Just as I was looking up the history of Yamaha clean sweeps of the podium, the unthinkable happens. Valentino Rossi, leading and on course for his first win in nearly a year – and Yamaha’s 500th, you know how he likes those historic landmark victories – he makes two mistakes on the last lap.
First and crucially he outbraked himself into Turn 8, Garage Vert, ran wide and let Vinales through. Maverick put the hammer down on his way to a new lap record and Vale closed him down only to lose the rear and crash coming out of the Esses. He couldn’t restart so any chance of retaining his championship lead disappeared and so did Yamaha’s chances of a clean sweep.
The crowd went silent, but only for a second. They still had Johann Zarco to cheer to his first MotoGP rostrum after leading the early laps. Inspired by a rowdy rendition of the Marseillaise before the start, he said to himself that it would be nice to hear it again after the race. Remind yourself, he’s a rookie, a rookie who looks like he’s been riding a MotoGP bike all his life. Simply astonishing; Johann and the always vocal Le Mans crowd lifted everyone’s spirits. I can’t help but wonder, though, what it would have been like to hear the 104,000 strong crowd to sing the Marseillaise for him. Actually, they’d have probably laid waste to the entire place while doing it. Storm the barricades, citizens! Le jour de gloire est arrive!
The non-Yamaha man on the podium was Dani Pedrosa who committed a few war crimes in the early laps as he carved his way through from the fifth (not a misprint) row of the grid to fourth and then profited from Rossi’s error. Astonishingly, that puts Dani second in the championship 17 points in arrears of Vinales who has now won three of his first five races as a Yamaha factory teamster.
If this is a championship that will be won by the man who makes fewest mistakes, it’s difficult to know who to pick. All the top men have made serious errors and the only rider to have scored points in every race is the other Tech 3 rookie Jonas Folger who is ninth overall.
Please don’t ask me who’s going to win at Mugello.