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Championship tightens after wild weekend in France

Championship tightens after wild weekend in France

The French GP is infamous for a wild campsite enjoying every aspect of motorcycle racing, but the action was just as wild on track.

One Mistake Apiece

For the second time in 2016 only 13 riders finished a MotoGP™ World Championship race. Before the 2016 Argentina GP the last time only 13 riders finished in the premier class was at the 2012 race in Malaysia, a race that was eventually red flagged due to the torrential rain. Of the 13 riders who finished the race, one had fallen and re-mounted: Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team). He, Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) and Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) have now made a mistake each, creating a more or less even playing field once again.

“The way the Championship runs these days, it’s who gets their stuff together at the beginning of the season--and who doesn’t make mistakes--you make one mistake these days and it’s very hard to come back from,” said Casey Stoner back in 2012. These will be very wise words for the likes of Marquez, Lorenzo and Rossi to follow for the remainder of the season. Each of the trio has proved that they’re untouchable when everything is going well but they’ve also shown cracks in their armour. Patching up these cracks will be critical, every rider and team only getting stronger and stronger with more time on the new electronics and tyres.

A second mistake might not be the end of the world however; Marquez, Lorenzo and Rossi have all taken a MotoGP™ title after failing to score twice. In 2004 and 2009 Rossi lifted the crown despite issues, as did Marquez in 2013. During the 2012 season Lorenzo suffered two DNFs, although his second came at the final round of the year after he had already secured the title. The last rider to win the premier class title with more than two race finishes outside the points was Mick Doohan in 1998, but he took eight wins and three second place finishes out of 14 race starts.

Lorenzo and Marquez have now each won twice, Rossi forced to continue to play catch up to his teammate. But the gap from first to third is only 12 points, the tightest the MotoGP™ World Championship has been after five rounds since 2009 when Stoner, Lorenzo and Rossi left Mugello divided by only nine points. Back then both Lorenzo and Rossi had each failed to score in a race while Stoner had never stepped outside the top five. Stoner’s season would unravel due to illness. Fans around the world stayed glued to their seats for every round of the ever changing 2015 World Championship, but 2016 is so far even tighter and the new regulations have filled each race to the brim with surprises. Mugello might be Rossi's backyard, but Spaniards have won the last six races there. All Rossi wants to do is break the streak and return to the top stop, but both Lorenzo and Marquez are guaranteed to do everything they can to beat him to the line.

Ducati’s Difficulties

The Monster Energy Grand Prix de France was another disastrous weekend for the factory Ducati Team, neither of their riders finishing. Phillip Island in 2015 was the last time that both factory bikes finished together in a race. Their lack of results shows not just for the rider's championship but also for the team, the factory team is fifth in the standings and only a single point ahead of Avintia Racing, who are using the GP14.2 which first debuted back in 2014. Both Andreas were in podium position when they fell, Dovizioso's fall coming out of seemingly no where. Ducati have the pace to battle at the front but have so far struggled to find the consistency to do so over race distance.

With 39 points, Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing) is the leading Ducati rider in the MotoGP™ World Championship standings, Eugene Laverty (Aspar Team MotoGP) is the second highest in ninth place. Andrea Iannone is 14 points behind Barbera, a bigger gap than that of the championship contenders. Meanwhile Andrea Dovizioso’s ever-increasing bad luck has him two points behind Iannone and 11th overall. At this stage in 2015’s championship Dovizioso was third with 83 points and Iannone was fifth with 61, almost three times the points they have now.

Ducati are the only factory team who have their satellite riders and teams ahead of them in the championship. Both Andrea Iannone and Dovizioso need to start finishing races, especially as there will only be one seat open at Ducati in 2017 after Lorenzo’s signing.

Just Deserts

MotoGP™’s hottest property, Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was finally able to end on the podium he had been so close to achieving throughout 2016. In Argentina he passed his hero Valentino Rossi for what could have been second place, but then fell form what looked to be a guaranteed top three. No such issues in France as Viñales proved he can handle almost everything that is thrown at him, learning from each and every mistake. He may have benefitted from the falls of several riders ahead, but he still held off Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team), a rider with three World Championships and 100 MotoGP™ podiums. As Lorenzo, Rossi, Stoner, Iannone, Dovizioso and many more have all found out, beating Pedrosa, even on a bad day, is no fluke.

Viñales was the first rider to take a debut premier class podium since Scott Redding defied the odds in Misano back in 2015, taking third despite crashing mid-race. He also became the first rider to stand on the podium riding a bike other than a Yamaha, Honda or Ducati since Aleix Espargaro’s second place on the Forward Yamaha in Aragon in 2014. Before that, the last non-Yamaha, Honda or Ducati podium came at the hands of Marco Melandri on the Kawasaki back in 2009, also at the French GP. Viñales has now definitively proven that both he and Suzuki are contenders, but where does his future lie?

MotoGP, 2016, MONSTER ENERGY GRAND PRIX DE FRANCE, Jorge Lorenzo, Maverick Viñales, Valentino Rossi, Romano Fenati, Marc Marquez, Nicolo Bulega, Andrea Iannone, Danilo Petrucci, Andrea Dovizioso, Team SUZUKI ECSTAR, SKY Racing Team VR46, Repsol Honda Team, OCTO Pramac Yakhnich, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP, Ducati Team

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