Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP‘s Valentino Rossi came close to joining the fight for second place on the podium today at the Le Mans – Bugatti Grand Prix racing circuit. He was still clocking 1‘32s laps at the very end of the race but came just short and ended the race in fifth place. Maverick Viñales suffered a premature ending to his French GP challenge due to a race incident.
Rossi had a good start from fifth on the grid. He managed to hold his position in the tight first corners and gained a place before crossing the line for the first time. He was chasing compatriot Andrea Dovizioso when a gap started to form between them and the two front runners. The Italians responded as Jack Miller challenged Marc Marquez, and a front group of four was re-established with 20 laps to go.
The Doctor put his head down but couldn‘t quite match the pace at the front and had to let Danilo Petrucci pass him. Still the veteran didn‘t give up. He kept pushing 100% whilst he was in a lonely fifth place, and his persistence earned him another shot at challenging those in front in the final stages of the race. On the last six laps the number-46 rider was inching ever closer, but he came just short of making a move. He finished fifth, 3.053s from first.
Viñales endured a luckless end to his French GP challenge. The Spaniard started from P11, in the chaotic mid-pack. Trying to get up to speed, he settled in 14th place after the first lap. He temporarily moved up a position as he started to pick up the pace, but soon got into a battle with Álex Rins. With 21 laps to go, when he got up to 12th and was about to overtake Aleix Espargaró, he was taken out by a rival in a race incident. The Yamaha rider escaped injuries but did suffer an N.C. result.
Today’s results keep Rossi in fourth position in the championship standings with a 23-point gap to first. Viñales‘ unlucky 0-point finish moves him down to tenth in the rankings, with a 65-point margin to the top. Yamaha moved up to third in the constructor standings, whilst Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP dropped a place to third in the team classification.
The team will be back in action in Tuscany in two weeks‘ time for the Gran Premio d‘Italia Oakley, held at the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello.
Valentino Rossi, 5th
Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team
“I was hoping to be able to get on the podium today. Still, it was a positive weekend, better than in Jerez. We started the race well and the pace was good. In fact, I arrived at the finish very closely behind our main rivals. Unfortunately, we lost out on acceleration, and because of that it was very difficult to stay with the front-runners, out of the corners they’re very fast. But during the weekend we worked well, and our bike was fast. In the parts where you have to really ride hard, I was strong. At the end of the race I felt better, and I managed to stay together with Dovi, Petrucci, and Miller. I was hoping to overtake Miller, but I needed to be a bit faster to attack. Now, we immediately start thinking about Mugello. Let’s see if we can be a bit more competitive there.”
Maverick Viñales, DNF
Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team
“Honestly, I couldn’t do anything. I was trying to overtake Aleix at that moment. I think it’s important for us to understand the mistakes we made this weekend, which is mainly on the Saturday with the qualifying strategy. When you start from eleventh on the grid, these types of race incidents are something you’re exposed to. So, we need to keep working to understand what we can improve. It started out as a perfect weekend and we ended it with zero points, so we have to learn from it. I’m sure I could have gone up many places in the race, because I was getting into the rhythm, and even the podium wasn’t too far, just 2s. I think I would have been able to push and close the gap, but when you start from more towards the back it’s always difficult. We need to pay attention during the qualifying, because it’s very important to be on the first or second row and make sure we don’t make the same mistake at the next races.”
Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team Director
“The weather was a big question mark this weekend, and in the end the race was dry. Either way, we knew we had a tough race ahead of us. Vale had a good start, but had difficulty staying with the front group in middle of the race. Still, he pushed as much as he could and was very close to securing a place on the podium, because his pace at the end of the race was good. We had hoped for a better result for him, but we’ll take these 11 championship points today, considering how much he struggled in the dry on Friday. Maverick was unlucky to be taken out of the race by a fellow rider, but unfortunately these things happen in the busy mid-pack of the rider field. It’s a big shame, because Mack felt like he could’ve pushed towards the front, but in the end it’s like this. We have to learn from it and do better at the next round, our home GP in Italy.”