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Le Mans’ tight and technical layout always leads to thrilling racing in the lightweight class, especially in the final two corners.
The Moto3™ World Championship races have consistently been some of the most exciting races of each weekend, every rider on the 30 strong field taking every opportunity they can to charge up the inside of a rival. But at the Spanish GP one rider put on a master class in riding as Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) produced arguably the most impressive Moto3™ rider since the class began in 2012 and asserted him as the title favourite.
From last on the grid the South African cut through the field with ease, making up 19 places in just two laps. He’d go on to do the seemingly impossible and win by over three seconds. There’s few more impressive ways to win your first Grand Prix than from the back of the grid. Not only was it Binder’s first win, but also the first ever win by a South African in the lightweight class and the first South African victory sin Jon Ekerold won the 1981 350cc race in Monza. With victory came an extended championship lead as Binder now has a comfortable 15-point advantage over Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0).
In the past Binder has never found huge success in Le Mans, scoring points in two out of his four previous visits with a best of eighth in 2013. His chief championship rival, Jorge Navarro, will be looking to capitalise on this fact and attempt to make up lost ground while looking to mimic Binder and take his career first victory. Navarro had looked set for a home podium in Jerez until the dynamic Italian duo of Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) and Francesco Bagnaia (Aspar Mahindra Team Moto3) came barrelling up his inside at the final corner. Like Binder, Navarro’s consistency has helped his title ambitions immensely as the Spaniard has never stepped outside the top eight so far this season. This will be just Navarro’s second visit to Le Mans, having joined the 2014 season from Indianapolis onwards.
Romano Fenati (Sky Racing Team VR46) leads a tight Italian challenge in the championship but he needs to focus on closing the gap to Binder, which currently sits at 30 points. Over a race win behind, Fenati needs to consistently start beating his fellow KTM rider to get back in the title hunt. A mistake could easily see him slip out of third place, his teammate Bulega 11 points behind and getting faster at each round. Third through seventh in the Moto3™ standings is filled with Italian riders, 18 points splitting the quartet.
As in Jerez, Bulega, Joan Mir (Leopard Racing), Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) and Khairul Idham Pawi (Honda Team Asia) have all raced at the Le Mans circuit previously in the FIM CEV Repsol Moto3™ Junior World Championship. It was young Canet who won the 2015 edition of the race, Mir making a Binder-esque charge from the back but crashing out. Pawi took second in the mixed conditions, the Malaysian will no doubt be praying for rain having only scored two points since his win in Argentina.
Francesco Bagnaia and Mahindra have always shown well in Le Mans, the tighter layout suiting the MGP3O quite well. ‘Pecco’ Bagnaia arrives looking to recreate his debut 2015 podium at the French circuit, looking for his and Mahindra’s first ever win. As Jerez proved, you have to fight till the last corner in Moto3™ or risk being overtaken.
The Monster Energy Grand Prix de France will be a critical round for the likes of Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) and Enea Bastianini (Gresini Team Moto3) who both started well in Qatar but have since struggled to finish in the top five. Both came into the season as title favourites but are yet to show the consistency needed for a championship campaign. Unfortunately Bastianini suffered a crash while training off road and sustained a fracture to his right wrist, his hopes are to be back on track in Le Mans.
Antonelli’s teammate, Jules Danilo (Ongetta-Rivacold), arrives at his home race in the best form of his career. Back to back ninth place finishes have seen him already exceed the total number of points he scored in 2015 and Danilo is now looking to finish his home round for the first time.
After a disastrous start to the year, Fabio Quartararo (Leopard Racing) is preparing for the French GP as though it were the first round of the year. The potential is clearly there but so far a series of unfortunate events have seen technical problems and other riders have ended Quartararo’s races early.
Alexis Masbou (Peugeot MC Saxoprint) is also out for redemption in front of his loyal home fans, the double race-winner is yet to score a single point in 2016.
Practice begins at 09:00 Local Time on Friday the 6th of May. The FIM CEV Repsol Moto3™ Junior World Championship will also run alongside the Moto3™ World Championship and race on Saturday the 7th of May.
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