MotoGP: Review of French GP – Lorenzo confirms he is back!


MotoGP returned to France and it was Yamaha’s day with Lorenzo and Rossi dominating. Tom Luthi confirmed he is a title contender this year with an easy win…



The Monster Energy Grand Prix de France was host to another dominating Lorenzo victory while an intense battle for fourth burned.

Fortunately rain was nowhere to be seen in Le Mans, setting the stage for an exciting and eventful MotoGP™ race. The French GP comes after a post race test in Jerez and many riders arrived in France with new confidence, direction and parts. Bradley Smith was one such rider, running new front forks this weekend and leading FP2 on Friday. Marquez and Crutchlow both also had new swing arms.

Round five of the MotoGP™ World Championship also saw Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa return to the grid, the Spaniard having missed three rounds after having surgery to cure arm pump issues. Returning for Jerez had been a possibility, but a test on a Supermoto bike had Pedrosa and his Repsol Honda crew air on the side of caution and wait till Le Mans.

Lorenzo had appeared strong again this weekend, as he had done in Jerez, despite feeling his third on the grid was one of the worst results of his career. A lightning start allowed the Spaniard to break away early, quickly able to pass Andrea Dovizioso on the Ducati and focus on riding his own race. One of Lorenzo’s strongest areas is his ability to run at the front and set incredibly consistent lap times when not having to battle with other riders. As in Jerez, Lorenzo demonstrated this incredible skill and was nearly untouchable. “I could overtake Dovizioso early and stay in the lead. I had to manage the one second gap and I had to push really hard even though the front feeling wasn’t great,” he said.

This makes it back-to-back wins for Lorenzo and reignites his championship hopes after many had begun to doubt the Spaniard. The MotoGP™ paddock heads next to Mugello, a favourite track of Lorenzo and one that has seen several outstanding rides from the Movistar Yamaha rider. On his current form he will be difficult to match.

While Lorenzo was surging ahead, Marc Marquez had a difficult start to the race, dropping as low as sixth before finding his form in the closing stages.

The Spaniard quickly caught Andrea Iannone and Bradley Smith ahead, leading to a fiery battle between Marquez and Iannone. The duo swapped positions at nearly every corner, giving spectators flashbacks of their Moto2™ days.  The performance of Iannone was particularly impressive as he dislocated his left shoulder less than a week ago at a private Ducati test at Mugello. Marquez eventually came out on top as Iannone’s lap times dropped off significantly in the final three laps, no doubt feeling the pain in his shoulder.

While the battle tore on behind, Andrea Dovizioso and Valentino Rossi had a brief battle, the Yamaha rider coming out on top. Issues in Jerez saw Dovizioso finish off the podium for the first time this year, this third at Le Mans is important for the Ducati rider’s championship as he sits in third with 83 points. “The grip after ten laps was not great, I struggled a bit. I couldn’t gain much in the braking. I didn’t have Lorenzo’s pace though. To return to the podium is important for the championship and us,” reflected Dovizioso after the race.

Charging through the field, Rossi seemed as though he may be able to catch his teammate but the gap never dropped below one and a half seconds. It had been a less than ideal start to the weekend for the Italian as he and his Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team struggled with finding a good setting. Big risks in changes to the set up of Rossi’s M1 paid off come the race as he once again extended his championship lead, now 15 points ahead of teammate Lorenzo. “We suffered a lot during practice because I couldn’t’ ride to the limit. We risked more with the set up for the race and I felt very good. It took a couple of laps to understand it fully,” said Rossi

Le Mans was a difficult race for many of the British riders, both Cal Crutchlow and Scott Redding fell from the race in what was an overall disappointing weekend for many of the Honda bikes. The higher track temperatures on race day having a negative impact for the Honda riders who struggled for front end feel. Bradley Smith did well to finish in sixth behind the dueling pair of Iannone and Marquez after a strong showing earlier in the week. There were also reasons to celebrate for rookie Eugene Laverty, the Irishman scoring his first MotoGP™ points as he finished in 14th and as the second Open Honda bike.

The Open category was led by Nicky Hayden, the American also qualifying as the highest Open rider. He and Jack Miller had battled during the early stages of the race, but the Australian fell as he existed Turn 4. Local rider Loris Baz also finished in the points in 12th, taking his best ever MotoGP™ finish in front of a cheering crowd.

Miller was not the only rider to fall as he existed Turn 4, returning Dani Pedrosa also took a tumble there. The Spaniard was unhurt and remounted to finish in 16th, some 15 seconds out of the points. Stefan Bradl was another early faller as he continues to adapt to the Yamaha Forward machine. Both Aleix Espargaro and Karel Abraham were forced into the pits with technical issues, ending their races early.



A fourth career victory at the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France sees Thomas Luthi move to second in the championship.

Alex Rins started from pole for the first time in his Moto2™ career but made a poor start, dropping down to ninth off the line. It was home hero Johann Zarco who led in the early stages of the race, initially looking as though he could escape at the front but eventually Luthi caught and passed the Frenchman. From lap five onwards Luthi went unopposed in the lead, taking a comfortable win of over one and a half seconds, his second in the Moto2™ class. “In the beginning I felt good and the bike worked well straight away. I felt like I had a little stronger pace than Johann but he was very strong on the brakes. It was a long race for us but we’ve made a good start and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season,” he said.

The Marc VDS team hardly saw Tito Rabat during Friday and Saturday practice as the Spaniard put in long 27 lap runs in the majority of sessions. What was most impressive about this was the pace Rabat was able to maintain even on worn tyres, frequently putting in his fastest lap of the session towards the end of a race simulation run. Rabat’s race did not get off to an ideal start however, as once again he had trouble on the opening laps as he was pushed wide while battling for positions. The reigning Moto2™ champion responded quickly and settled into a solid rhythm, lapping between 1’37.8 and 1’37.6 for the majority of the race.

This steady flow of high 1’37s saw Rabat close down Luthi in the final stages, but his battle with Zarco had him too far behind to catch the Swiss rider. Rabat sits sixth in the standings, 36 points behind Zarco. “I made a normal start but at the beginning I had to wait behind Zarco. When his tyres went down I was faster and I was better through T1. Congratulations to Luthi for his win. I’m happy because we’re back on track and on the correct lines,” said a pleased Rabat.

With the Championship lead to consider, Zarco did not take any extra risks in his home race and settled into third after his attempt to break away early. “The target was the victory, I had a good start and I took the chance to lead and try to run away. Luthi and Tito were both strong, Tito especially at the end. I don’t think I used too much tyre, Rabat was just more comfortable and carried more corner speed. I didn’t want to crash so I settled for third and the podium. I’m still leading the championship, so perfect!”. Zarco now has a 21 point lead over Luthi, with Folger dropping to third having failed to finish the French GP.

While the podium positions were settled, other spots inside the top ten certainly weren’t. Sam Lowes was safe in fourth, lamenting his tyre gamble as he was just 0.3s from a podium finish at the end of the race. The British rider continues to be the only Speed Up frame amongst the group of Kalex bikes in the top ten of the Moto2™ standings.

Franco Morbidelli once again finished in fifth, his fourth fifth of the season so far. Both Alex Rins and Luis Salom fell while battling with the aggressive Italian, Salom and his bike rolling over Morbidelli as the pair came into contact. It was a difficult weekend for the Paginas Armarillas HP 40 team after Rins’ pole with both their riders crashing. Rins eventually remounted to finish 17th.

There was also disappointment for Alex Marquez who crashed along with Louis Rossi. The move up to Moto2™ has been difficult for the younger Marquez, having had a high number of crashes in testing and practice sessions. Despite struggles early in the weekend this is the first race in which Marquez has failed to score points. Mika Kallio was another faller. All riders were uninjured.



The SKY Racing Team VR46 rider heads up an all-Italian podium in Le Mans.

The Italian is joined on the podium by compatriots Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Team Moto3) and Francesco Bagnaia (Mapfre Mahindra Aspar). This is the first time we’ve seen an all-Italian podium in the junior class since the Japanese 125cc GP in 2004.

Brit rider Danny Kent (Leopard Racing) started the race way back on the 31st grid position after a tactical error in qualifying, but quickly fought his way through the pack, getting inside the top 10 before the end of lap 6. He went on to compete in a battle for the podium but finished the race in fourth place.

A crash on turn 3 of the first lap took out Kent’s team mate Efrén Vázquez (Leopard Racing), Remy Gardner (CIP), Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) & Gabriel Rodrigo (RBA Racing Team).

French rider Fabio Quartararo (Estrella Galicia 0,0) found his hopes of a victory at his home race ruined when he crashed out with just 7 laps to go.

Niccolò Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) finished the race in fifth place, followed by Jakub Kornfeil (Drive M7 SIC) in 6th. Isaac Viñales (Husqvarna Factory LaGlisse) took 7th position, leaving Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) in 8th.

The top ten was completed by Andrea Migno (SKY Racing Team VR46) and Phillip Oettl (Schedl GP Racing) respectively.

All materials courtesy of MotoGP PR