It’s been a long time coming, but Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) was back on the top step at Le Mans to end a win drought stretching back to Japan 2017 – and he did it in style. Over a second clear over the line and untroubled for much of the race, it was heads and tails compared to his misfortune in Jerez. Behind the number 73, Jorge Navarro (Lightech Speed Up) duelled Augusto Fernandez (Flexbox HP 40) to decide the podium, with the Speed Up man eventually coming out on top as both once again showed some impressive form.
It was Tom Lüthi (Dynavolt Intact GP) who took the holeshot from second on the grid, with Marquez just about getting the better of Navarro and Xavi Vierge (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) attacking the Speed Up too. But Marquez didn’t leave it long, attacking at Turn 2 on Lap 4 and then starting to pull away – leading from that point on.
In the meantime there was big drama, however. Championship leader Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP 40) slid out when making progress – and Mattia Pasini (Petronas Sprinta Racing) was unable to avoid his stricken compatriot. The number 07 was taken to the Medical Centre and was diagnosed with a dislocated right shoulder and concussion so he’ll have to be passed fit to race at Mugello.
Back at the front, Vierge attacked Lüthi next as Navarro tussled for fourth with Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo), and Simone Corsi (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2) was starting to look threatening behind too. From Row 6 the Italian was up into sixth and still making progress, sure enough making his way up into second and looking like the man to try and make a run at Marquez. Sadly it wasn’t to be, however, as the Italian slid out after a few laps on the chase.
That left Marquez with a sizeable gap back to Navarro and Vierge, with Fernandez up into fourth behind them – but he didn’t wait long to strike. As Marquez kept it calm and collected in the lead, the fight for second then lit up as Fernandez vs Navarro treated us to some classic racing around a classic venue. In the end though, it was Navarro who won out and was able to pull out a small gap, with Fernandez forced to settle for third.
Binder took fourth for a good haul of points, with Vierge dropping to fifth by the flag. And Lüthi, a four-time winner at Le Mans, faded back to sixth – unable to capitalise too much on the 0 scored by Baldassarri. Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) came home seventh and was top rookie once again, ahead of Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP) after a more muted weekend for the German. Iker Lecuona (American Racing KTM) took a solid ninth, with second rookie Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) completing the top ten.
In 11th, meanwhile, was one of the rides of the race. Tetsuta Nagashima (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) had a stunning Sunday as he sliced through from 31st on the grid, gaining a whopping 20 places over the 25 laps. Rookie Fabio Di Giannantonio (Lightech Speed Up) took P12, ahead of Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46). American Joe Roberts (American Racing KTM) took points for the first time this season in P14, ahead of a third consecutive points finish for the new MV Agusta chassis but this time in the hands of Stefano Manzi (MV Agusta Idealavoro Forward). There was some bad news for his teammate Dominique Aegerter, however, as the Swiss rider had to retire on the last lap as it looked like he’d run low on fuel.
That’s it from a dramatic Le Mans, and we hope to see Championship leader back fighting fit to challenge at the front again in two weeks’ time at Mugello – his first home race of the season, no less. Lüthi is only seven points off Baldassarri in the standings now, so they’ll be plenty to play for.
1 – Alex Marquez (SPA – Kalex) 40’36.428
2 – Jorge Navarro (SPA – Speed Up) +1.119
3 – Augusto Fernandez (SPA – Kalex) +1.800
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