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A rain interrupted Qualifying session resulted in a mixed grid and a riveting race as riders charged through the pack.
Rain fell during the opening minutes of Qualifying on Saturday for the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France resulting in several favourites such as Danny Kent, Efren Vazquez and Brad Binder all qualifying down the grid. Fortunately the skies were clear come Sunday in Le Mans, but this still left a lot of work for many riders to do. There was no doubt going to be incident into the first chicane with so many riders eager to make up spots having failed to set an early fast lap.
Brad Binder, Remy Gardner and Gabriel Rodrigo were all victims of this added pressure as they fell going in to the chicane. Efren Vazquez suffered a quick highside as he existed, ending any hopes of recovering points after his disastrous Qualifying. Whilst this was happening, Andrea Antonelli and Enea Beastianini had all made very fast starts and joined the leading group in the early stages having started seventh and 18th respectively. They were joined by Francesco Bagnaia, Fabio Quartararo and Romano Fenati, who all started inside the top five.
The battle for the victory became an exclusively Italian affair as Fabio Quartararo crashed out of his home Grand Prix as he exited Turn 4, just as Vazquez and several others had done. With both Quartararo and Vazquez out, Danny Kent was put in a comfortable situation with none of his main championship rivals looking set to score points in France. Despite this the Britain continued to push, having joined the front group in the closing stages from 30th on the grid. The Brit demonstrated his ability to come back from adversity, having already demonstrated his ability to lead from the front in Austin and Argentina.
It would be the Italian trio of Fenati, Bastianini and Bagnaia who would see Kent finish off the podium for the first time this season. Romano Fenati took his and KTM’s first win of the season having spent the entire race battling with his compatriots on the Honda and the Mahindra. “The start of the season was hard, the bike wasn’t perfect and the performance was less. We worked very hard every time and today we have the victory. The bike was perfect today and in the last lap the tyre was ok. In Jerez the tyre was gone after 5 laps so we’ve improved a lot,” said the SKY Racing Team VR46 rider.
Bastianini has now made a habit of coming back from poor grid positions to claim podium finishes, having performed a similar feat in Qatar at the season opener. “It’s a very difficult race today. My start was nice and I was always pushing to the max this race. In the last laps I had too much movement so the win wasn’t possible,” he reflected.
He moves into second in the championship with 67 points, but sits 37 behind Danny Kent as the Brit takes a firm lead in the Moto3™ Championship.
Aside from the two stellar rides of Bastianini and Fenati, Francesco Bagnaia was a stand out of the event. He and his Mahindra have shown flashes of speed at nearly all the rounds this year and have shown that they were on the edge of a strong result. A career first front row gave Bagnaia the boost he needed and the young Italian was able to battle over the entire race distance, securing third and adding a career first podium alongside his first front row. “This is for sure the best race of my career. I fight a lot with the other Italians. With two laps to go I tried to defend my lead and I gave my best,” he said. This is also Mahindra’s first podium of the year.
The last time Italian riders locked out the lightweight podium was at the Japanese GP in 2004 where Andrea Dovizioso claimed victory. The trio were not the only Italians to enjoy success as Niccolo Antonelli was able to score points for the second time this season, restoring confidence after two DNFS.
Alongside Quartararo and Vazquez there were also falls for Jorge Navarro, his third DNF of the season, Niklas Ajo and home rider Alexis Masbou who has been luckless since his win in Qatar. Jules Danilo also failed to finish at home in France, an overall disastrous day for the French Moto3™ riders as they all failed to finish. The slew of crashes and technical problems saw only 20 riders finish the French GP.
4 years ago
#FrenchGP 2nd !!!!!!