John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) has taken his second Grand Prix win in the Shark Helmets Grand Prix de France, with the Scot fighting it out at the front and then able to defend the lead in the final sector to cross the line just over a tenth clear of Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing). That makes it five winners in five races so far this season, and ten different winners in a row. Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) completed the podium despite a couple of last lap wobbles, and the Spaniard extended his Championship lead.
McPhee got a good start from pole, but it was Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers) and Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) who initially launched past the Scotsman to take over at the front, with Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) behind McPhee in fourth as the pack settled, and a small gap back to Andrea Migno (Bester Capital Dubai), Canet, Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing) and Dalla Porta.
One name missing from the front early on was Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia), with the Japanese rookie unable to capitalise on his front row start as he crashed out – and caused some big drama. His bike moved back onto the track but it was safely avoided as the pack scattered, with the freight train then recouping and rolling on.
Suzuki was holding station in the lead as the laps ticked down and the Japanese rider consistently led over the line, but with only a handful of laps to go, heartbreak hit as he then suddenly slid out – and Arbolino couldn’t avoid him; the Italian also going down. That shuffled the order as the front group scattered and the second made up some big time, with race day pace man Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) first on the scene to make it a bigger scrap over the last laps. And he had company, with the battle heating up.
Two key moments decided much of the race: first, Jaume Masia (Bester Capital Dubai) was a little optimistic with an attempted move on teammate Migno and a gap opened up as they lost time, leaving Dalla Porta, McPhee, Toba and Canet at the front.
The second decisive moment came on the last lap as it was Canet’s turn to wobble. In full attack mode, the Italian overcooked it and only just stayed on – but he did head wide, and took Toba with him. That left McPhee defending from Dalla Porta for the win, and the Scotsman kept it cool to cross the line a tenth clear. His second win was also the team’s first.
Canet finished third and got a talking to from Toba on the cool down lap, with Rodrigo crossing the line fourth ahead of Migno. Toba eventually took sixth, just able to slot back in and beat impressive rookie Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) to the line by 0.041.
After taking his first points of the year last time out in Jerez, Kazuki Masaki (BOE Skull Rider Mugen Race) took his first top ten in France, two tenths ahead of Jakub Kornfeil (Redox PrüstelGP). Second rookie Raul Fernandez (Sama Qatar Angel Nieto Team), despite a 12-place grid penalty, completed the top ten and beat last year’s winner – teammate Albert Arenas – to the honour, with Masia classified in P12 behind Arenas after a time penalty for cutting a corner.
Makar Yurchenko (BOE Skull Rider Mugen Race) took his first Grand Prix points of the year in thirteenth, ahead of Ayumu Sasaki (Petronas Sprinta Racing), with Filip Salac (Redox PrüstelGP) finishing 15th. The Czech rider was hit by faller Sergio Garcia (Estrella Galicia 0,0) on Lap 1 and ran off.
Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse) was a high profile crasher, the Italian losing ground in the Championship, and Ramirez was another to go down. Previously a Le Mans winner, Romano Fenati (VNE Snipers) retired from the race.
That’s it from France and now we head for Tuscany and the unique Autodromo del Mugello, a stunning venue that puts on a serious slipstreaming show every season. Can Canet keep his advantage there? Or will the home heroes fight back? Find out on Sunday 2nd June.
1 – John McPhee (GBR – Honda) 37’48.689
2 – Lorenzo Dalla Porta (ITA – Honda) +0.106
3 – Aron Canet (SPA – KTM) +0.757
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