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In typical barnstorming Moto3™ fashion, fans were out of the seats as a restarted lightweight class race went down to the wire at the SHARK Grand Prix de France in Le Mans. Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Jaume Masia earned victory after a thrilling final corner move past Ayumu Sasaki (Sterilgarda Husqvarna Max) while Izan Guevara stole the final podium place with another dramatic final corner manoeuvre past poleman Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing).
The threat of rain loomed large over Le Mans on Sunday, and we saw the effects just a few spits of rain can have on the asphalt as the Red Flags were waving by the end of the opening lap. Initially, Diogo Moreira (MT Helmets – MSI) got a brilliant launch from the line to take the holeshot going into the Dunlop Curve, with a brilliant move on the outside seeing him take P1. Despite a good start, poleman Foggia had dropped to third behind teammate Tatsuki Suzuki (Leopard Racing) while the Italian then had to contend with Masia, who recovered from a poor opening sector to move back into the top three places at the expense of his title rival.
Before we even completed the first lap, there was mayhem on track as the final corner Raccordement saw seven different fallers. Kaito Toba (CIP Green Power) and Ivan Ortola (Angeluss MTA Team) were the first to go before five riders went down in simultaneous but separate crashes. GASGAS Aspar duo Sergio Garcia and Izan Guevara were joined in the gravel by Sasaki, Andrea Migno (Rivacold Snipers Team) and Riccardo Rossi (SI58 Squadra Corse) as the spits of rain began to play havoc.
On the second lap, Daniel Holgado (Red Bull KTM Ajo) went down after making contact with Elia Bartolini (QJMotor Avintia Racing Team) at Turn 3 while at the front Suzuki had hit the lead, but that was that as the Red Flags began to wave due to the rain, and offering those fallers a reprieve as a full race start procedure was signalled.
With a new race distance of 14 laps set, it was always going to be a tight affair with the sun shining again, and so it proved. In a carbon copy of the first race start, Moreira managed to push himself into the lead from the second row while a superb effort from Championship leader Garcia saw him move up into the podium places behind Foggia. Behind them, there was lots of chopping and changing as Suzuki battled with Migno and Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech3) throughout the first lap.
Everyone made it safely over the line this time as the lead exchanged hands again, with Foggia getting the drive down the straight to take P1 while Masia and Suzuki rubbed elbows through the Dunlop Chicane. For Brazilian rookie Moreira, it was a miserable second lap as he crossed the line in 11th, and would soon be slapped with a Long Lap penalty for a track limits infraction, meaning his hopes of a top three were over.
The race began to settle somewhat by the time the third lap rolled around, while Masia was finding his groove, picking off Suzuki at Garage Vert before getting the better of Foggia on the next lap at the Turn 3 chicane. The Italian tried to return the favour one lap later, but Aki Ajo’s prized asset was in control of the race and fended him off. The race had lost Scott Ogden by this stage, with the VisionTrack rookie crashing out at La Chappelle.
Behind Masia, Garcia had moved up to second after getting past the Leopard Hondas, while Öncü in P4 had entered the podium conversation. All the chopping and changing at the front brought the leader of the second group, Sasaki, into contention.
Back at the front, Foggia pushed himself back into second at the expense of Garcia. The GASGAS man tried to respond into the chicance, but got it wrong and was forced wide, costing him his drive out of the corner and dropping him the sixth overall. That gave Masia a couple tenths of breathing space out front, but it didn’t last long as he was soon reeled in by Foggia and Sasaki at S Bleu with just over three laps to go.
Coming into the endgame, Foggia led Sasaki ahead of Masia with Suzuki, Garcia and Guevara just behind. However, a move at Garage Vert returned Spaniard Masia to P2. Coming over the line for the penultimate time, it was anybody’s race. The Dunlop Chicane is always a popular overtaking spot and Masia lined up a successful attempt for the lead. La Musee is another hot spot for overtaking, and that’s where Sasaki picked off Foggia, relegating the poleman to third. Having bided his time all race, the Japanese rider looked like he would steal the win with just two corners to go, taking the lead on the flick back left at S Bleu. The drama was still far from over, with Masia producing a sensational last corner lunge up the inside to take the win, while Guevara had done something similar to Foggia to deny the pre-season Championship favourite a podium.
Garcia recorded a P7 finish, meaning his title lead has been cut to 17 points as Masia took the maximum to move into second overall, leapfrogging Foggia. Suzuki finished fifth ahead of Carlos Tatay (CFMoto Racing Pruestel GP), whose teammate Xavi Artigas recorded a DNF with three laps to go. Ryusei Yamanaka (MT Helmets – MSI) ended the day eighth, ahead of Öncü with Migno rounding out the top 10.
Holgado, John McPhee (Sterilgarda Max Racing), Riccardo Rossi, Diogo Moreira and Kaito Toba (CIP Green Power) are your other points finishers
Next up for Moto3™ is a date in the rolling Tuscan hills of Mugello for the Italian Grand Prix.
1. Jaume Masia (Red Bull KTM Ajo)
2. Ayumu Sasaki (Sterilgarda Husqvarna Max) + 0.150
3. Izan Guevara (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team) + 0.220
4. Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing) + 0.322
5. Tatsuki Suzuki (Leopard Racing) + 0.529
6. Carlos Tatay (CFMoto Racing PrustelGP) + 1.594
7. Sergio Garcia (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team) + 2.007
8. Ryusei Yamanaka (MT Helmets - MSI) + 2.275
9. Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) + 2.502
10. Andrea Migno (Rivacold Snipers Team) + 2.917
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