Reigning MotoGP world champion Jorge Lorenzo keeps title hopes alive after perfect outing in French GP.
The infamous French city of racing, Le Mans, played host to Round 5 of the 2016 MotoGP world championship last weekend for the Monster Energy French Grand Prix. Once again, all three classes brought out more thrills, spills and surprises for the record number of fans in attendance.
Reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo completely decimating the rest of the field all weekend in the premier MotoGP class. The Movistar Yamaha Factory Team rider’s dominance began when he qualified in pole position on Saturday by setting a new fastest lap record of 1:31.975 around the challenging 4.2km-long Bugatti Circuit, beating Marc Marquez’ previous record that stood since 2014.
With the prime front row start, Lorenzo was able to put in the perfect race launch and led the entire race. Behind Lorenzo, more action and drama unfolded. Whilst bitter rival and teammate Valentino Rossi was forced to start from seventh, the Italian manage to carve his way up the order.
What helped with Rossi’s charge were the two factory Ducati machines and riders faltering, followed by the former championship standings leader Marc Marquez’s dramatic fall whilst chasing Rossi astride the factory Repsol Honda machine.
Several other riders down the order also suffered falls, resulting in just 13 of 21 bikes completing the race. This unusually high number of crashes and retirement also played into the hands of Team Ecstar Suzuki’s Maveric Viñales as he carved his way up the order up into third.
Jorge Lorenzo eventually took the race win – his second victory of the season – with an unbelievable gap of 10.654 seconds ahead of Rossi in second. Viñales finished third to celebrate both his first career MotoGP podium and Suzuki’s first podium result since its return into the class.
With his win, Jorge Lorenzo has recaptured the lead in the championship standings with 90 points. But Marquez is still within reach in second with just five points separating the two. Rossi’s still in the game here too and now ranks third with 78 points – just 12 points away from Lorenzo.
The weekend’s supporting Moto2 race saw one of the biggest upsets as home hero and defending class champion Johann Zarco suffered yet another dismal outing. Besidez Zarco, other class favourite like Sam Lowes were also dealt with dismal performances.
Instead, it was Spaniard Alex Rins, who started from second place astride the Paginas Amirillas HP 40 Kalex machine that took sweet victory after he successfully blasted past pole-sitter Thomas Luthi. The latter Swiss rider struggled for pace astride the Garage Plus Interwetten Kalex machine and eventually settled for a third place finish, allowing Italian Simone Corsi astride the Speed Up Racing machine to claim a well deserved second place too.
Malaysian rider Hafizh Syahrin began the weekend on a tough note after managaing to qualify 17th on the grid. But once again, the speedy Malaysian was able to fight his way up the order astride the Petronas Raceline Malaysia Kalex and finished the race in eighth place, claiming some very crucial championship points in the process too.
With his win, Rins leaves France as the leader in the Moto2 championship standings with 87 points. Briton Sam Lowes is second with 82 points, followed by Luthi in third with 69 points and defending champion Zarco in fourth with 56 points. Hafizh, on the other hand, now ranks 10th with his total score of 36 points so far.
The supporting Moto3 race arguably stood as the most exciting race of the weekend. The race quickly unfolded into a nail-biting four-way battle for the win between Brad Binder, Romano Fenati, Jorge Navarro and Aron Canet.
Nevertheless, South African Brad Binder was the one that came out on top after the Red Bull KTM Ajo rider timed his manoeuvres perfectly in the final laps to claim the win. Fellow KTM-powered rider Fenati from the Sky Racing Team VR46 outfit came in a close second whilst the Honda-powered Estrella Galicia 0,0 duo of Navarro and Canet settled for third and fourth respectively.
Malaysian team Drive M7 SIC dealt with mixed fortunes in France as Jakub Kornfeil could only achieve a ninth place finish whilst Malaysian rookie Adam Norrodin crashed out in the opening lap of the race.
However, the fortunes fared slightly better for Khairul Idham Pawi. The Malaysia rookie managed to ride his Honda Team Asia machine to finish in 14th and claimed more valuable championship points too.
Back to the class leaders and Binder still leads the championship standings with 102 points in total, followed by Navarro in second with 78 points and Fenati in third with 67 points. Binder has a comfortable lead over the rest, and the title race is now favouring him strongly.
Round 6 – Mugello, Italy
Round 6 of the 2016 MotoGP season will take place in less than a fortnight’s time in Mugello, Italy from May 20 to May 22. Races are scheduled to air on Sunday starting with Moto3 at 5pm, Moto2 at 6:20pm and MotoGP at 8pm (local Malaysian times).