Rain-Hit French MotoGP Thriller

Fabio Quartararo braved the changing Le Mans conditions to take third place in the French Grand Prix, reclaiming authority at the top of the 2021 MotoGP World Championship. Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP team-mate Maverick Viñales finished the race in tenth place.

 

Fabio Quartararo returned to the MotoGP podium this weekend, braving the ever-changing conditions to take third place in a chaotic French Grand Prix at the Le Mans Circuit.

 

A heroic effort in qualifying saw Quartararo head a Monster Energy Yamaha one-two on the grid but come race day a new challenge was ahead with dark clouds hanging ominously over the Le Mans Bugatti circuit. It was the YZR-M1 of Maverick Viñales who took the early advantage, leading in the early stages, but Quartararo was on a charge as he made his way into the lead on lap three. However, drama was ahead as the rain started to fall.

 

Deciding to pit for his first MotoGP flag-to-flag pit stop at the end of lap five, the Frenchman emerged back on track with the wet tyres fitted in second place with Viñales eighth.

 

Quartararo returned to the lead on lap nine but was later penalised with a long lap penalty for stopping in Vinales’ pit box when swapping machines. Taking it like a champion, the 21-year-old completed the penalty cleanly and continued in second.

 

Conditions would change yet again towards the end of the race with the track rapidly drying. Quartararo lost out on second to countryman Johan Zarco in the closing stages, crossing the line in third 14 seconds behind the winner. After a solid start to the race, Maverick Viñales ended in tenth place, collecting six valuable points for his championship quest.

 

The PETRONAS Yamaha SRT riders endured mixed fortunes in the challenging conditions. Franco Morbidelli fell victim to an opening lap crash while fighting for positions, before re-mounting and finishing 16th, while Valentino Rossi, who started the Grand Prix ninth, fought his way up to seventh before slipping back to 13th after getting caught up in the same incident as Morbidelli. After the flag-to-flag stop, Rossi remained in contention for the top ten, crossing the line 11th at the end of the race.

 

Quartararo’s third place finish sees him re-take the championship lead, sitting one point ahead of Francesco Bagnaia. Yamaha is now second in the constructors’ table and teams’ championship.

 

MotoGP is back in action in two weeks for the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello held across 28-30th May.

 

Shark Grand Prix of France Race Results:

  1. Jack Miller – Ducati Lenovo Team
    2. Johann Zarco – Pramac Racing +3.970
  2. Fabio Quartararo – Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP +14.468
  3. Francesco Bagnaia – Ducati Lenovo Team +16.172
  4. Danilo Petrucci – Tech 3 KTM Factory Racing +21.430
  5. Alex Marquez – LCR Honda CASTROL +23.509
  6. Takaaki Nakagami – LCR Honda IDEMITSU +30.164
  7. Pol Espargaro – Repsol Honda Team +35.221
  8. Iker Lecuona – Tech 3 KTM Factory Racing +40.432
  9. Maverick Viñales – Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP +40.577
  10. Valentino Rossi – Petronas Yamaha SRT +42.198
  11. Luca Marini – SKY VR46 Avintia +52.408
  12. Brad Binder – Red Bull KTM Factory Racing +59.377
  13. Enea Bastianini – Avintia Esponsorama +1’02.224
  14. Tito Rabat – Pramac Racing +1’09.651
  15. Franco Morbidelli – Petronas Yamaha SRT + 4 laps
  16. Marc Marquez – Repsol Honda Team +10 laps
  17. Aleix Espargaro – Aprilia Racing Team Gresini +12 laps
  18. Miguel Oliveira – Red Bull KTM Factory Racing +15 laps
  19. Alex Rins – Team SUZUKI ECSTAR +15 laps
  20. Lorenzo Savadori – Aprilia Racing Team Gresini +16 laps
  21. Joan Mir – Team SUZUKI ECSTAR +23 laps

 

2021 MotoGP World Championship Standings

  1. Fabio Quartararo – Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP 80 points
  2. Francesco Bagnaia – Ducati Lenovo Team 79 points
  3. Johann Zarco – Pramac Racing Ducati 68 points
  4. Jack Miller – Ducati Lenovo Team 64 points
  5. Maverick Viñales – Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP 56 points
  6. Joan Mir – Team SUZUKI ECSTAR 49 points
  7. Aleix Espargaro – Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 35 points
  8. Franco Morbidelli – PETRONAS Yamaha SRT 33 points
  9. Takaaki Nakagami – LCR Honda IDEMITSU 28 points
  10. Pol Espargaro – Repsol Honda Team 25 points
  11. Brad Binder – Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 24 points
  12. Alex Rins – Team SUZUKI ECSTAR 23 points
  13. Enea Bastianini – Avintia Esponsorama 20 points
  14. Alex Marquez – LCR Honda CASTROL 18 points
  15. Jorge Martin – Pramac Racing Ducati 17 points
  16. Danilo Petrucci – Tech 3 KTM Factory Racing 16 points
  17. Marc Marquez – Repsol Honda Team 16 points
  18. Stefan Bradl – Honda HRC 11 points
  19. Valentino Rossi – PETRONAS Yamaha SRT 9 points
  20. Miguel Oliveira – Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 9 points
  21. Luca Marini – SKY VR46 Avintia 9 points
  22. Iker Lecuona – Tech 3 KTM Factory Racing 8 points
  23. Lorenzo Savadori – Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 2 points
  24. Tito Rabat – Pramac Racing Ducati 1 point

 

Fabio Quartararo, Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP – 3rd

“This was the strangest race of my life. I had never done a flag-to-flag race before. We were so fast on slicks before it started to rain. I saw that Maverick and Jack were a little bit careful in the first corners and I said, ’Okay, I want to go for it‘. But then I got to Turn 9 where it was raining a lot, and without braking the bike was going right-left-right-left. I thought, ’If I manage to arrive at the box like this, that in itself would be great‘. I did arrive there at the perfect time, but then I almost wanted to go into Bastianini‘s box before pulling into my own box. Then I almost took Maverick‘s bike, it was a mess! But to take a podium in these circumstances is amazing. I never expected it in these mixed conditions. I don‘t really care about the lead in the championship, because there are 14 more races to go, but it‘s still good because it means we are doing a great job. Looking at the conditions we had today, I was scared to lose positions, but we gained one. In the next few races we need to focus and take it step by step.”

 

Maverick Viñales, Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP – 10th

“Today it was very clear that, if we had dry conditions, I would have had the opportunity to win the race. I started well from second place and took the lead. I felt incredible on the bike. I hadn‘t had that feeling since the Qatar GP, and I understood very well in that moment that I could win the race. But then after two laps it started to rain, and I just lost my concentration because I was so disappointed. I made a mistake and went wide, and I lost too much time. I was very slow for two laps and I couldn‘t do anything. But looking at the positives, it was very important for me to start well here today. It‘s been a while since I did a good start and took the lead on the first lap. We know we have good potential for Mugello.”

 

Valentino Rossi, PETRONAS Yamaha SRT – 11th

“This weekend has been a positive one, compared to the previous races so far this year. We were able to confirm the improvements made during the test at Jerez, so I feel better with the bike. I have been able to fight for better positions and be within the top-ten. It’s a shame that we had the conditions we did today because I was competitive in the wet and not so bad in the dry, but I suffered in the mixed conditions. The race was confusing and difficult, but it is Le Mans and has been like this since Friday. Maybe I could have done better with the medium rain tyres, but it’s easy to say this after the race. I’m looking forward to being in Mugello next, although it is a shame that there will be no fans because they are always great there.”

 

Franco Morbidelli, PETRONAS Yamaha SRT – 16th

“Unfortunately I had a crash in the gravel on the first lap and my knee isn’t in the best shape at the moment and it twisted again when I went to put my weight on it. When I saw it was raining I decided to return to the pitbox, so thank you to the team for helping me to push the bike back. I restarted the race with the hope of picking up some points, but it was not possible. We were close though and I wanted to show my appreciation to the team. I will now get some treatment on my knee, to make sure that we arrive at Mugello in the best shape possible. I’m looking forward to going back and I hope that our bike continues to go well there and we will see what happens.”

 

Massimo Meregalli, Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP – Team Director

“Like predicted, we were completely at the mercy of the weather today, and in the end we had almost every condition imaginable. I think Fabio did a really good job adapting from dry to wet to mixed conditions, especially taking into consideration how we started this weekend in the wet and that he had never done a flag-to-flag race before. He has made great progress in changeable conditions these last few days, and to do it only a week after his surgery is all the more impressive. It‘s such a shame it rained, though, also for Maverick. He had a good start, and his pace on the first laps was actually really remarkable. It‘s a pity he lost his concentration when it started to rain and he went wide. It also didn’t help that the soft-soft rain tyres put him at a disadvantage when suddenly a dry line started to form with about ten more laps to go. All in all, it‘s been a very tricky weekend for everyone, and this race was a bit of a lottery. But what we got out of this GP is that our pace in the dry is very strong, so this gives us some extra motivation for Mugello, which can be quite a tough track.”

 

Razlan Razali, PETRONAS Yamaha SRT – Team Principal

“That was one difficult, unusual and complicated weekend! It wasn’t the best MotoGP race for us overall. Valentino was on the pace and was just inside the top-ten mid-race, but after that his pace dropped off a bit. We also had Franco crashing out within the first lap. Although he continued hoping to get some points, he unfortunately finished 16th. The most important thing now is to make sure that his knee is okay for the next round at Mugello.”

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