All eyes were on the sky as riders were lining up for the first race of the day in Le Mans. It was an overcast and humid morning that hinted at upcoming rain but one man who thrived in the pressure was John McPhee. The poleman ran a clever race to survive the Moto3 battlefield and grab victory in the 100th grand prix race held at Le Mans - his first one of the season and his first one in quite a while. A fine start to the day for the Petronas team but not too bad for Leopard either, Lorenzo Dalla Porta overcoming a difficult weekend with four crashes to climb into second spot on the podium. The final podium place was stolen by Aron Canet on the last lap to bring some joy in a tough weekend for his team.
Things did not look so bright for McPhee from the off, fellow front row starter Tony Arbolino getting the holeshot into turn one and taking Tatsuki Suzuki with him. The other front row starter’s excellent weekend ended out in turn ten before even completing a lap, Ai Ogura suffering a high side that was miraculously avoided by the massive chasing pack.
Despite some underwhelming qualifying performances, the usual contenders regrouped quickly after the start, which meant that Canet and Dalla Porta tagged the lead group of eight. By lap five, Niccolo Antonelli was leading the second group, two seconds down the road, with Jaume Masia and Romano Fenati also stuck out of podium contention at this point. Fenati managed to complete another handful of laps before retiring due to his ankle injury.
Back at the front, Suzuki claimed the lead and set a fast pace ahead of Arbolino, Gabriel Rodrigo, Andrea Migno, Dalla Porta, McPhee and Canet, while Marcos Ramirez was losing touch with the top group and slowly falling into the clutches of the chasers led by Antonelli. However, the Italian never got a shot at an overtake as the Spaniard crashed out in turn three on lap eight. The entire chasing group started to seem cursed, as every time someone reduced the gap, disaster struck. For Masia, that was around lap nine, when he was hit with a 2.2 seconds penalty for cutting a corner, while Antonelli and Foggia crashed out a couple of laps later while rushing to catch up with the leaders.
Migno first took a turn in the lead at the start of lap nine - the rapid turn one the scene of his assault - but it only lasted one lap, the halfway point of the race prompting battles all throughout the lead group. Dalla Porta was the next man to challenge Suzuki but the Japanese rider had none of it and almost routinely resumed the lead as the race entered its second half. Suzuki made his first real mistake with eight laps to go, running wide and allowing Dalla Porta and McPhee some airtime but regular programming was resumed soon after.
However, disaster struck again for the SIC58 team with six laps remaining, when Suzuki made his second slightly bigger mistake, losing the rear at turn 3 and collecting an unlucky Arbolino. Despite losing a couple of its main actors, the lead group didn’t have it any easier as some new protagonists showed up to the party, Kaito Toba bridging the gap from the second group and promptly attacking the weakest link amongst the leaders, which happened to be Rodrigo.
For the final three laps, Migno, McPhee and Dalla Porta had stretched half a second’s gap at the front but their shenanigans allowed Toba to gallop his way to the leaders, dragging Canet and Rodrigo with him, Masia suddenly not ridiculously far behind either – while still carrying his penalty. As the race entered its final couple of laps, the main pack merged to 12 riders but it looked too late to strike from outside the top four positions.
Dalla Porta entered the final lap in the lead, but it proved a vulnerable position as McPhee attacked into turn 9 and secured the win. Contact between Canet and Toba precluded one final shot at victory but the Spaniard was victorious in the battle for third. Rodrigo lost out on podium positions but would have been happy to finally finish a race at Le Mans. Migno and Toba would have been disappointed with fifth and sixth after such strong chances of a podium, while Celestino Vietti, Kazuki Masaki, Jekub Kornfeil and Raul Fernandez did not get much airtime but completed the top ten. Masia crossed the line eighth but dropped to 12th following his time penalty.
Canet’s decent points haul extends his lead in the championship, 14 points ahead of Dalla Porta and another 3 ahead of Antonelli. Toba climbs into fourth, ahead of Masia, the Spaniard now a whole race win’s worth of points behind the leader.
|2||48||Lorenzo DALLA PORTA||Honda||+0.106|
|7||Dennis FOGGIA||KTM||5 Laps|
|21||Alonso LOPEZ||Honda||5 Laps|
|24||Tatsuki SUZUKI||Honda||5 Laps|
|14||Tony ARBOLINO||Honda||6 Laps|
|77||Vicente PEREZ||KTM||7 Laps|
|23||Niccolò ANTONELLI||Honda||8 Laps|
|55||Romano FENATI||Honda||13 Laps|
|42||Marcos RAMIREZ||Honda||15 Laps|
|54||Riccardo ROSSI||Honda||16 Laps|
|40||Darryn BINDER||KTM||21 Laps|
|Not Finished 1st Lap|
|79||Ai OGURA||Honda||0 Lap|
|11||Sergio GARCIA||Honda||0 Lap|