Bastianini flies, Bagnaia falls as Miller and Aleix Espargaro beat Quartararo to the podium
Beast mode is ON at Le Mans as the Gresini rider takes a stunning third win of the season, with an all-Italian bike lock out on the rostrum
Sunday, 15 May 2022
For the third time this season, Enea Bastianini has engaged Beast Mode. Another 25-point haul at the SHARK Grand Prix de France sees the Gresini Racing rider move to within eight points of the top of the Championship, take another Independent Team win and make quite a statement. After he and Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) had escaped to make it a duel for supremacy at Le Mans, the Beast struck for the lead and it wasn’t long after that that Pecco slid out of contention.. rider ok, but points haul taking a dent.
Meanwhile, Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) maintained it as a Borgo Panigale 1-2, with Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro making it three premier class rostrums on the spin for the Noale factory for the first time ever – just denying home hero and reigning Champion Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™).
The atmosphere in the circuit hit fever pitch as riders revved up for the start of Round 7, and it was Miller who got the perfect launch from the line to take the holeshot ahead of Bastianini, who pushed his way through from the second row. Bagnaia was in third with Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins and Joan Mir split by Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) in P5. A poor start from Aleix Espargaro saw him drop to seventh, while Quartararo also went backwards, the Frenchman initially swallowed up by a number of riders before starting to make progress forward.
A wild first lap came to a close with Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) aggressively lunging up the inside of both Quartararo and Nakagami to move into P7, and it was all go everywhere. Not least for home hero Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing), who was having an equally difficult start to the GP just behind, locked in a battle mid-pack with Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and the two making contact at Turn 6. The RC16 lost a front wing as a result.
The manic start continued back at the front, with Bagania and Rins both picking off Bastianini to drop him out of the podium places. Rins’ ambitions would come crashing to a halt at the beginning of the third lap though, with the Suzuki off track at Turn 2, through the gravel and back on at Turn 4. Unfortunately, he couldn’t keep his machine upright as it returned to the tarmac, temporarily rejoining but retiring soon after.
As a result, it was a Ducati one-two-three with the factory riders building up a gap out front, Miller ahead. Bagnaia was through on Lap 4 though, and the race began to settle slightly as riders found their groove. Just back of that fight, Mir led Aleix Espargaro, Quartararo and Marc Marquez.
By Lap 12, Bastinain was past Miller, the Gresini rider going through on the Aussie at Garage Vert. Soon after, there was some change just behind them too, with Mir hitting the deck and tumbling through the gravel at Turn 14. That allowed Aleix Espargaro and Quartararo to gain a position each, but they were still 1.1s away from Miller in third. There was also disappointment for Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) as he recorded a fourth DNF of the year after a Turn 9 fall.
On Lap 17, the fight for victory sparked into life as Bastianini began to swarm all over the back of Bagnaia out front, the GP21 locked on for a few laps to heap on some pressure. The Beast then made his first move at the Dunlop Chicane and the two went wheel-to-wheel up until Turn 6, with Bagnaia posting a classy riposte. The fight wasn’t over though, with Bastianini forcing an error from his Ducati counterpart at Garage Vert as Pecco ran it wide and dropped to P2. That left a second between them and in an effort to reel Bastianini back in, Bagnaia pushed it too hard around the final corner and slid into the gravel, and out of the race. Rider ok, but on a long, lonely walk back down pitlane.
From there, Bastianini just had to keep it steady to bring home his third victory of the year, while Miller was comfortable in second. Attentions switched the remaining podium place, with home fans willing on World Champion Quartararo in the closing laps. He closed and closed and closed but he could never quite get close enough to the Aprilia ahead, with Aleix Espargaro denying the fairytale French ending but continued the Noale dream.
Zarco made moves to get back towards the front, coming home fifth despite that tougher start. Marquez rounded out the top six, while Nakagami put in a very solid seventh place finish. Despite missing a wing from the early stages, Binder claimed P8, while his factory teammate Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) recorded a DNF.
Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) and Maverick Viñales both claimed top 10 results in encouraging performances.
That’s a wrap on the French GP and it was certainly a race to remember, with the crowd an incredible protagonist too. Next up for MotoGP™ is the Tuscan beauty of Mugello, where we’re sure to see even more twists and turns in this fascinating World Championship… join us then in two weeks!
Binder takes top eight classification against the odds at French MotoGP™
The SHARK Grand Prix de France moved the 2022 MotoGP season up to round seven of 21 and a bright and packed Le Mans was the scene of another top ten finish for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Brad Binder as the South African finished 8th.
Binder works through the pack to earn 8th position despite bike damage
Oliveira so close to top ten recovery and 9th place until Turn 3 crash
Hard day for Tech3 KTM Factory Racing as Gardner and Fernandez fail to finish
The notoriously unreliable Le Mans climate initially swung back to an ‘unpredictable’ status at the beginning of French Grand Prix race-day and after two days of practice and qualification work in sunny and warm conditions. The Moto3 sprint was red-flagged and restarted due to a rain shower but the capacity attendance was able to put the umbrellas away shortly afterwards and the 27-lap MotoGP event occurred in sunshine once more.
Brad Binder gunned his KTM RC16 from the sixth row of the start grid and the South African was closely followed by teammate Miguel Oliveira. Contact with another rider through Turn 6 saw Binder’s left aerodynamic ‘wing’ snap free and the South African then had a long and hard slog through the remaining race distance to compensate. Brad resisted and was rewarded with a creditable 8th by the flag. Oliveira, who had also rallied strongly from the second half of the grid, crashed out of 9th entering Turn 3 with just three laps to go.
Tech3 KTM Factory Racing watched their two MotoGP rookies – Remy Gardner and Raul Fernandez – in action even though both were less than comfortable physically: Gardner after his fall during the one-day Jerez test less than two weeks previously and Fernandez in his racing return to MotoGP after missing Grands Prix in Portugal and Spain. Sadly, Fernandez crashed out at Turn 6 with 21 laps remaining and Remy Gardner also did not reach the line.
Another back-to-back prospect looms on the horizon for MotoGP with more memorable events coming up in Italy and Catalunya. The circuits of Mugello and Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya will stage the championship on the weekends of 28-29 of May and 4-5 of June.
Brad Binder: “It was an incredibly tough weekend for us. It started in a difficult way in FP1 and I made a good step for FP2 but it was difficult from then on. In the race I fought hard and did my best. I lost my left wing early and after that life was tricky! The bike was super-unstable and I had to fight like hell. It was physically draining and took a lot more focus than usual to do the same job. Thanks to my team. They worked extremely hard and we did the best job we could. Now it’s time to look forward and get back to where we want to be.”
Miguel Oliveira: “The weekend didn’t start well and I didn’t know what to expect from FP2 but I think it was also one where we improved the most. The race was hard, as we expected, but we tried hard and gained positions. We were inside the top ten but then we crashed going through Turn 3 and I really cannot explain why it happened as I did nothing differently compared to the previous laps. It is quite frustrating not to finish a race when you are so close to the end especially close to a good result. We have to go to Mugello with a positive mindset and try our best there.”
Remy Gardner: “It was a very difficult weekend for us here at the French Grand Prix. We struggled to find a good pace or the right settings on Friday and Saturday, but today it seemed that we had managed to make a little step. Another rider closed the door under my nose, I did a high side, and retired unfortunately.”
Miller climbs on the second step of the French GP rostrum at Le Mans. Bagnaia retires as he crashes out from second
Enea Bastianini takes his third win of the season with the Desmosedici GP of the Gresini Racing team
Jack Miller takes his second podium finish of the season at the French GP, held this afternoon at the historic Bugatti Circuit in Le Mans. The Australian rider made an incredible start from second on the grid, which allowed him to take the lead of the race immediately followed by Pecco Bagnaia and the Desmosedici GP of Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing).
Bagnaia, who started from pole position, passed his team-mate on lap four and led the GP until lap 20 when he was overtaken by Bastianini, who had passed Miller ten laps earlier. Unfortunately, soon after, Bagnaia suffered a crash at turn 13 that ended his race.
Therefore, the French Grand Prix ended with two Ducatis on the podium, with Bastianini first and Miller second. Thanks to this result, the Ducati Lenovo Team rider climbs to fifth in the overall standings, 40 points behind leader Quartararo. Bagnaia, on the other hand, remains seventh, six points behind his teammate. Ducati remains firmly at the top of the manufacturer’s standings, 54 points ahead of the second, while the Ducati Lenovo Team is fourth in the teams’ standings.
Jack Miller (#43 Ducati Lenovo Team) – 2nd
“With the soft tyre, I knew I had to stay calm, and I tried not to push too hard at the start. After ten laps, I started to struggle a little, but towards the middle of the race, I understood how to ride the bike to manage the problem. I managed to catch up with Pecco and Enea, but they had a better pace than me. It would have been nice to have three Ducatis on the podium today, but unfortunately, Pecco crashed. I’m happy with this second place because it allowed us to gain a lot of positions in the standings, so now it will be important to continue like this to try to shorten the gap in the Championship further!”
Francesco Bagnaia (#63 Ducati Lenovo Team) – Retired
“Today, everything was perfect, until the crash! After going wide at Turn 8 and losing ground to Bastianini, I didn’t think about going to catch him right away because I knew I was fast, but at Turn 13, I made a mistake and crashed. Today we lose 20 important points for the standings, and it becomes more difficult to recover, although the Championship is still long: we can’t afford to make any more mistakes in the next races”.
The Ducati Lenovo Team will be back on track from 27th-29th May for the Italian GP, scheduled as is the tradition, at Mugello Circuit.
ENEA WINS OVER CHALLENGES AND TRIUMPHS IN FRANCE
#FrenchGP race. Enea Bastianini is back on the top step of the podium for the third time this year at the end of what was a masterful performance at Le Mans in France. This incredible achievement was labelled as ‘unexpected’ by the rider himself as it arrives at the end of a weekend which was marked by great speed (he set the new best lap on Friday) but also by three crashes thrice and a technical issue (on Saturday).
The win came after an excellent all-round performance from lights to flag: an incredible start, a relentless pace (low 1’32s) and an aggressive second half of the encounter against the official Ducati riders. First Miller and then Bagnaia had to surrender to the rider #23, who is back in contention for the 2022 title.
Courtesy of today’s 25 points, Enea Bastianini is only eight away from current leader Quartararo while consolidating his third place in the standings. These precious points also allow Team Gresini MotoGP to get in the lead of the ‘independent’ team standings and Ducati to be on top of the manufacturers one.
Fabio Di Giannantonio also scored his first points in the series after crossing the line in thirteenth place at the end of a great race. The Rome-born rookie can not build the rest of the season on this first performance as a protagonist.
Team Suzuki Press Office – May 15th
Joan Mir: DNF
Alex Rins: DNF
Team Suzuki Ecstar’s riders both suffered premature and disappointing ends to the French GP when Alex Rins had a terrifying crash on the third lap following a high speed run-off at Turn 2, and Joan Mir dropped his GSX-RR at Turn 14 with 13 laps left in the race.
A fantastic atmosphere surrounded the circuit of Le Mans as 110,000 fans sang ‘La Marseillaise’ ahead of the race start. Mir and Rins were both bumped up the grid by one spot each following a penalty for another rider. The ‘boys in blue’ showed their aggression and speed off the line, securing positions in the Top 5, before hunting down the podium places. Alex had been in 3rd place before the accident, and although he bravely re-joined briefly, he had to retire from proceedings. Joan was running strongly in a lead group of 6 riders, and setting the quickest pace compared to those around him, but a frontend wash-out put him in the gravel mid-way through the GP.
Both riders are uninjured and will be back on track in two weeks’ at Mugello Circuit.
“It’s a shame to finish the weekend like this, and obviously it’s not what I wanted. I made a solid start, and I was working to preserve the tyre and keep my riding style smooth, but I felt quite on the limit with the front tyre and I need to work more on that. Losing the front was my mistake, when you’re following riders nowadays in this category it can be difficult to stop the bike and I didn’t manage it very well today. Normally I struggle in Le Mans and today we were fighting for something great, so I’m proud of that and we’ll keep trying.”
“Luckily, I’m OK. If you run off at that corner, like I did, it can be very easy to get hit by another rider – thankfully the guys avoided me and nothing bad happened. I had already recovered some positions and I felt strong, but when I was behind Pecco (Bagnaia) I think I got a little bit more slipstream pulling me into the corner. When I was in the gravel I was just trying to keep the bike upright, but as I exited I was at a slight angle and that caused me to crash. As soon as the lights went out I pushed to be at the front, and I know my potential for good results in the next races is high.”
Livio Suppo – Team Manager
“Nobody expected this result, but at the end of the day it’s better to have two riders who are capable of fighting for the podium, even if they had small mistakes and didn’t finish, rather than be struggling at the back all weekend. We have been competitive from Friday morning onwards, which means we can be happy about our performance. I want to give a big thanks to the team and the riders, they have been very focused on the task at hand and have done a great job.”
Ken Kawauchi – Technical Manager
“This weekend we had the potential, with both riders, to fight for the podium. But it was a great pity because they both had crashes and we come away with no points. The last few years we’ve struggled a lot here, but this weekend we turned that around and we were actually very strong from the beginning. Mugello is coming next, and we’ll keep our minds on fighting for podiums and victories.”
Repsol Honda Team salvage points from trying French GP
The French GP was ultimately a weekend of ups and downs as Marc Marquez and Pol Espargaro worked to deliver the maximum potential result in Le Mans.
A morning spit of rain would ultimately amount to nothing as the Le Mans circuit hosted one of the hottest French Grands Prix in recent years. Over 100,000 passionate French fans made for an electric atmosphere as the MotoGP World Championship lined up for round seven of the 2022 season.
Both Repsol Honda Team riders started the race well when the lights went out at 14:00 Local Time, Marc Marquez opting for a wider line through the fast Turn One. There was no waiting around as the eight-time World Champion immediately began to work his way forward, sliding past Nakagami and Quartararo at the end of the first lap. Steady pace followed as Marquez tried to close the distance to the leading group on his RC213V, holding firm in seventh place for much of the race. Crashes ahead would see Marquez cross the line sixth place, collecting ten points.
With a total of 54 points, Marc Marquez maintains his position inside the top-ten in the overall standings.
Going for the tighter line through the opening corner, Pol Espargaro maintained his position from the grid and slotted in just behind his teammate. Narrowly avoiding contact between Zarco and Binder ahead of him, Espargaro lost touch with the leading group and spent the majority of the race battling with the factory KTM machines. A late fall from Oliveira forced the #44 to again take avoiding action, dropping his Honda RC213V from outside the top ten.
11th place in the French Grand Prix has Pol Espargaro 12th overall in the championship, 14 points behind Marquez.
There is now a week off before the Repsol Honda Team face yet another back-to-back challenge with Mugello and Barcelona, two iconic tracks within less than ten days of each other. Both riders are hoping for better fortunes there.
“I said yesterday that with a good race our position would be fifth, sixth or seventh and we finished sixth – even if our real position was ninth because there were some falls. It was a solid race at our pace, but it was a really long race and I wasn’t able to push towards the end. All we can do is keep on working, that’s the best way to improve for the future. My target is not just to be finishing as top Honda, it’s to be finishing on the podium but we are not there yet. There’s still more to understand in the next races to close the gap to the front.”
“It was a really, really hard race. I think this weekend has confirmed where our problems are and what we need to work on. Our rhythm was not amazing, it was OK, but we weren’t able to overtake as we were losing some time under acceleration and then when I tried to overtake on the brakes, the others were too far. It’s a difficult moment but we keep on trying. Myself as the rider and Honda, we are all working a lot to resolve this situation. In the pre-season we were able to solve these problems so we know it can be improved on.”