The Italian wins and moves up to third overall, with Arenas back in the points lead as Ogura struggles and McPhee crashes out.
Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) took what could turn out to be a vital victory in the Moto3™ race at the Shark Helmets Grand Prix de France, the Italian striking when it counted to overhaul Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team) by a tenth and take home a valuable 25 points. Behind Arbolino, Albert Arenas (Gaviota Aspar Team Moto3) completed the podium and with that, took back the Championship lead as Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) ended up outside the front group and John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) failed to finish in France.
Arenas took the holeshot, streaking away into Turn 1 in clear air, but it didn’t take long for Arbolino to home in, with Jaume Masia (Leopard Raacing) slotting into third as he made up some ground after getting bogged down off the line from pole. McPhee lost out in a big way as the Brit went from front row to tenth, with Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) and Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) two to move up.
Arenas wasn’t allowed to escape. Masia striking quickly to take over in the lead on Lap 2, and so began the classic freight train fun. Masia led Arbolino and Rodrigo, with Vietti also leapfrogging the number 75 over the line next time around. The front quintet had made a small break, but Catalan GP winner Darryn Binder (CIP – Green Power) was on the chase and the South African soon caught them and got busy, the front group back to 16 riders line astern.
Some drama then hit though, as Alonso Lopez (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) collected teammate Romano Fenati and both Husqvarnas slid out, before Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) took a tumble not long after. That left a lead group of 13, and Masia remained at the head of the field – with Arenas for close company.
As organised chaos reigned at the front, Arenas sliced his way through to first and it was going well for the number 75, with McPhee down in tenth and points leader heading into the race, Ai Ogura, struggling to stay in the top twenty and outside the front freight train. That group was getting whittled down lap by lap too, with Sergio Garcia (Estrella Galicia 0,0) losing touch to make it 12 riders in the battle for P1.
With seven to go, that became 11 as Darryn Binder suddenly sat up, a mechanical problem forcing the South African out of the race and the front group scattering to move round the stricken KTM. That they did, and the fight raged on before Kaito Toba (Red Bull KTM Ajo) dropped off the back too with a crash. And there were more as, suddenly, the Championship took another huge twist: a crash for Jeremy Alcoba (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) took the Spaniard out of the group, and the man right behind him was unable to avoid the incident, getting collected: Championship challenger McPhee.
But the top eight marched on, Arenas among them, and Ogura had made his way to tenth by then – adding a valuable haul of points as he steadily made his progress from the P24 he’d dropped down to initially. Onto the penultimate lap it was Masia who remained in the hotseat at the front, but a sudden bobble for the number 5 suddenly saw him leapfrogged as Vietti was able to take charge, the Italian sweeping through from third to lead – and lead he did over the line for the final lap.
Would anyone be able to catch the Italian? They would not. Keeping it pinned to perfection, the number 13 didn’t give anyone a chance to attack – and managed to cross the line a tenth and a half clear to make a huge gain in the standings to boot, now third. Arbolino took second and is another who gains on the top overall after another impressive ride to the podium, with Arenas taking a rostrum finish in third – and back on top as the Championship leader.
Masia was forced to settle for fourth despite his exemplary race, that late wobble costing the Spaniard, with the top five completed by an impressive charge from Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46). And in sixth, finally there was an end in sight for Ayumu Sasaki’s (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) run of bad luck. After what seemed like an eternal reel of getting collected in other riders’ incidents, the Japanese rider had a drama free Le Mans to convert eighth on the grid to sixth in the race.
Fernandez takes seventh after losing a little ground late on, with Rodrigo completing the front group in P8. There was then a gap back to the next battle on track, but it was a familiar name who fought his way to the head of it: Ogura. The number 79 did the most damage limitation possible to move up from 17th on the grid and P24 early in the race, getting the better of Carlos Tatay (Reale Avintia Moto3) as the Spaniard completed the top ten.
Garcia, Filip Salac (Rivacold Snipers Team), Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing), Riccardo Rossi (BOE Skull Rider Facile Energy) and Stefano Nepa (Gaviota Aspar Team Moto3) completed the points in France.
Arenas has taken back the reins as we now head for his home turf, on 135 at the top as Ogura slips down to 129. It’s now Vietti in third, the Italian on 119 and gaining some serious ground, with Arbolino close behind and McPhee shuffled down to fifth. What will the shuffle look like in Aragon? Find out in only a week as we go again at MotorLand!
Celestino Vietti: “A strange race, I didn’t expect this result, we are fast but I didn’t expect it a lot like today. I think we chose the correct tyre, and in the last part I think we had a bit of speed more than the other riders, a little bit. And in the last three laps I tried to go in front but all the riders – like Tony and Albert, Masia – braked very hard and for me it was very difficult to overtake them. But I’m very happy because we managed the race in a good way, and I’m happy for the team because we struggled a bit with three crashes this weekend, I’m happy, this is for them and we’ll try to continue in this way.”
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