"Risky fun" in MotoGP™'s first flag to flag in four years

Rain in Le Mans saw chaos unfold in pit lane with riders having mixed feelings about last Sunday's race

The French GP may now be firmly in the rearview mirror, but it left us with no shortage of talking points after a sensational Round 5 in Le Mans. A first flag-to-flag race since Brno in 2017 saw Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) take back to back victories in emphatic fashion, with the Aussie’s recent form seeing him re-enter the Championship picture.

There was also double joy for the French riders, with Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) and Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) taking podium finishes on home soil, while the latter also reclaimed the Championship lead.

The race itself provided plenty of on-track drama, with the switching of bikes in pitlane seeing chaos unfold in terms of the live pecking order and making for excellent Sunday viewing.

Certainly thrilling for the audience at home, but how did the riders themselves live through the spectacle? World Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) recorded a DNF, but still felt very positive about his very first flag-to-flag experience.

“It was something that I needed. I think I was strong this weekend. I didn’t do lots of laps but I felt good with the bike.”

“I like the format. It’s different and it’s true there is more risk because there is a lot of water on track. This race is always a little bit unfair because the riders at the front have less water for them than the ones in the recovering positions!”

“At a point, you have to know, that you have more of a disadvantage if you are at the back. We have to be clever. As with Fabio, he was in Pole and his pace was not really good but because he went in before many of the others he was able to be on the podium. We have to start more in the front to have a better position, especially for a flag-to-flag race.”

Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) also had his maiden run in a flag-to-flag race, but like Mir, didn’t manage to see the chequered flag. Indeed, the Portuguese rider admitted his struggles in just getting back to pitlane for the changeover.

“It’s nice because it is something new but it’s not very enjoyable to be with the slicks when it rains! I tried to survive until the pit box and it was really hard. Tried to make the procedures really good, warm the brake as much as I could. I ran wide in Turn 7 because my brake was still very cold. I went onto the gravel and ended up P18 I think then recovered to 10th or 9th and then crashed. Flag-to-flag is fun but it is also quite risky. You need to understand the conditions quite fast.”

As the flag-to-flag debutants encountered their fair share of difficulties in dealing with the race format, they may take solace in the fact that some more experienced riders shared in their struggles. Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) confessed his disappointment in not being able to take advantage of his good weekend form to get himself inside the top 10, saying “it was trickier” to perform at his highest level. While Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) recorded a P10 finish, he did acknowledge his own shortcomings despite the difficulties encountered.

“It’s pretty tough. If it is wet to dry, then that’s one thing. If it’s dry to wet, it’s pretty scary with the slick tyres in the wet. But it was just my mistake today because the bike was working perfectly. We have a lot of motivation for Mugello because my start was good here and we had a lot of performance under my seat.”

A first flag-to-flag race in four years saw mixed reactions from the riders, with many glad to now have got it under their belt and out of the way as they head for warmer weathers at Mugello in a fortnight’s time.

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