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Petronas Sprinta Racing’s John McPhee won just his second ever Grand Prix race after taking a magnifique win at the Shark Helmets Grand Prix de France, the polesitter beating Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing) to the line to make it 10 winners in the last 10 Moto3™ races, with five different winners at the start of the season happening for the first time ever in the Moto3™ class.
It was Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers) got the holeshot from second on the grid with Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) also getting past polesitter McPhee into Turn 2, with the Japanese rider then taking the lead of the race at Turn 6 on Lap 1. Sergio Garcia (Estrella Galicia 0,0) was in the bunker early as the young Spaniard crashed at Turn 7, with fellow rookie Filip Salac (Redox PrüstelGP) having to take avoiding action too. Then, third place Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) had a huge highside on the exit of Turn 10, his bike coming back into the middle of the track as the Moto3™ riders did incredibly well to avoid hitting the stricken Honda. Unfortunately for Ogura, he was later diagnosed with a right hand and left foot fracture.
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Big highside for Ogura, Moto3™ grid lucky to escape
Back at the front and there was a lead group of seven forming, Suzuki still spearheading the race with Dalla Porta on the back of the group. The Italian soon made his way forward though as the pack continued to shuffle behind race leader Suzuki. Andrea Migno (Bester Capital Dubai) then hit the front for the first time heading into Turn 2 and 3 on Lap 9, slicing his way through on Suzuki as the KTM rider led a quintet of Hondas, Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) the only other KTM rider in the lead group in seventh. Suzuki though snatched the lead back at the final corner heading onto Lap 10, Migno back down to fourth.
However, the gap to eighth place Jaume Masia (Bester Capital Dubai) – the Spaniard starting 23rd on the grid - was being cut by considerable amounts, taking 0.5 seconds out of the leaders on Lap 10, with Dalla Porta now taking the lead – again though, Suzuki snapped straight back. They say rubbing is racing and that’s certainly true for the Moto3™ class, the seven riders jostling hard for position as Masia now sat less than two seconds off the leaders, with Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse), Dennis Foggia (SKY Racing Team VR46) and Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) coming with him.
However, Masia was then imposed with a 2.2 second penalty for shortcutting Turns 3 and 4 – race seemingly over for the Spaniard. Back at the front and it was still Suzuki leading, Dalla Porta was second with McPhee now building momentum in third. But with eight to go, Suzuki overcooked it into Turn 7 and ran wide, dropping to fifth with Dalla Porta and McPhee then taking it in turns to lead.
Disaster then struck for two of the leading group. Suzuki lost the rear on the exit of Turn 3 and went down, with Arbolino having nowhere to go as the pair crashed out of the race. This left McPhee and Dalla Porta with a half-second lead over Migno, with Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) and Canet over a second back now. But Migno was right with them by the end of Lap 18 and with four to go, it was a three-way battle for the win – Canet 0.8 off, with Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) having more scorching late race pace to get up to fifth.
With three to go the leading group was suddenly 12 as the pack closed right up, but McPhee and Dalla Porta remained at the front heading into the final lap, with Toba and Canet right with them as the quartet had a slight advantage over the others – Masia and Migno coming together heading onto the final lap. McPhee took the lead into Turn 9 as Canet made a harsh move on Toba at Turn 11 to get into third as both riders nearly went down the road. McPhee crossed the line to take his first win since Brno 2016, Dalla Porta took second just behind the Scotsman and Canet claimed third to take the Championship lead – 14 points his advantage over Dalla Porta.
Rodrigo was disappointed with fourth after being in the lead group for the entirety, same can be said for fifth place Migno, with Toba unhappy with Canet’s move that pushed the Japanese rider down to sixth. Celestino Vietti (SKY Racing Team VR46) grabbed a hard-earned seventh after starting 19th, with Kazuki Masaki (BOE Skull Rider Mugen Race) getting his best result of the year in eighth. Jakub Kornfeil (Redox PrüstelGP) and rookie Raul Fernandez (Sama Qatar Angel Nieto Team) completed the top ten, with Masia’s penalty putting him behind 11th place Albert Arenas (Sama Qatar Angel Nieto Team).
Darryn Binder's (CIP Green Power) crash left the South African with a fractured hand, with Leopard Racing’s Marcos Ramirez, Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse), Riccardo Rossi (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) and Estrella Galicia 0,0’s Alonso Lopez crashing out – Rossi headed to the medical centre for a checkup, with it later being confirmed that he suffered a head concussion and a right shoulder dislocation.
What a win for the flying Scotsman in France, the first British winner of a Grand Prix since Cal Crutchlow’s 2018 Argentina GP win. The Championship now heads to Mugello with Canet in charge.
1. John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing)
2. Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing) + 0.106
3. Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) + 0.757
4. Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) + 0.978
5. Andrea Migno (Bester Capital Dubai) + 1.201
6. Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) + 1.410
7. Celestino Vietti (SKY Racing Team VR46) + 1.451
8. Kazuki Masaki (BOE Skull Rider Mugen Race) + 1.636
9. Jakub Kornfeil (Redox PruestelGP) + 1.848
10. Raul Fernandez (Sama Qatar Angel Nieto) +2.049
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