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Drama. Clashes. Glory. And a title twist! #GP1000 had it all as Bezzecchi takes stunning second win
Bezzecchi bounces back, Bagnaia clashes with Viñales, Marquez slides out and there’s a home hero on the podium as Le Mans served up a day packed with headlines
Sunday, 14 May 2023
Take a minute to catch your breath after what was an incredible SHARK Grand Prix de France! Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) takes a special place in history as the race winner at the 1000th FIM Grand Prix after a stunning break for glory in front of a record crowd at Le Mans, and there was drama, drama, drama throughout the field.
First, Bezzecchi is now just one point behind Championship leader Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) after the Italian crashed out of the race in a dramatic clash with Aprilia Racing’s Maverick Viñales… gravel trap shouting match included, but both riders ok. Then, Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) vs Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) lit up the fight for second in a tough but fair tussle, but that then ended in late race heartbreak for the number 93 as he slid out. However, for the French fans it did mean Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) was then promoted to a glorious home podium after some impressive Sunday pace, giving the 278,805 record crowd even more to cheer about.
The grid formed in front of the biggest crowd MotoGP™ has ever seen and it was Marc Marquez who shot into the lead as Bagnaia dropped down the order to P5. Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) slotted himself into P2 with Bezzecchi putting his VR46 Ducati into P3. Bagnaia then quickly snapped back at Martin as the Ducati riders duked it out on lap 1.
It was Marquez, Miller, Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team), Bagnaia, and then Martin as they came across the line for the first time, and we had a race on our hands in MotoGP™. Miller wasn’t intimated by the eight-time World Champion by any means as the Aussie tried to force his way through on Marquez, but the Spaniard wouldn’t give in and hit straight back in true Marquez fashion.
Miller hit the front at the Dunlop chicane, meanwhile, the reigning World Champion was on the move as Bagnaia had now climbed his way back up into a podium position with 25 laps remaining.
The laps ticked away as a seven-bike battle for victory formed with Viñales carving his way into the 3rd place, the Aprilia seriously on the move. But then came the drama: the Spaniard collided with Bagnaia as both riders competed for the same piece of tarmac, both careening off into the gravel. Riders ok and to their feet… and then a fair few yells exchanged.
Half a lap later, there was more drama in the Le Mans gravel traps as Marini suffered a big crash coming out of the Dunlop chicane, just cutting the kerb. Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) then got caught in the Italian’s crash as the field behind avoided the incident, riders again ok but another huge moment of adrenaline shaking the race up.
As the chaos subsided, we had a race on our hands. A four-rider battle for victory had formed as Miller now found himself with Marquez, Bezzecchi, and Martin for company, before Bezzecchi pushed his way through on Marc Marquez – and dropped the Spaniard from 2nd to 4th. The number 93 was sent into another postcode although no harm done, with both regrouping and Bezzecchi then told to drop a position for the move: a penalty he expected, and a penalty he also served wisely as he chose his moment to let Martin back through. And then took it back, with Marquez following suit too.
Bezzecchi now had an open goal to make huge gains in the title fight as Bagnaia sat in the garage, and the VR46 rider took the lead from Miller as they barrelled into the Dunlop chicane once again. Marquez quickly followed him through half a lap later too, with Bezzecchi already stretching out half a second at the front.
With 15 laps to go, Bezzecchi had 1.2s in his pocket to Marquez behind, who was 0.5s up the road from Martin, who had found his way through on Miller. The Aussie was starting to fall into the clutches of Zarco and Augusto Fernandez (GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3). It didn’t take long for Zarco to push his way through either as the Frenchman moved up into P4 and Fernandez followed, leaving Miller in sixth.
With six to go, Martin thought it was time to pounce on Marc Marquez. The Spaniard tried to push his way through on the eight-time World Champion, but the Repsol Honda man was not giving in easy and bit back at the Prima Pramac Racing rider at every opportunity. That allowed Zarco to edge closer and closer… and the crowd had definitely noticed.
Martin finally pushed his way through with one and a half laps remaining, and this time the drama was for the number 93. Trying to hang in there, the returning Repsol Honda rider tucked the front and ended his French Grand Prix in the gravel trap, but after quite a return to the upper echelons of the timesheets.
That meant one thing to a partisan crown: Zarco was on the podium. The grandstands erupted around the French circuit as Bezzecchi crossed the line for a first dry weather win, Martin ensured he’s the top scorer at Le Mans this year, and then the home hero reached the flag. The noise made for an impressive welcome.
Fourth place was also something to shout about as Tech3’s Fernandez took an impressive result after an impressive weekend. First time in Q2, the GASGAS rider had had the speed all weekend and made it pay to perfection on Sunday to bounce back.
Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) rounded out the top five as Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) recovered from being battered down the order on the first lap to fight his way back through the pack, take a long penalty for a shortcut, and still manage to take sixth.
Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) had a tougher home Grand Prix but took a chunk of points on Sunday as the 2021 World Champion ended his weekend in Le Mans with a P7, with Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™), Takaaki Nakagami (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia), and Franco Morbidelli taking 8th, 9th, and 10th – just ahead of Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Lenovo Team) on his MotoGP™ return deputising for the injured Enea Bastianini.
Early race leader Miller crashed out with three laps remaining after the Aussie had been dropping down the order on his KTM machine, making it a weekend to forget in terms of results but one to remember for speed. Can he bounce back at Mugello? Many will be looking to join him in doing so…
MARCO BEZZECCHI: “I expected the penalty. I didn’t want to pass but I braked a bit too late and when I realized I was getting closer and closer, I tried to go to the inside to not hit him. Unfortunately I pushed him wide so I thought for sure they give me a drop position. I was ready for it and I agree, also. It was a bit too much. It’s difficult to pass but I didn’t really want to pass, but it’s ok. Fortunately I kept myself calm about the penalty I knew was coming, tried to find the right place to give up the position and then fight back.
How was that winning feeling?
“It was fantastic. I saw I was fast, at the beginning I didn’t want to use the front tyre too much or put too much temperature in it. When I was behind someone, I was trying to pass quite quick and when I found myself at the front I thought, ‘now I have fresh air’. I tried to push and see how it is. On Friday I had good pace so I tried to make the same but it was even better! I was able to ride 31.9, 31.8 and it was fantastic. I saw I was escaping so I tried to stay calm and concentrate, at one with my bike, and it was an incredible emotion crossing the line in the dry. In the wet was good but in the dry even better!”
And on that bet to not shave their moustaches until he won again…
“This is the thing I’m most happy about. I made this bet first in December before Christmas with my team, we were having dinner together and to break their balls a little bit I said ‘ok, you all have a long beard but if I win, you have to make it moustache and we won’t shave it until I win again. But then when I did win I said, ‘No! Now I have to really have a moustache!’ I was so nervous because it wasn’t coming anymore, so fortunately today when I saw the feeling was good, I said ‘today’s the day!”
Marquez shows his speed and fights for podium in 1000th Grand Prix
The Repsol Honda Team’s Marc Marquez starred in a thrilling French GP, battling until the very end for the podium and showing the #93 is well and truly back. For Joan Mir, small mistakes ended a race with huge potential after a strong start.
Saturday’s electric atmosphere was only amplified as a record-breaking crowd of over 116,000 descended on the Le Mans circuit for race day. These fans would not leave disappointed as the most thrilling race of the year quickly erupted – Marc Marquez playing a leading role as he fought with his characteristic determination for every place on his return to the grid.
From second on the grid, the #93 immediately put himself into contention for the lead as he battled with Jack Miller in the opening laps. The pair continually traded places and fought fiercely as other riders loomed in the background. Marquez was briefly pushed out of podium contention as he and Bezzecchi ran wide, but quickly found his way back into the top three. As drama unfolded behind him, Marquez turned his attentions to Jorge Martin and the top three.
The pair began another awe-inspiring battle in the second half of the race as Marquez slid his Honda RC213V around the French circuit, defending second place in spectacular style. A moment coming out of Turn 6 would put the eight-time World Champion on the wrong line into Turn 7, resulting in a fall. Walking away unharmed, Marquez was disappointed not to walk away with a reward for the weekend’s work but content with the performance he produced.
Joan Mir had a lightning start to the 27-lap French GP and found himself in 11th on the first lap. Battling with home-heroes Zarco and Quartararo, he and the Repsol Honda Team machine were showing well in the opening laps and closing in on the top ten. Unfortunately, a mistake a few laps later dropped the #36 back and outside the points before a crash ended his race. Despite this, Mir leaves France with a positive feeling after a setup change saw him greatly improve his race pace.
“I am really happy with the race today; I was able to ride like I rode a long time ago and I was really able to enjoy being on the bike. Unfortunately, the final result is not what we wanted, but I spent the whole race fighting and pushing the limit. We have had a really busy weekend doing a lot of work and a podium would have been a great reward, especially for my team who have continued to work at their maximum. We still need to find a bit more to fight like this every weekend. In terms of the crash, I fell at Turn 7 but it started at Turn 6 when I had a lot of shaking and I didn’t arrive with the perfect line. I think we had a real MotoGP race today; it was a great show for all the fans who came here this weekend.”
“I made a really good start to the race and I was able to ride comfortably in the opening laps. When you are battling with the top ten and in a big group, there’s a really big slipstream effect and it becomes harder to stop the bike. I stood the bike up to avoid hitting Aleix and this is where the mistake came from and I lost the group. Then I tried some different things with the bike and I unfortunately fell. But I was able to ride in low 32s, this is really important and the thing that we have to focus on. We take these positives, study everything well and prepare for the next race.”
Bagnaia forced to retire at Le Mans after a race incident with Viñales. Petrucci closes the French GP in 11th position
Ducati podium lockout at Le Mans: Marco Bezzecchi triumphs with the VR46 Racing Team’s Desmosedici GP ahead of Jorge Martín and local hero Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing)
The French GP, the fifth round of the 2023 MotoGP season held this afternoon at the Bugatti Circuit in Le Mans, had an unfortunate ending for Francesco Bagnaia.
After starting from the pole position, the Ducati Lenovo Team rider was in third when Viñales overtook him during Lap 5. Bagnaia tried to respond immediately, but in the exchange of direction, the two riders crossed their trajectories, resulting in a contact that made them crash. Despite his retirement from today’s race, Bagnaia remains at the top of the overall standings with a one-point lead over Marco Bezzecchi (VR46 Racing Team), winner of the French GP. Closing in second and third, respectively, were the two Desmosedici GPs of Jorge Martin and Johann Zarco (PramacRacing), who completed an all-Ducati podium. On the other hand, Danilo Petrucci, Enea Bastianini’s replacement in this race, missed out on the top ten for just one position as he closed the race in 11th place.
After the French GP, MotoGP will now have a three-week break before returning to Mugello from 9th-11th June for the Italian GP. It will be a special event for the Ducati Lenovo Team, which will face its first home round this year, counting on the warmth and cheering of all the Ducatisti present at the circuit. The Ducati Tribuna returns at the Corner Correntaio, one of the most beautiful spots, to enjoy the spectacle of the Grand Prix and see all the riders in action up close. Tickets are already on sale and available at this link.
Danilo Petrucci (#9, Ducati Lenovo Team) – 11th
“Riding the bike on Friday and learning everything quickly was not easy, but I had a great team by my side that helped me so much. Being able to race this Grand Prix was like a dream: I relived a big chapter of my life, and being here was a great gift from Ducati. Today’s race was tough: the track was very slippery, and there were a lot of crashes. We got some points, and I am happy about that. I thank all the guys for their great work and Ducati for allowing me to experience this exciting weekend.”
Francesco Bagnaia (#1, Ducati Lenovo Team) – Retired
“It was an unfortunate circumstance, a race incident that perhaps we could have avoided if Maverick had closed his line less and I had left more room to enter, but in any case, these are things that can happen. We met with the stewards, which was a positive meeting that will allow us to improve in the future. Today we were fast, and at that moment, I was waiting for the right moment to attack and then push, but unfortunately, it went like that, and I am sorry. Now we have three weeks before the next race in Mugello, a crucial appointment on a circuit where we won a beautiful GP last year.”
ALEX RINS CRASHES IN LE MANS
LCR Honda CASTROL rider Alex Rins hasn’t finished the race at the Grand Prix of France due to a crash when fighting for the Top 10.
A disappointing feeling to close the weekend. Overall, it’s been one of the most challenging races of the season so far, in which difficulties in the braking area have prevented Alex and the crew from fighting for their goal. Today, starting from the 18th spot of the grid, Alex did a good start and recovered some positions. The rider was setting a solid pace when he lost the front at turn 9, 13 laps to the end. He’s fine and hasn’t suffered any consequences.
Alex Rins DNF
“I made a good start and was trying to recover positions as we had found something that made me feel comfortable on the bike, but after the 14th lap, the front end got closed, and I crashed. I was struggling with the rear side of the bike. However, this is part of racing, and we’ll keep pushing in Mugello”.
TAKAAKI NAKAGAMI TAKES NINTH POSITION IN LE MANS
LCR Honda IDEMITSU rider Takaaki Nakagami has finished 9th at the Grand Prix of France.
The 27 laps-race in Le Mans has been one of the season’s most exciting, challenging, and demanding, and Takaaki Nakagami has managed to be clever and not make mistakes. He made a good start and set a pace that allowed him to study rivals and make the most of the situation. Being constant and not losing concentration, the Japanese rider crossed the line 9th, scoring some valuable points for the championship.
Takaaki Nakagami 9th
“It’s been a tough race as from the first lap, I struggled to find the best feeling to push. I was quite on the limit and managed the situation to avoid mistakes or crashes. Our goal was the Top10 and we’ve taken it, we’ve done a good job. It was difficult at the braking areas. We’ll analyze the data to take a step forward in Mugello because we know we have potential”.
The Grand Prix de France took no prisoners today. Eight MotoGP riders didn‘t make it to the chequered flag in the 27-lap MotoGP Race, but Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP‘s Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli soldiered on. They finished in seventh and tenth place respectively.
Quartararo started the race from P13. Though he initially dropped a few places in the first sector, he was quickly climbing back up the order again, and by the end of the second lap he was in 11th place.
The mid-pack was close together at the time. El Diablo struggled to keep his ground. He lost two places but pushed to the fullest and profited from the misfortunes of his rivals. Over the course of the race, six riders ahead of him crashed out, Fabio Di Giannantonio fell back through the pack allowing Quartararo through, and Brad Binder had a long-lap penalty. Though unable to keep Binder behind him due to arm pump, the local hero was pleased to take the chequered flag 15.023s from first and secure seventh place and important championship points in front of his home fans.
Morbidelli was keen to repeat his strong start from yesterday‘s Sprint but couldn‘t find a way to cut through the pack in the opening lap this time round. The Italian settled into 18th place for the time being. But the chaos of laps 3-5, when three separate race incidents resulted in five riders in the gravel traps, had him move up to 13th place.
Morbido was riding behind Takaaki Nakagami and was able to follow him but had to be clever in picking the right spot to overtake. He was right on the tail of his rival for 15 laps, but due to high temperatures of the front tyre he was not able to make a move and lost touch. Because Alex Rins crashed out on lap 15, Morbidelli still finished tenth, 17.828s from first.
Today‘s result sees Quartararo joint 7th in the overall standings with 49 points. Morbidelli is in 13th place with 40 points. The Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP team are 6th in the team championship with 89 points, and Yamaha remain fifth in the constructor‘s championship with 58 points.
The Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team will be back in action in a little over three weeks‘ time, when they‘ll compete in Round 6, the Gran Premio d‘ Italia, held at the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello.
We got a double top 10 today after a difficult weekend. These results are not what we were aiming for, but considering our starting positions, these were the maximum results we could get today. Fabio suffered arm pump during the race, which hampered his riding and result, but his pace was still decent. It, of course, means a lot to him that after yesterday‘s NC he had a chance to score points in front of his home fans and end the weekend on a high note. Franky also had a difficult race. His pace was not that far from what we were aiming for, but it was affected by the high temperatures of the front tyre when riding behind others. We can‘t be satisfied with our current performance. The only way to improve this situation is by putting in the work. We now have three weeks until the GP in Mugello, the first of three back-to-back races.
I don’t view this as a recovery race because six riders crashed ahead of me. I had a physical issue halfway through the race. This morning I had been to the Clinica: I had treatment on my arm, but for me it was too aggressive. I never had this issue with my arm after treatment in the past, but today I had arm pump from the middle of the race on. I could have been much, much faster. But that‘s actually a positive that I take away from today: we could have gone faster with the bike in the race. The plan for Mugello for our crew is that we keep using the same setting as today. I feel disappointed that I could have gotten a better result and could have had a better pace, but it’s also true that today and yesterday in the Sprint, my pace was not so bad. I think without my physical problem I could have been 0.5s faster in the race, because I was not able to brake in a few braking zones. But again, in a way, that’s positive.
It was a tough race. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a good start, and when I was behind a group my front tyre pressure and temperature went sky-high and I couldn’t attack anymore. The pace improved again when I had clear track in front of me. We need to keep digging and keep working because our performance is not yet at the level we want it to be.
Le Mans goes crazy for MotoGP™ as Binder recovers to 6th in France
MotoGP 2023 – Round 5 of 20, Le Mans – Race
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing were close to adding another trophy to the shelves as Jack Miller led the SHARK Grand Prix de France at a sunny and capacity Le Mans and Brad Binder scored 6th for round five of twenty. Binder and the team both hold 3rd in their respective championship standings while KTM are currently the 2nd best constructor.
Binder, runner-up in the Saturday Sprint, finishes 6th, climbing from 10th on the grid after running wide on the first lap and suffering a Long Lap penalty
Miller starts from 4th, leads the Grand Prix but then slips out at Turn 4 with three laps to go
KTM again competitive and highly ranked in various points tables
Second Moto3™ victory of the season for Daniel Holgado and home Grand Prix spoils for Red Bull KTM Tech3
The short, tight but demanding Bugatti circuit within the vast Le Mans 24hr motorsport complex drew sunshine, spring temperatures and thousands and thousands of fans to round five of 2023 MotoGP. Red Bull KTM Factory Racing had already shown their competitiveness by topping Practice on Friday and finishing 2nd in the Saturday Sprint as both Jack Miller and Brad Binder respectively got down to pace with their KTM RC16.
Sunday meant the full Grand Prix distance and spectacle of 27 laps. It was Miller who made the more effective getaway and led the opening exchanges. The Australian slipped back the fringes of the top five as the laps ticked down and he battled to maximize the grip of the soft tire combination. With three circulations to go he met the gravel on the exit to Turn 4.
Binder made a fantastic getaway as well but contact with another rider into La Chapelle pushed the South African wide and almost out of the top twenty. He pulled his way back to 6th, despite having to endure a Long Lap penalty for running across the inside of Turn 9.
As the checkered flag waved, the championship standings pivoted to reflect Brad’s status in 3rd. Jack is 8th. MotoGP now breaks for three weekends before anticipation of the Gran Premio D’Italia Oakley around the epic curves of Mugello in mid-June.
Brad Binder, 6th: “I had a really good feeling for the race and had a fantastic start but unfortunately in Turn 4 someone hit the side of me and I went from 6th-7th all the way back outside the top twenty. A tough one and then a tough fight to come through. I chipped away slowly but surely until I got an amazing slipstream on Jack and overshot the mark into Turn 9. I had to make a decision to save it and just shot across the inside of the chicane. I didn’t drop back far enough and from that mistake I had a Long Lap penalty: if bad luck comes in ‘threes’ then I think I spent them this race! It was important to keep my head down then and bring the bike home.”
Jack Miller, DNF: “Obviously not the way we wanted to end things here. We had great pace all weekend and led a decent handful of laps but when the other boys came past they seemed to be able to knock-it-up a gear and I knew my marks: I knew where I could push and where I couldn’t. I was fading a little bit but also preserving the left side of the tire and I knew I had a bit left at the end. I then used too much curb on the inside of Turn 4 and that was all she wrote. I cut it tight just a little bit too much. Really disappointing for myself and the team, they have been doing an amazing job and the bike was so good all weekend. It’s a bummer to come away with no points but we’ll re-group for Mugello.”
Francesco Guidotti, Red Bull KTM Team Manager: “A positive weekend even if we did not get what we deserved today. Brad had contact on the first lap and was as far down as 18th and he recovered as strong as usual, even with a dubious Long Lap penalty. We have to analyze Jack’s crash as it was strange. It was a good weekend with both riders into Q2 on Friday and we’ll look forward to the next GP with confidence. We have two fantastic riders in this team and we will keep supporting them to the maximum, from the first to the last person in the factory and from the team mechanics to any person who touches this MotoGP effort. Many congratulations to Augusto [Fernandez] as this is another sign that our group project is going in the right direction.”