Ducati rider Jack Miller had made it two wins on the trot in a fantastic flag-to-flag race with changeable conditions at Le Mans.
After an up and down, wet/dry weekend, MotoGP was out for the French Grand Prix. The race would start dry, but there were thick, black clouds around, with the threat of rain in the air. Fabio Quartararo started on pole from teammate Maverick Vinales, with Jerez winner Jack Miller third. Championship leader Francesco Bagnaia was back in 16th, as riders started their warmup lap.
The lights went out, and Miller took the lead from third. Vinales was second while poleman Quartararo went back to third. There were early problems for Pol Espargaro, who had a moment, then collected Franco Morbidelli, who was down. Valentino Rossi got involved too and lost positions. It was very dark at this point, and rain looked to be on the horizon.
Vinales took the lead from Miller on lap 3, as Alex Rins had a magnificent start, up to fifth. Then it started to rain, and it rained hard. Quartararo took the lead as the white flag came out to announced that the riders could change to a wet weather bike. Vinales fell to fifth, as it poured down.
Everyone swapped bikes, and Marc Marquez led out of the pitlane. Rins and Joan Mir both crashed, a disaster for Suzuki. Both Miller and Bagnaia sped in pit lane and were given a double long lap penalty.
On lap 7, it was Marquez from Quartararo, with Miller third but a penalty hanging over his head. Takaaki Nakagami was fourth with Johann Zarco fifth. Then Marquez fell. The wet weather master was out of the French Grand Prix, high siding at the final corner. It left the lead to Quartararo, with Miller second having now taken his penalty and Nakagami third.
Miller then took the lead from Quartararo, who got a long lap penalty for a bike swap infringement. Lorenzo Salvadori’s Aprilia went pop and he was out. Miguel Oliveira was next to fall foul of the conditions, the Portuguese down at turn 3. Zarco was right on the tail of Nakagami, lapping almost a second a lap quicker. Using the superior Ducati power, Zarco passed him down the main straight, hopping into third. Aleix Espargaro made it two Aprilia’s out, with a mechanical fault too, and Marquez crashed again.
The race entered its final stages, and Zarco took second off Quartararo. The Frenchman now had his sights set on leader Miller. Bagnaia was up to fourth from 16th, and Nakagami plummeted out of the top 5. Danilo Petrucci was having a good race, to sit in sixth, with Rossi in the top 10 too.
On the penultimate lap, Miller had 4.5 seconds in hand, with the circuit almost bone dry. Quartararo’s tire was destroyed and he was ailing, but the win looked to be Miller’s as the race started its last lap.
Indeed it was. It was two from two for Ducati’s Jack Miller, who had a double long lap penalty. Johann Zarco took a fine second, with Fabio Quartararo third, to take the title lead back. Bagnaia came from 16th to fourth, with Petrucci a brilliant sixth. 15 riders finished the dry-wet-dry race, with two Frenchmen on the podium.
The championship can not be any closer now, the top four are split by just 16 points, with one single point splitting Quartararo and Bagnaia for the title lead. MotoGP returns in two weeks’ time for the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello.
The full results are as follows:
|1||J. Miller||Lenovo Ducati||+-.—|
|2||J. Zarco||Pramac Ducati||+3.079|
|3||F. Quartararo||Monster Yamaha||+14.468|
|4||F. Bagnaia||Lenovo Ducati||+16.172|
|5||D. Petrucci||Tech3 KTM||+21.430|
|6||A. Marquez||LCR Honda||+23.509|
|7||T. Nakagami||LCR Honda||+30.164|
|8||P. Espargaro||Repsol Honda||+35.221|
|9||I. Lecuona||Tech3 KTM||+40.432|
|10||M. Vinales||Monster Yamaha||+40.577|