Lüthi records season-first victory at soaking Le Mans

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Sunday, 20 May 2012

Interwetten-Paddock’s Tom Lüthi put in a tremendous ride to take his season-first victory at the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France in Le Mans amid difficult conditions in a dramatic Moto2™ race.

Pons 40 HP Tuenti’s Pol Espargaró got the best start as he stormed into the lead with Marc VDS Racing Team’s Scott Redding. The first chicane proved difficult as Came IodaRacing Project’s Simone Corsi was bucked off his bike, with the trio of NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Yuki Takahashi, GP Team Switzerland’s Randy Krummenacher and S/Master Speed Up’s Mike Di Meglio taking each other out a few corners later.

Espargaró was trying to pull away at the front, but Lüthi and Redding were closely on his heels, with Tech 3 Racing’s Bradley Smith and Federal Oil Gresini Moto2’s Gino Rea in tow. Takahashi’s teammate Alex de Angelis survived a scare as he slid back onto the track after coming off his bike, with the Moto2™ pack doing tremendously well to avoid the rider.

Just as Rea looked to making headway, JiR Moto2’s Johann Zarco went up the inside, clipping the Brit’s front wheel, and sending him into the gravel, putting an end to his first race on the new Suter chassis. Meanwhile, Italtrans Racing Team’s Claudio Corti joined the front five, with Speed Master compatriot Andrea Iannone surging up the field as well.

With 17 laps to go, Espargaró ran wide handing the lead to Lüthi and dropping into ninth in the process. Smith also had a run off track, but managed to re-join in 14th. Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol’s Marc Márquez, who did not have a terrific start, was fighting his way up to the front five, as he tussled with rain-specialist Zarco.

Drama followed shortly after as the championship leader went down after loosing control of his bike, and being unable to re-join. This left Zarco to challenge for a podium, and the Frenchman soon pushed past Redding into second, followed by Corti, putting in a bold move on the Brit. With 13 laps to go Lüthi had pulled out a lead of just over three seconds.

Arguiñano Racing Team’s Ricard Cardus suffered a heavy high-side half way through the race, yet fortunately walked away unscathed. Further down the field, Espargaró was struggling to make up positions, as he was overtaken in eighth place by QMMF Racing Team’s Ant West, who was showing his usual prowess in the rain.

As the field settled down with 10 laps to go, the front runners started to spread out slightly as Zarco was slowly chipping away at Lüthi’s lead, dropping off Corti in the process. This left Redding and Iannone to battle it out for fourth. Di Meglio, who had re-joined the race after his early crash, lost control of his bike once again with 9 laps to go, putting an end to his race. He was followed shortly by Corti’s teammate Takaaki Nakagami who had a high-speed crash heading into the back chicane.

With six laps left, Zarco had cut the lead to the Swiss leader to under a second, whilst West went past Blusens Avintia’s Julián Simón into sixth. West’s teammate Elena Rosell was not faring as well as the Australian, as she crashed out of the race.

French heartache soon followed as Zarco lost the back-end of his bike as he was pushing hard in the wet, handing second place to Corti and third to Redding. The main tussle in the pack was for sixth place with Redding’s teammate Kallio, West, Espargaró, Simón and Smith swapping positions in the final few laps. The unpredictability of the race was to continue until the final corner as Smith dropped his bike in the final turn, and Simón having to push his bike across the finish line.

It was however Lüthi who put in a stunning ride to take the chequered flag ahead of Corti, who recorded his first ever podium, and Redding, recording his first podium for 22 races. Rounding out the top ten were Iannone, Kallio, Espargaró, West, Kiefer Racing’s Max Neukirchner, Thai Honda Gresini’s Ratthapark Wilairot as well as Smith, who managed to salvage a few points.

TAGS France

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