Beast mode is ON at Le Mans as the Gresini rider takes a stunning third win of the season, with an all-Italian bike lock out on the rostrum.
For the third time this season, Enea Bastianini has engaged Beast Mode. Another 25-point haul at the SHARK Grand Prix de France sees the Gresini Racing rider move to within eight points of the top of the Championship, take another Independent Team win and make quite a statement. After he and Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) had escaped to make it a duel for supremacy at Le Mans, the Beast struck for the lead and it wasn’t long after that that Pecco slid out of contention.. rider ok, but points haul taking a dent.
Meanwhile, Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) maintained it as a Borgo Panigale 1-2, with Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro making it three premier class rostrums on the spin for the Noale factory for the first time ever – just denying home hero and reigning Champion Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™).
The atmosphere in the circuit hit fever pitch as riders revved up for the start of Round 7, and it was Miller who got the perfect launch from the line to take the holeshot ahead of Bastianini, who pushed his way through from the second row. Bagnaia was in third with Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins and Joan Mir split by Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) in P5. A poor start from Aleix Espargaro saw him drop to seventh, while Quartararo also went backwards, the Frenchman initially swallowed up by a number of riders before starting to make progress forward.
A wild first lap came to a close with Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) aggressively lunging up the inside of both Quartararo and Nakagami to move into P7, and it was all go everywhere. Not least for home hero Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing), who was having an equally difficult start to the GP just behind, locked in a battle mid-pack with Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and the two making contact at Turn 6. The RC16 lost a front wing as a result.
The manic start continued back at the front, with Bagania and Rins both picking off Bastianini to drop him out of the podium places. Rins’ ambitions would come crashing to a halt at the beginning of the third lap though, with the Suzuki off track at Turn 2, through the gravel and back on at Turn 4. Unfortunately, he couldn’t keep his machine upright as it returned to the tarmac, temporarily rejoining but retiring soon after.
As a result, it was a Ducati one-two-three with the factory riders building up a gap out front, Miller ahead. Bagnaia was through on Lap 4 though, and the race began to settle slightly as riders found their groove. Just back of that fight, Mir led Aleix Espargaro, Quartararo and Marc Marquez.
By Lap 12, Bastinain was past Miller, the Gresini rider going through on the Aussie at Garage Vert. Soon after, there was some change just behind them too, with Mir hitting the deck and tumbling through the gravel at Turn 14. That allowed Aleix Espargaro and Quartararo to gain a position each, but they were still 1.1s away from Miller in third. There was also disappointment for Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) as he recorded a fourth DNF of the year after a Turn 9 fall.
On Lap 17, the fight for victory sparked into life as Bastianini began to swarm all over the back of Bagnaia out front, the GP21 locked on for a few laps to heap on some pressure. The Beast then made his first move at the Dunlop Chicane and the two went wheel-to-wheel up until Turn 6, with Bagnaia posting a classy riposte. The fight wasn’t over though, with Bastianini forcing an error from his Ducati counterpart at Garage Vert as Pecco ran it wide and dropped to P2. That left a second between them and in an effort to reel Bastianini back in, Bagnaia pushed it too hard around the final corner and slid into the gravel, and out of the race. Rider ok, but on a long, lonely walk back down pitlane.
From there, Bastianini just had to keep it steady to bring home his third victory of the year, while Miller was comfortable in second. Attentions switched the remaining podium place, with home fans willing on World Champion Quartararo in the closing laps. He closed and closed and closed but he could never quite get close enough to the Aprilia ahead, with Aleix Espargaro denying the fairytale French ending but continued the Noale dream.
Zarco made moves to get back towards the front, coming home fifth despite that tougher start. Marquez rounded out the top six, while Nakagami put in a very solid seventh place finish. Despite missing a wing from the early stages, Binder claimed P8, while his factory teammate Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) recorded a DNF.
Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) and Maverick Viñales both claimed top 10 results in encouraging performances.
That’s a wrap on the French GP and it was certainly a race to remember, with the crowd an incredible protagonist too. Next up for MotoGP™ is the Tuscan beauty of Mugello, where we’re sure to see even more twists and turns in this fascinating World Championship… join us then in two weeks!
1 Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) – Ducati – 41’34.613
2 Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) – Ducati – +2.718
3 Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) – Aprilia – +4.182
Enea Bastianini: “I’m really happy about this race, because it was also unexpected because the weekend started really complicated for me, with three crashes, a lot for me. Every time I’m consistent, but here it was really difficult. But in the race, I saw that my pace was really nice, like the group that was in front of me. At the end, when I saw Pecco very close, I understand, ‘Okay, now you have to stay behind.’ At the end, I tried to overtake him in the second corner to make Pecco a little bit nervous. In the end, he went long and I won this race. It’s all for my team because they work a lot at this Grand Prix to give me the best bike and it’s incredible, the job they did.”
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