British riders scored some hard earned MotoGP™ World Championship points in an epic HJC French Grand Prix at the legendary Le Mans Bugatti Circuit. Isle of Man-based Midlander Cal Crutchlow fought his way to fifth on the LCR Honda after a bruising encounter with Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso. Oxfordshire’s Bradley Smith continued points scoring for the new Austrian Red Bull KTM team in 13th, one place in front of Lincolnshire’s Sam Lowes who took his first ever MotoGP points on the Gresini Aprilia. Not so lucky was Gloucestershire’s Scott Redding who retired with suspected gearbox problems on the Octo Pramac Ducati.
The race was won in dramatic style by Maverick Viñales, who took both the chequered flag and championship lead after a battle with Valentino Rossi saw his Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team-mate crash on the last lap.
Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) took the lead from pole-sitter Viñales off the line and the two factory Yamaha machines slotting in behind. The Frenchman held firm at the front in style until Viñales made his move.
As the gap finally began to grow, Rossi pulled the pin from third to overtake the Frenchman and go on the charge. The ‘Doctor’ reeled his team-mate in at the front, passed him, and then looked to escape – but the two blue machines were set for a spectacular last lap duel.
It was the ‘Doctor’ ahead as that last lap dawned, before an uncharacteristic mistake let Viñales back through and the number 46 pushed hard to close back in. Close in he did, before the final stroke of drama suddenly found the nine-time World Champion sliding out.
Home hero Zarco kept it calm under the huge pressures of the incredible home crowd to then cross the line in second – with Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) completing the podium after an awesome slice through the field.
Pedrosa began the race in P13, was seventh after the first few laps and then pushed his way past Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and Crutchlow (LCR Honda) to set off after the frontrunners – closing in on Marquez before watching his team-mate slide out. Pedrosa, after a magnificent win in Jerez and the drama in Le Mans, is now the man second in the title standings – only 17 off Viñales’ lead.
‘DesmoDovi’ fought off Crutchlow to take fourth, with the rider from Coventry completing the top five. Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) took a top six finish to gain an impressive ten places from his difficult grid position, with Jonas Folger (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) in seventh.
Jack Miller (EG 0,0 Marc VDS), despite a huge crash on Saturday, crossed the line in eighth, ahead of a fantastic home showing for Frenchman Loris Baz (Reale Avintia Racing) in ninth.
Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) completed the top ten, with Tito Rabat (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) in P11 ahead of both Red Bull KTM Factory Racing machines in the points once again. Pol Espargaro bested Bradley Smith by only half a second over the line.
Sam Lowes (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) took his first points in P14, with Alex Rins’ injury replacement Sylvain Guintoli (Team Suzuki Ecstar) scoring a point in fifteenth.
Franco Morbidelli took an incredible Moto2™ win to extend his championship points lead. Morbidelli’s victory in France upholds the EG 0,0 Marc VDS team’s 100% win rate in 2017, although Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) pushed hard in another awesome rookie ride for second. Swiss veteran and multiple Le Mans winner Lüthi (CarXpert Interwetten) took third.
Fluid on the track saw almost half the Moto3™ field crashed and the race red flagged. It was eventually won by championship leader Joan Mir (Leopard Racing), with Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) and Fabio Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) completing the podium.
Wiltshire’s Danny Kent returned to the class to finish 10th, while Scotland’s John McPhee was 12th after a difficult weekend.