Defending world champion Marc Marquez started from pole position under the sun at the Le Mans circuit in France in front of over 93,000 spectators – the biggest crowd at Le Mans yet.
Lacking a strong start off the grid however, it was the Ducati Desmosedici of Andrea Dovizioso that took the lead in the first corner with Jorge Lorenzo’s Yamaha and team-mate Andrea Iannone close behind. Marquez bolted to the second corner but, unable to stop, fell back to fourth place again.
It was from this moment in the second corner of the first lap that the Yamaha YZF-M1 of Lorenzo took the lead and he didn’t see another rider before crossing the line 28 laps later to take his second consecutive win of the season.
Movistar Yamaha team-mate and nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi had a tough weekend trying to find the right set-up and qualified in seventh place on the grid. He managed to get a good start however and immediately moved into fifth place. This led to smooth overtakes of Marquez, Iannone and on reaching the halfway point of the race a struggling Dovisiozo who managed to keep his place for the last step on the podium.
Rossi said: “We suffered a lot in practice but for the race we did something different [on the set-up] and it felt good, we did the fastest lap in the race. The Yamaha has won four out of five races with two riders so our bike is strong and we are good in the race. I’m happy because I expected it to be difficult so I thank my team and Yamaha as the bike worked so well, it was great to have a 1-2 for Yamaha. Though I prefer to be in front of Jorge! The support here is amazing, so many people and so many flags, I’m looking forward to Mugello.”
Returning from injury, after suffering from arm-pump and needing an operation after the season opener, Dani Pedrosa got on his Honda RC213v for the first time in six weeks and qualified in eighth. Team manager Livio Suppo said ahead of the race that it was very much a test for Pedrosa, to see how his arm has recovered. On the second lap however, Pedrosa lost the front end and crashed out from seventh place. He managed to get back on the Honda and rejoin the race at the back of the pack crossing the line just outside the points in 16th place and completing race distance.
Top British rider, Bradley Smith had a strong weekend at the team’s home round for Tech 3 Yamaha. Qualifying in sixth place, he got a good start and stayed with the front runners battling with the factory machines of Marquez and Iannone, both of which swapped places many times on the closing laps of the race, with Marquez winning the battle for fourth place.
Smith said: “I’m happy with sixth place, it’s good for these hot conditions. I thought I was going to get caught between Marquez and Iannone but it was great battling with the reigning world champion and the factory Ducati. We found something in the front end during Jerez, so am pleased with 6th place.”
Fellow Briton Scott Redding crashed out on the third lap of the race, as did compatriot Cal Crutchlow, who found the gravel when his foot slipped off the foot peg and he missed the brake on the fast downhill at turn six.
CWM-LCR Honda suffered a double DNF for the team when rookie Jack Miller also crashed out on lap 15 from 12th position.
Lorenzo’s win today shows a great return to form for him and also marks a record (overtaking five-time world champion Mick Doohan) as the fifth rider with most wins in his career.
After the race, Lorenzo said: “We got a good start and to overtake Marc into the first chicane. It took a lot of concentration and not making any mistakes as Dovi was so fast at the beginning. I could see from halfway that Vale was in second place so I knew he was pushing. I had to find two-three tenths to increase the gap.
"The bike is good and we’re better at braking than last year so with Marc’s mistakes and Honda are struggling compared to last year, this is an opportunity. We need to keep winning where we can. We’re at a good level so to arrive in Mugello next where the Ducati’s will be strong, we should be at the same level.”
Earlier in Moto3 it was an all-Italian podium for the first time in over ten years in the junior class with Roman Fenati taking the win for the Sky VR46 Racing team. Currently leading the Championship after three consecutive wins in the season so far, British rider Danny Kent made an error in qualifying and started from 31st place on the grid. He recovered well during the race, fighting his way to finish in fourth place and maintaining his lead in the standings by 37 points to Bastianini.
The next race takes place in Mugello, Italy – Sunday 29th May at 1pm (BST)