A masterful performance from Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team’s Sergio Garcia in a damp Moto3™ race at the SHARK Grand Prix de France saw the Spaniard pick up his second career victory. On a drying Le Mans circuit, Filip Salac (Rivacold Snipers Team) secured his first Grand Prix podium with a fantastic P2, as Riccardo Rossi (BOE Owlride) also stands on the rostrum for the first time in third in a compelling race that saw some title-chasers crash.
Polesitter Andrea Migno (Rivacold Snipers Team) got a good launch off the line and lead into Turn 1, with the field tiptoeing into the very tricky Turn 3 on Lap 1. Migno ran wide at the chicane though and this allowed Jaume Masia (Red Bull KTM Ajo) to take the lead early doors, before Niccolo Antonelli (Avintia Esponsorama Moto3) then snatched the baton. However, drama would follow for both of those riders. Lap 1, Turn 14, saw second in the Championship Antonelli crash out. The following lap saw Masia, who had slipped to P4, go down in almost a carbon copy crash – two title hopefuls down in the early stages.
Jeremy Alcoba (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3) and Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) were two other early crashers in the French GP, both riders ok. Then, after making a rapid start from P21 on the gird, Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was down at Turn 3. The Spaniard was able to hold onto his machine and get straight back up though, and re-joined in 21st. Gabriel Rodrigo (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3) then crashed as well as the riders had to battle it out in very slippery conditions.
The early drama saw two riders break clear: Garcia and Salac. By lap five, the duo had pulled a four second gap to third place Rossi and were lapping a second quicker than the rest, with Ayumu Sasaki (Red Bull KTM Tech3) and John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) in the top five. The latter was, in turn, over 10 seconds ahead of teammate Darryn Binder in P6.
The sun was shining at Le Mans and the track was drying out. Garcia set the fastest lap of the race on Lap 8, a 1:56.202, as another title chaser then crashed. Binder, after a typical Turn 3 front end tuck, hit the deck. The South African re-joined but was P21 and 14 seconds behind 20th place Lorenzo Fellon (SIC58 Squadra Corse). This latest faller saw Acosta move up to P12.
Meanwhile at the front, Garcia had pulled 1.6s clear of Salac on Lap 10, with Rossi 5.7s behind the Czech rider in third still. The Italian had a healthy three second margin to Sasaki and McPhee, but there was a long way to go still in France. In the intense battle for P6, Adrian Fernandez (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) was now leading the way from Xavier Artigas (Leopard Racing) – two rookies going well in the challenging conditions.
At the halfway point, Salac had now set the fastest lap and was now back to under a second behind race leader Garcia. A 1:54.709 was slammed in by Salac, the gap just six tenths to Garcia, and there was an encouraging head nod from the lanky Honda rider heading onto Lap 13 as if to say, ‘this is on, let’s go.’ Half a lap later, Garcia was wide at Turn 8, and Salac was now the race leader. But not for long, Garcia grabbed P1 coming back onto the front straight with nine laps to go as McPhee was now the fastest rider on track, but the Scotsman was 11 seconds off the leaders in P5.
A 1:54.094 then came the way of Garcia who had recovered brilliantly from his small error. His lead was back up to a second with eight to go, with pretty much all the riders now setting personal best times as the track continued to dry. Further down the road, Acosta had expertly carved his way back up to eighth place and was trying to close a five second gap to Fernandez and Artigas. Rossi, knowing Sasaki and McPhee were in hot pursuit, then set the fastest lap of the race on Lap 16 – a 1:53.568.
McPhee chose Turn 3 to overtake former teammate Sasaki with six laps to go, and on the same lap, was the first rider dip into the 1:52s. McPhee had Rossi and a podium in his sights but at Turn 8, the number 17 was wide. Sasaki wasn’t close enough to dive back through and with four to go, the gap was 2.5s between Rossi and McPhee. At the front, Salac set his personal best lap of the race to keep the pressure on Garcia, the gap sitting at 1.5s with three to go.
Two to go at Le Mans, Garcia’s lead was 1.3s over Salac. In the fight for the final podium spot, McPhee was closing Rossi down and the gap was down to just over a second – this was going to the wire. Garcia set a personal best time on the penultimate lap and his lead was two seconds heading onto the final lap, McPhee was 1.1s quicker than Rossi and the race for the final rostrum place was well and truly on.
Rossi was responding, his margin was up to a second, but what a ride from the race winner Garcia. No mistakes were made in the latter half of the race and Garcia rounded the final corner to win his second Moto3™ race, Salac ended the race 2.3s off in second to brilliantly take his maiden World Championship rostrum. Rossi set the fastest lap of the race on the final lap to fend off a hard-charging McPhee to also stand on a Grand Prix rostrum for the first time, a fantastic job from the Italian whose previous best result was P11. For McPhee, P4 is a much-needed result after a pointless start to 2021, and Sasaki was visibly happy with his P5 coming over the line.
Rookies Fernandez and Artigas produced brilliant rides to come home in P5 and P6, that’s Fernandez’s best result of the season. After crashing and starting 21st, P8 for Acosta is yet another sensational effort. With a few of his rivals crashing, Acosta’s World Championship lead is up to 54 points after five races – unreal. Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech3) had some stunning late-race pace and managed to climb his way up to P9 from P15, Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team).
Migno didn’t have the pace of the leaders in tricky conditions and slipped to P11, just ahead of CarXpert PrüstelGP’s Ryusei Yamanaka and Jason Dupasquier. Reigning FIM CEV Repsol Moto3™ Junior World Champion Izan Guevara (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team), with Andi Izdihar (Honda Team Asia) taking the final point in P15.
It may not have been the normal Moto3™ thriller that we’re used to seeing, but it was another enthralling and dramatic encounter in the lightweight class. Garcia’s win moves him up to P2 in the standings, the Spaniard now sits as Acosta’s closest challenger as the field now look forward to a date with Mugello next time out.
1. Sergio Garcia (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team)
2. Filip Salac (Rivacold Snipers Team) + 2.349
3. Riccardo Rossi (BOE Owlride) + 5.589
4. John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) + 7.158
5. Ayumu Sasaki (Red Bull KTM Tech3) + 14.882
6. Adrian Fernandez (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) + 27.279
7. Xavier Artigas (Leopard Racing) + 27.408
8. Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) + 29.880
9. Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech3) + 35.098
10. Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) + 36.616