Moto3

Mike Webb Explains That Moto3 Time Penalties At Le Mans Are "Virtual Gravel Traps"

Fans watching the Moto3 race at Le Mans faced mixed emotions. On the one hand, they were thrilled at yet another scintillating Moto3 race featuring close quarter battles. On the other hand, they were bewildered by the time penalties issued to Jakub Kornfeil and Niccolo Antonelli during the course of the race. Kornfeil was handed a 1.3 second penalty, while Antonelli was given a 1.8 second penalty. Fans found it difficult to make head or tail of the penalties issued.

Their confusion turned to outright anger once the Moto3 race had ended. Fabio Di Giannantonio crossed the line in first, after Marco Bezzecchi lost the rear in the final corner and took Jorge Martin down with him. But Di Giannantonio would not get to enjoy his victory: the Italian was handed a 2 second penalty after the race had finished, demoting him from first to fourth.

The anger of the fans was fueled mainly by a feeling that the penalties appeared to be arbitrary, with no logic to their structure. The FIM Stewards Panel appeared to be handing out penalties almost at a whim, and with no way for those outside of the panel to understand what was going on.

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2018 Le Mans Sunday Round Up: Crashes Shape The Championship, Yamaha's Woes, Ducati's Decision, And Moto3 Madness

Looking back, it is always easy to identify the pivotal moments in a championship. Last year, it was the Barcelona test, when Honda brought a new chassis which gave Marc Márquez the confidence he had been lacking. In 2015, it was arguably Motegi, where Valentino Rossi stayed ahead of Jorge Lorenzo, but the effort it took in the difficult conditions left him drained at the start of a long and exhausting set of flyaways. In 2012 it was Misano, where a tire warmer got stuck to Dani Pedrosa's brake disc, forcing him to start from the back of the grid, and leaving him in a position to get tangled up with Hector Barbera, and crash out of the race.

In the midst of a racing season, however, such pivotal points are much harder to identify. Or rather, all too easy to misidentify. After Estoril 2006, everyone thought that Nicky Hayden's championship challenge was over. Valentino Rossi's heartbreaking engine blow up at Mugello looked like it would put paid to his shot at the 2016 title, but he still kept the fight alive for a long time. Anything can happen during the course of a season, so when we look back at a season we can easily overlook the drama of a single race that seemed important at the time. 2015 is a case in point: there were so many twists and turns that it is hard to pinpoint a single turning point, so fans and followers tend to pick their own.

Looking at it now, just five races into a nineteen-race season, it is easy to believe that the races at Jerez and Le Mans will be the turning points we look back at when the bikes are packed up for the final time after Valencia. The three-rider crash at Dry Sack two weeks ago, in which Andrea Dovizioso, Jorge Lorenzo, and Dani Pedrosa managed to all take each other out without any obvious culprit being to blame, had a huge impact on the championship. And Sunday's drama-packed race at Le Mans will surely be spoken of in the same terms. Not just because of who didn't finish the race. But also because where some riders finished is going to have a profound impact on their futures.

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2018 Le Mans Moto3 FP3 Result: A Revived Ramirez

Another chilly but clear morning in Le Mans sparked a bit of a surprise for the lightweight class. In a familiar story, Fabio Di Giannantonio spent most of the morning at the top of the timing sheets but in more unexpected fashion, Marcos Ramirez stole the limelight at the very last minute. The Spaniard clearly got a boost from his inherited podium in Jerez and went on to post the fastest time of the weekend, under the circuit’s lap record.

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2018 Le Mans Moto3 FP2 Result: An Antonelli Reminder

A big improvement in track temperature predictably led to faster times and faster crashes. No harm done and it ended up as a good afternoon at the office for the Italians. Tony Arbolino sat at the top of the timing screens for most of the session, until Niccolo Antonelli dethroned him in a final time attack. The SIC58 Squadra racer snuck ahead of Kaito Toba by a mere four hundredths of a second but the Japanese rider missed out on perfectly fine opportunity to fight back by suffering a rather speedy crash on his last lap.

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2018 Le Mans Moto3 FP1 Result: Martin Being Martin

The forecast in Le Mans likes to give us a scare every now and again but the predicted clouds were nowhere to be seen by the time the first session of the weekend got off to a start. Under sunny blue skies, Enea Bastianini led most of a pretty close session until Jorge Martin picked up the lead in final five minutes. The Spaniard was only a tenth of a second off until that point and went on to sneak ahead of Jakub Kornfeil by a tenth and a half.

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