Daniel Holgado took victory in the Moto3 French Grand Prix with a well-executed ride and handed Tech3 Racing their first ever victory on home soil.
With that, the Spaniard increased his lead in the championship to 21 points and added a second victory to his tally for 2023.
Ayumu Sasaki put in a very strong qualifying performance to start from pole position, with Diogo Moreira and Holgado completing the front row.
But Sasaki couldn’t hold onto his lead at the start, quickly losing out to Holgado who made a nice move down the inside at the first braking zone of the Le Mans track.
The Japanese rider tried to conjure up a reaction as the first lap went on but couldn’t make anything stick for the time being.
Meanwhile behind the top two it was Deniz Oncu who settled into third as he got the better of Moreira on the opening lap.
Moreira then lost another position on lap seven as Ivan Ortola moved his way into fourth with a nice move at Turn 3.
The battle at the front then stabilised for the following few laps as the riders settled into the race.
But it all began to unfold at the halfway point however, as Moreira crashed out at Turn 12 – the Brazilian had continued to drop back as the race progressed and was in seventh at the time of the incident.
Sasaki then pulled the pin and made his move back into the lead with a pass on Holgado along the pit straight, but Holgado quickly responded at Turn 3 to hang on to first place.
Elsewhere Jaume Masia moved up into third with six laps to go after taking advantage of Oncu running slightly wide at Turn 8.
The Spaniard then attacked Sasaki for second place and the pair were engaged in a back-and-forth battle – which allowed Holgado to sit comfortably out in front as those behind him jostled for position.
Sasaki was able to retake second at Turn 3 with three laps remaining, and quickly tried to shake off Masia in an attempt to chase down the leader ahead.
But ultimately it was to no avail – despite closing the gap to just 0.150 seconds Sasaki had to settle for second as Holgado took victory after a very strong race to hold off the pressure.
Speaking after the race, Holgado said it was a good ending to an event where he’d showed strong pace throughout the three days.
“The feeling is amazing. I am so happy because this Grand Prix was very important for my team as it was their home race, and winning it for them is just incredible,” he said.
“I was fast all weekend, and today we were just really strong and confident. What a weekend, thank you to my team.”
Masia ended the race in third but had to fight for it as Ortola piled on the pressure in the final two laps.
Oncu went from being third to ending up sixth in the final few laps of the race, finishing behind Ryusei Yamanaka.
Xavier Artigas finished in seventh, with David Alonso and Jose Rueda some distance behind in eighth and ninth.
Stefano Nepa managed to get the better of Joel Kelso, Kaito Toba and Tatsuki Suzuki in what was a close fought battle for 10th.
David Salvador and Collin Veijer rounded out the points finishers.
Among the other fallers, Syarifuddin Azman was the first victim to crash in the race on the third lap at Turn 12 – a disappointing end to what was a strong weekend for the Malaysian where he qualified 10th.
Andrea Migno also fell at Turn 12 a few laps later and was shortly followed by Scott Ogden at Turn 7, as well as Taiyo Furusato who fell on the last lap at Turn 9.
Le Mans has given us another action-packed sprint race, with breathtaking battles from start to finish. Our winner, Jorge Martin was simply peerless today, whilst Pecco Bagnaia and Marc Marquez, who is back to his old ways after 3 races away, jostled for the majority of the race.
Jorge Martin was in a league of his own on his way to win the sprint race at the French GP in Le Mans. Having started the race in 5th, he enjoyed a brilliant start and was up to 2nd before the exit of turn 1. It was then lap 4 when he finally took the lead and he never looked back, quickly building a gap between himself and his nearest competitors. As the chequered flag fell, he wheelied across the line to take a dominant victory.
Brad Binder took a well-deserved 2nd place today, taking advantage of a race-long battle between Marc Marquez and Pecco Bagnaia. As the pair were fighting, he snuck up the inside to claim second place and, much like our race winner, was able to quickly put clear air behind him. However, that gap ahead was always just slightly too big and he couldn’t find a way to take the fight to Martin.
Championship leader and today’s pole sitter, Bagnaia, came home in 3rd after that race-long battle with Marquez. The pair were jostling for most of the race, closely on each other’s tail and making aggressive moves to try and best each other. It looked as though it might end in disaster multiple times but, eventually, it was the Italian who eventually came out on top.
After 7 breathtaking laps of fighting and overtaking, it was on lap 10 of 13 that he finally made his way past Marquez and made sure to quickly shut the door to avoid any counter-attacks. The nail-biting fight was then quickly over as Bagnaia pulled ahead of Marquez to put clean air between the pair.
Marquez, who is back on the grid after missing the previous 3 races, eventually ended the day in 5th. It seemed that he may have started to fatigue at the same time as Bagnaia’s tyres came into their sweet spot – a bad combination but he will have plenty of positives to take away from his performance today, ahead of tomorrow’s main race.
It looked like this potential fatiguing then made Marquez a bit of a sitting duck for Luca Marini, who was able to make his way up to 4th on lap 11. Marini has enjoyed a fantastic day, progressing from Q1 to then secure 3rd in Q2. He lost a few places at the start of the spring race but more than made up for this with his performance towards the end of the race.
It was a tougher day for Jack Miller and home hero Fabio Quatararo, who both failed to meet the chequered flag.
Miller enjoyed a brilliant start, flying off the line to steal 3rd from Marini early on. The Aussie, who has previously enjoyed a lot of success in sprint races, couldn’t emulate that success today as he went down in the middle of Museum Corner on the second lap. He was visibly frustrated to make an error that ended his race so prematurely.
Then, on lap 10, Quartararo went down at the same corner. The bike just folded underneath him as he helplessly slid into the gravel. The home crowd were clearly disappointed as a stunned silence fell over the grandstands. Today has been a difficult day for the Frenchman – a day that has gone from bad to worse after his inability to progress out of Q1.
The final points-scoring positions were filled by Johann Zarco, Marco Bezzecchi, Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales in 6th to 9th respectively. Vinales had a terrible qualifying session where a bike issue hampered his second run whilst he was sat in provisional pole – it is certainly a day of “what if’s” for the Spaniard.
The main race will take place at 2pm local time on Sunday. If the sprint race is anything to go by, it should be a race filled with action and drama!
After leading the way yesterday, Sam Lowes set the fastest-ever lap around the Le Mans circuit on a Moto2 bike on his way to claiming pole position. He will be joined on the front row of the grid tomorrow by Alonso Lopez and Tony Arbolino.
As expected in Q1, no rider was certain to make it through to the second round of qualifying, but Jeremy Alcoba, Dennis Foggia and Fermin Aldeguer hoped they could secure a top-four position in Q1 to get them onto the front six rows of the grid. Few riders were able to test out the track with slick tyres this morning due to the track conditions.
Lukas Tulovic set the early pace with a 1.36.539 and this remained the top time until the final moments of the session when Fermin Aldeguer went 0.1s faster around the Le Mans circuit. Along with the Speed Up Racing and Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP riders, Barry Baltus and Bo Bendsneyder made it through the second round of qualifying.
In the second part of qualifying, Filip Salac and Celestino Vietti were topping the time sheets early on with a 1:36.135 and 1:36.178 respectively. Pedro Acosta struggled with the bike towards the start of the session, slotting into sixth place just over two-tenths off the pace set by Salac.
With just under eight minutes to go, Bendsneyder went down in the fourth sector. This cancelled the laps of multiple riders but also allowed them to regroup and plan their attacks for the rest of the session.
Arbolino, Jake Dixon and Lowes were following each other on the track with five and a half minutes to go, setting fastest sector after fastest sector. The tow provided by the two riders in front of Lowes, allowed the ELF Marc VDS Racing Team rider to set the fastest lap around the circuit on a Moto2 bike with a 1:35.791.
Tulovic and Dixon went down at the same time at turns nine and seven respectively causing yellow flags in sectors two, three and four with just over two minutes left on the clock. Luckily, these flags were cleared quickly.
With five seconds left, Lopez crossed the line to go second fastest with a 1:36.036. He was about to start his final flying lap before Aron Canet crashed and caused a red flag. The red flag was due to Canet’s bike being in the middle of the track.
Following the red flag, the session did not restart as there were only a few seconds left on the clock. This means that, for the second race in a row, Lowes will start with no other rider in front of him. Championship leader Acosta starts the race from the middle of the second row with Salac ahead of him and Vietti behind.
2023 FRENCH MOTO2 GRAND PRIX, LE MANS – QUALIFYING RESULTS
It was a session full of surprises today that included highs for our leading championing as well as a returning favourite but also heartache and disaster for a home hero.
After a challenging weekend in which he hasn’t shown a huge amount of pace, reigning champion Pecco Bagnaia came from nowhere to steal pole position in the dying moments of the session. He crossed the line and instantly punched the air, showing he knew just how good his lap time of 1:30.705.
He will be joined on the front row by Marc Marquez, who is returning to the action after missing the last 3 races thanks to breaking a metacarpal at the Portuguese GP. He took provisional pole with 1 minute remaining on the clock, setting, at that time, the fastest lap of the weekend so far. He clearly gave this lap everything he had as he ran out of fuel shortly after, delaying his return to the paddock to meet the media!
Having fought his way through from Q1, Luca Marini was able to snatch 3rd place away from Jack Miller shortly after the chequered flag fell, bumping the Australian down to 4th. On his final lap, Miller was following Augusto Fernandez as a marker but was sadly too close to him and this ended up slowing him down. He was unable to improve on his time and was forced to settle for 4th – a disappointing result given his impressive ride in Friday’s P1 and P2.
Maverick Vinales was an early leader in Q2 and spent time in provisional pole. This was until he left the garage for his second run, with 6 minutes remaining on the clock. He faced issues on the pit exit – the onboard shot seemed to suggest the bike was stuck on the pit limiter. He was twisting the throttle but nothing happened. He was met in the pit lane by Moto3 rider, Riccardo Rossi, who gave him a helpful push back to the garage whilst the team rushed to prepare the spare bike for him. He will line up in 7th for the sprint and main races.
What's happened here?! 😱
Provisional pole man Maverick runs into trouble at the end of pit lane! 🤯
As Vinales waited for his second bike to be readied, his teammate Aleix Espargaro had a huge off at the high-speed turn 1. He lost the front of the bike and slid, which some speed, out into the gravel trap. Thankfully, he was able to walk away and he will line up 11th on the grid.
Home hero, Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous session as he was unable to progress up from Q1. This means he will line up in gut-wrenching 13th place for his home sprint race later today and the main race tomorrow. The record-breaking crowds will undoubtedly be willing him on as the lights go out later today.
An impeccable time was done by Francesco Bagnaia/ Pecco (Ducati) on Saturday during the qualifying, securing him pole position and an all-time new lap record with 1:30.450, from team-mate Jack Miller and Aprilia rider – Aleix Espargaro rounding off the front row.
However, eyes were on Suzuki this weekend following on from the breaking news that they are going to resign from Moto GP at the end of the year, leaving riders Alex Rins and Joan Mir with no ride (as of yet). With this news, how would they fair this race?
France was also looking at home-hero’s Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) and Johann Zarco (Ducati) to produce something magical during the race, as a French rider has never won at Le Mans in the Premier Class.
The excitement was building:
As the riders lined up on the grid many teams were choosing to change their tyre choice minutes before lights out, due to the temperature heating up. But, which team was going to decide correctly?
It was a great start from Bastianini (Ducati), who shot into 2nd place behind Miller. Bagnaia went down two places to 3rd. Three Ducati’s led the two Suzuki’s in 4th and 5th.
Bastianini made an early mistake which put him down to 4th place, while Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) fought Yamaha-man Quartararo. But seizing an opportunity during their tussle, Marc Marquez (Honda) took full advantage and surprised everyone, by passing both riders to take 7th place.
By lap 3; Miller led Bagnaia, Rins and Mir. But it wasn’t going to stay that way for long:
Rins suddenly crashed out, ending his race early on turn 4. He managed to rejoin the race after having to go through the gravel, but unfortunately didn’t finish.
Miller then led Bagnaia and Bastianini, with 24 laps still to go.
The next lap and it was Miller’s turn to make a mistake, causing him to go wide leaving Bagnaia to take the lead. On the same lap Remy Gardner (KTM) took a tumble out of the race.
Fastest lap swiftly went to Pecco. Was he about to check out?
Hopeful to put on a show for the French fans on lap 6, Fabio tried to overtake the Aprilia for 5th place but to no avail.
Lap 7 saw Raul Fernandez (KTM) crash out on turn 6, leaving his team-mate to pick up any points.
Back in 3rd place Bastianini seemed to have more pace than the leading Factory Ducati’s. It soon became apparent this was the case as with no warning, he snuck up underneath Miller and claimed 2nd.
Lap 15, turn 14 and it was Mir’s turn to end his race early, cutting Suzuki’s weekend short. With Mir now out, A. Espargaro was bumped up to 4th position and Fabio into 5th.
Only 13 laps until the chequered flag Bagnaia couldn’t seem to shake Bastianini. Was it just a waiting game for The Beast?
Running a good race, Jorge Martin (Ducati) crashed out on turn 9, lap 18. This would be his third time in a row this season.
On lap 21 Bastianini took the plunge and passed Bagnaia to take 1st place but Bagnaia wasn’t having any of it and passed right back again. Then everything happened so quickly: Bagnaia went wide on the next corner giving Bastianini the lead back again. Only moments after that Bagnia crashed out from 2nd on turn 14. Bastianini then had a 2.371 second lead ahead of Miller and A. Espargaro, with the two Frenchmen in 4th and 5th.
With only 3 laps until the end, number 88 – Miguel Oliveira (KTM) also crashed out.
Last lap time and Bastianini was leading, putting in consistent lap times and a very strong performance – still leading Miller and A. Espargaro. Fabio tried to make a move on Aleix for 3rd but couldn’t quite find the right way to do it. Brilliant riding from Bastianini saw him cruise over the finish line, claiming his 3rd win this season for the Gresini Racing team, with Miller taking some fantastic points in 2nd and holding onto 3rd place, A. Espargaro continued his theme of making history for Aprilia with the first ever 3 consecutive podiums in the Premier Class.
Top Ten Race Finishers:
It’s still super close at the top for the 2022 championship.
Top Four championship riders:
This season is so unpredictable, we can only guess what is going to happen next round in Italy.
Featured image: “Podium Traditions”. Courtesy of: Moto GP Twitter Page.
Ever changing track conditions at Le Mans caused for some spectacular qualifying. For a few moments it looked as if Marc Marquez (Honda) was going to grab his first pole since 2019! But local boy – Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) had other ideas and snatched it away. Leading from Maverick Vinales (Yamaha) and Jack Miller (Ducati) on the front row. Marquez started 6th place on the grid.
Uncharacteristically, the championship leader – Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) qualified low down the grid in 16th place.
Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha), looked in good form and had a flying lap, which would have taken him to front row, but an almost high-side in the last corner, removed those hopes. He slotted into 9th place.
The unpredictable track conditions had meant that Sunday’s race had been declared a flag-to-flag race. The first one in four years – meaning some of the riders had never experienced this before.
This was going to be interesting:
Le Mans had it all – rain, sun, bike swaps, crashes, penalties! As the drama unfolded in-front of us, one thing was for sure – Miller gave yet another ‘Thriller’ race!
As the riders lined up on the grid, the dark grey clouds loomed overhead. Weather forecasts predicted the rain wouldn’t emerge during the race. Just in-case though it had been declared a flag-to-flag event, meaning the riders had their spare bikes ready with wet tyres on, should the rain interfere with the proceedings.
Miller got a lighting start and led the pack into lap one, from Vinales and Quartararo. But it was Pol Espargaro (Aprilia), that had a ‘moment’, rejoining in the middle of team-mates Rossi and Frankie Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha), Morbidelli had to take evasive action, leaving him holding his knee in the gravel. Already having hurt it during a freak pit-lane accident in qualifying. (He was able to later rejoin, but finished outside the points).
Vinales soon took first and started to slowly break-away. Were we seeing Maverick finally not letting the weather conditions mess with his head? M. Marquez was fighting for 4th place with Alex Rins (Suzuki) and Takaaki Nakagami (Honda)
All to quickly though, bustling started to happen in the pit lane, as the pit crews started to get the second bikes ready for the inevitable change over. Marshals were waving the red and white flags track-side and the riders now had the option to come in and switch bikes. The rain had come earlier than expected!
Quartararo took full advantage to the change of weather conditions and swept through to first place. Vinales, sadly couldn’t help but react negatively to the wet weather and immediately went backwards.
Jack wasn’t prepared to just let Fabio have first place though and soon they were battling for first.
The rain continued to pour, getting heavier by the second. Miller went into the gravel but saved himself and with 23 laps to go he and all the riders decided to enter the pit lane to swap their bikes. M. Marquez made a swift exit from pit lane securing first place. The reigning champion Joan Mir (Suzuki) however, accidently fell upon entering the pit lane.
Then turn four, saw his team-mate Alex crash. Both Suzuki’s were having a race they would want to forget.
Then seemingly disaster for the Ducati boys! Both Bagnaia and Miller got a double long-lap penalty for exceeding pit-lane speed limits. The speed limit is 60km/h but both were recorded as over it.
With Miller in third place, being led by Quartararo and Marquez, he didn’t want to give up any places, but he took his first long-lap the next lap (lap 9) and then his second on lap 10. Getting them out the way with quick.
Marc Marquez looked like his old self again and even pulled away from Fabio leading with 1.380 seconds and then by 1.973 seconds. He had said that these weather conditions could fall into his hands on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Rins had managed to return to the race with his second bike.
All hearts leapt in unison though as on lap 8, Marquez took a high-side from first position, on the final corner! Launching himself from his bike and rolling through the gravel. He managed to also re-join the race (using the same bike, albeit missing some of its wings).
With Miller taking his second penalty, Quartararo set about extending his lead. Little did he know that he too had collected a penalty. Never having raced a flag-to-flag race he had gone into the pit-lane to swap over his Yamaha’s just to ride into Vinales’s pit box. This was seen as a safety risk which meant he too had to take a long-lap soon. He decided to take it lap 12.
Cutting quickly through the pack, aware that this was his best chance at getting any points this race, Marquez was now the fastest man on track. Ignoring his pain and the rain.
An issue with Lorenzo Savadori’s Aprilia saw him retire from the race. On the same lap Miguel Oliveira (KTM) slid off on the nefarious turn 3. It soon took Rins as well, now his second time seeing the gravel during the race.
Meanwhile Marquez was still slicing through his competitors and with 13 laps to go was in 15th place. His younger brother Alex Marquez (Honda), it is worth noting, was having a brilliant race, from 19th on the grid to 5th by lap 15. By lap 17 M. Marquez had clawed back to 12th place.
Nakagami had his position taken away from him by one of the local boys – Zarco, who was picking up speed – quick. He was now in 3rd place with fellow country-man Quartararo in his sights and the leader – Miller not far away either. Could Le Mans finally have a French winner?
With 11 laps until the end, Aleix Espargaro’s Aprilia malfunctioned, leaving the team with DNF’s for both bikes.
Conditions changed again – the track had dried up and the rain ceased. All riders were on their second bike with wet tyres. They could return to the pits again and swap a second time for slick tyres but none of them wanted to be the first to juggle with fate.
Then absolute heartbreak – Marc Marquez crashed out again – turn 6, lap 18, from 11th place. This time he was unable to pick the bike up and return.
Miller had a 5.475 second lead over Quartararo, who had a 3.763 second gap to Zarco. But this was decreasing quick! Zarco had both medium wet tyres, where Miller and Quartararo had one soft and one medium tyre each. With the track getting drier each lap, the gap between the two Frenchmen rapidly shrunk. On lap 21 of 27 the gap was 0.696 seconds.
Johann passed Fabio with relative ease with 6 laps to go. Could he catch Miller?
Last lap – the track was completely dry – the riders were all still on wet tyres – there were two Frenchmen hunting down the Australian in first. But it was a Thriller performance from Miller who was in complete control, taking back-to-back victories! His first ever time doing this in the premier class and only his 3rd ever win in Moto GP. He is the first Australian to win back-to-back races since Stoner (Ducati) in 2012.
It was like a win for Fabio (who had never finished on the podium in wet conditions before) and Johann who rounded off the podium in France.
Top 10 race results:
It was a rollercoaster ride for Miller who said “…they’re gonna red flag this for sure…” aren’t we all glad that they didn’t?
Mugello (30th May) is the next round of the championship and is notably a Ducati track. Can the Dukes keep up this dominating pace? Or will Yamaha fight back and claim the top spot once more?