get worse for Jorge as on the next lap he was also passed by Jack Miller, dropping the factory Ducati rider back to 5th.

Out front, Marquez lost the front at turn 3 but was able to save it on his elbow. Something he attributed to his crash at the same corner in FP3 saying that it had meant he’d entered that corner “always careful” and that he’d kept his body stiff and used his elbow “like a stick”.

Behind him, Petrucci had also seen the incident, saying “I saw Marc lose the front and I say oh, maybe he’s in trouble. He was so in trouble that the lap later he did his best lap! He is incredible”.

And Petrux was right. The lap after that mistake at turn 3, Marc put in the fastest lap of the race and increased his gap back to Petrucci by almost half a second.

Further back, there was a battle of the rookies as Morbidelli and Syahrin fought it out for 12th place, while Cal Crutchlow was putting in the ride of a warrior as he passed Pol Espargaro for 10th on lap 19.

From this point, everything stayed pretty calm, or as calm as it gets in MotoGP when riders are racing around at over 300km/h on used tyres. Marquez continued showing terrifying consistency out front, Vinales made it up to 7th after passing Aleix Espargaro and Rins, and Dani Pedrosa took 5th from Lorenzo with a lovely pass at turn 8.

Jack Miller found a bit of late pace and tried to close in on Rossi, but was unable to make any meaningful progress on the Italian, while Crutchlow was able to make it pass Aleix and Rins for 8th in the late stages.

On the last lap, Marc Marquez looked back over his shoulder as he came out of turn 10 and unsurprisingly found no-one there as he now had a 2.3 second lead over Petrucci, while Rossi was a further 3 seconds behind.

As the current World Champion and championship leader wheelied over the line to take his first 3 in-a-row since 2014, he cemented his lead in the standings and gave the RC213V a well deserved “good job” rub.

On his 95th MotoGP start, Marc Marque took his 64th Grand Prix victory and equalled Casey Stoner on premier class wins with 38. It was also his 106th Grand Prix podium, his 67th in MotoGP and he now leads the championship by 36 points.

In recent years the Honda has struggled at Le Mans, and this time last year Marc was so unhappy that he told his team that he wasn’t enjoying racing. This year the work that Honda has done, particularly on acceleration, paid dividends and the thing that should scare the other riders on the MotoGP grid is when Marc says he’s in a “very sweet period with my bike”.

He was the only rider to run the hard rear tyre, with everyone else choosing the soft compound, and after running it in morning warmup he knew it would take a few laps before it was ready to push, so he stayed patient. He didn’t panic, he didn’t try to make moves his tyre wasn’t ready for and when he did hit the front, he left everyone else behind.

Following Marquez to the chequered flag in second was Danilo Petrucci who had a good weekend in Le Mans and took his 6th podium in MotoGP. Qualifying on the front row was crucial as the Italian tends to struggle with his starts but he kept a strong, consistent pace and now heads to his home race in Mugello on good form.

Jorge Lorenzo is still finding the Ducati too tiring to ride

Completing the podium in third was Valentino Rossi, which for the home fans seemed to make up, at least slightly, for the fact that Zarco crashed out. After qualifying 9th, Rossi had set his sights on the top 5 and wasn’t overly optimistic as the Yamaha team continue to struggle technically. But they made some changes to setup that gave Valentino a little more grip and improved acceleration. Paired with a decent start, he was able to maintain a good pace throughout the race and it’s an important podium at a difficult time. And just because the numbers never stop being impressive, it was Rossi’s 229th Grand Prix podium and his 193rd in the premier class, on his 370th Grand Prix start.

Around a second behind Rossi came Jack Miller, who had a strong race and was able to stay close to the front group consistently. He was a little disappointed not to be able to get closer to Rossi but 4th is an excellent result for the Australian and with Petrucci on the podium, it was a great weekend for the Pramac team.

5th went to Dani Pedrosa, who finished 7.4 seconds behind his victorious team-mate. It had been a difficult weekend for the Spaniard, especially as he continued to struggle physically after his huge crash at Jerez that left him with a lot of pain and swelling in his hip. While his pace wasn’t the quickest, he stayed consistent and was able to improve his setup over the 3 days.

After a demon start, it was the Desmo that ultimately held Jorge Lorenzo back as he crossed the line in 6th. Jorge is still finding the Ducati too tiring to ride and expressed the need for more support from the fuel tank, especially in the braking zone. He’s able to go fast at the start of the race, despite that being when the bike is at it’s heaviest, but as the physicality of riding the GP18 drains his energy he’s unable to keep the pace and drops back. If you have any doubts just how difficult gripping onto a MotoGP bike for 45 minutes at over 300km/h can be, squeeze a beachball as hard as you can between your thighs for an hour and you’ll still be nowhere near understanding.

23 seconds behind Marquez and 13 behind Lorenzo was Maverick Vinales in a lonely 7th place. He was more than understating when he said it was “not the race I hoped for” and other than the technical struggles he said that it had just taken too long for him to pass riders in the earlier stages of the race and then just couldn’t close the gap once he’d made into 7th despite pushing at the limit. From a dominant 2017 race when no-one could touch the factory duo (until VR fell off) to finishing 23 seconds behind the winner, the higher temperatures at Le Mans this weekend stopped Vinales’ hopes of taking advantage of a track that normally suits the Yamaha.

8th went to Cal Crutchlow, who only left the hospital on Sunday morning after his horrendous highside in qualifying. After a night at the Centre Hospitalier du Mans where he was kept under observation and put through multiple tests during the night, with some concern over internal injuries, as well as a contusion to his pelvis and hip area, he was passed fit by the circuit medical team (although whether you should be able to ride after spending the night in the hospital is possibly debatable) and started from his qualifying position of 13th. The British rider had remained cautious at the start of the race in an attempt to avoid further crashes and after a brave ride thanked his team for giving him a great bike that he, unfortunately, couldn’t take full advantage of.

Aleix Espargaro achieved his initial target of seeing the chequered flag as the Aprilia rider crossed the line in 9th. Aleix had lost time and positions at the first chicane and had to push hard to recover but was held back by a large amount of front chatter. Despite that, he was able to keep a decent pace and really just finishing was the important thing. For his Aprilia team-mate Scott Redding it was another weekend to forget as he crashed out after struggling with his front tyre. Had Redding seen the flag he would’ve been given a 1.9-second penalty for taking a shortcut, but despite feeling “ok” with the bike during the race, he still hasn’t found the setup and feel he’s looking for from the RS-GP.

Alex Rins rounded out the top 10 after a tricky weekend that saw the Suzuki rider trying to find the right balance during the race. 10th is a decent result, especially following his 3 DNFs so far this year and we’ll soon be back at tracks he’s ridden on the MotoGP bike so should hopefully see some improvements, because he has the pace. Continuing the trend of only one Suzuki seeing the flag was Iannone as he followed his back-to-back podiums in Austin and Jerez with a DNF. Andrea was unsure why he crashed, just saying that he lost the rear but it’s possible he just pushed too hard too soon, a shame considering the good pace he’d shown.

11th went to the first of the KTMs and Pol Espargaro. It had been a decent start for Pol who made up a lot of positions early on but he lost touch with the group and couldn’t make further progress. Despite finishing 32 seconds behind Marquez, Pol was upbeat that they’d finished “almost 20 seconds faster than we were last year”. Bradley Smith had brought the second Austrian machine home in 14th and was happy with his race despite losing quite a bit of time fighting for position at the start.

Hafizh Syahrin won the battle of the rookies for 12th despite having a bad start and getting stuck in the group. He found a good pace, regained some of his confidence after some big crashes and again learnt a lot. It was a good race from the Tech 3 rider.. and that’s more than can be said for his team-mate.

Johann Zarco takes home 0 points from his home race after having a bad start but recovering in the chicane, before entering turn 8 a little fast on lap 8 and losing the front. The French rider had felt good on the bike but with a still reasonably full fuel tank and the medium front tyre he just pushed too much too soon. Despite his anguish at throwing away at least a podium, he was able to look at the positives that he’ll be able to “take home very nice memories with the pole position” and he got a lot of love from the French fans and those moments are ones he won’t forget any time soon.

Franco Morbidelli crossed the line in 13th after an ok race that saw him eventually have to slow down because of the rear tyre, while his Marc VDS team-mate Tom Luthi finished in 16th after losing time at the start and not having the best front feel before improving slightly towards the end.

The final point went to Takaaki Nakagami in 15th who despite being injured after a crash earlier in the weekend felt ok and had a better feel with his bike than he’d experienced back in Jerez. After 15 laps Taka struggled with the front tyre but it was an important point for the rookie.

Number 17 Karel Abraham finished in 17th (I like a bit of symmetry) after a hard weekend and simply said: “I’m doing my best and it seems, for now, it’s not enough”. While the second Angel Nieto bike of Alvaro Bautista ended it’s race early on in the gravel after Bautista lost both the front and rear at the same time. Alvaro said that he’d felt comfortable on the bike and thought he could’ve fought for the top 10 if he hadn’t crashed out.

Unless Marquez has a disaster couple of races and someone else has an overnight revelation, they should be afraid, very afraid

The final finisher in 18th was Xavier Simeon who struggled in the race and had a lot of pain in his right arm during the 27 laps. Despite that, he was happy to have found a good setup in the warmup which he hopes will prove useful in the next races. Team-mate Tito Rabat crashed out after using a different line into the corner to defend his position, which caused him to lose the front and summed it up simply by saying “I screwed up”. Aside from the result, there were some promising moments from Tito during the weekend.

Then there’s Dovizioso, who was as disappointed with himself as he was confused about the crash when it happened. Andrea simply went wide, got a little unstable and lost the front, an easy mistake to make but one that Dovi branded “unacceptable”, particularly considering his title aspirations. Dovi showed some of the best pace over the weekend and was expected to be Marquez’s closest rival on Sunday but after a DNF in Le Mans and his DNF in Jerez, things aren’t looking so pretty despite his obvious pace and ability.

The championship is still a pretty tight fight, but only if you ignore Marc Marquez. He is 36 points clear of Maverick Vinales in second, who has that position less because of performance and more because he hasn’t crashed out of a race so far this year (to finish first, first you must finish). One point back is Zarco, with Rossi a further 2 behind and in turn 2 ahead of Petrucci. From 2nd to 9th the riders are split by just 13 points, with Pedrosa in 10th 17 points behind Dovizioso who’s in joint 9th place with Crutchlow and 49 points behind Marc.

If the rest of the field weren’t already feeling that Marquez was uncatchable; after 3 wins in-a-row and after showing almost unmatchable pace and with a huge championship lead, they probably do now. Unless Marquez has a disaster couple of races and someone else has an overnight revelation, they should be afraid, very afraid. Destroying the sport? Don’t be ridiculous. Destroying the competition? Absolutely.

And just because the message still isn’t getting through the incredibly thick skulls of some spectators (not fans) I’ll say it again.. your booing and jeers are as unwelcome as they are ineffective. You’re not bothering him, you’re just pissing the rest of us off. He’s not slowing down and regardless of which rider you support he’s beating them. If you can’t be nice, be quiet. After all, even Valentino applauded him on the podium.

But as marvellous as Marquez was, he’s not my rider of the weekend. That goes indisputably to Jakub Kornfeil. In the Moto3 race as the riders came around to start the last lap, Enea Bastianini crashed and Kornfeil found himself faced with the belly-pan of a Leopard Honda. Now normally in this situation, if you can’t avoid it you hit it and pray for the best. But not this time. Kornfeil did hit the Honda, but rather than it catapulting him from his bike so that he could join Enea in the gravel, it acted as a ramp and he got some big, big air. That was the spectacular part for viewing, but the skill came next. As he landed in the gravel he bottomed out the suspension (which isn’t necessarily designed to take a Moto3 bike landing after going that high in the air) but rather than getting bogged down he took the racer route: if in doubt, gas and he was miraculously able to rejoin, albeit while seeming a bit awed at what had just happened. I’m not sure if we need to give him a showjumping rosette or a motocross trophy but he deserves something because I am still watching it and shaking my head.

There’s now 2 weeks until the next race, which is at one of my favourite places on Earth; the beautiful Mugello. But the work hasn’t stopped as both Moto2 and Moto3 have a 1-day test at Le Mans, while MotoGP head to Barcelona on Tuesday to try out the new surface before the race there next month.

And a final note to end on. The 22nd May, marks the 1 year anniversary since Nicky Hayden sadly passed away following a cycling accident. The Kentucky Kid is still universally missed so keep him and the wonderful Hayden family in your thoughts tomorrow.

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