A fifth-consecutive victory after a terrible first lap has made one fact increasingly apparent: Even Marc Marquez can't beat Marc Marquez. The reigning world champion and current points leader -- relegated to 10th in the first lap after a bad start and subsequent mistakes -- won the Le Mans Grand Prix in dominating fashion Sunday to continue his clean sweep of the 2014 season.
Valentino Rossi, who led the first half of the race, took second place, more than a second behind Marquez. And Alvaro Bautista earned his best result of a tough year with third, a full three seconds behind Rossi. Pol Espargaro, who early on appeared primed for his first MotoGP podium, faded in the latter third of the race to end in fourth, also his best finish of the year. Dani Pedrosa (5th) won a mid-pack battle with Jorge Lorenzo (6th). Stefan Bradl, who held second early in the race but is healing from recent arm-pump surgery, finished in seventh more than 11 seconds behind the leader.
Andrea Dovizioso, who held the race lead for three laps after a terrific start, finished eighth followed by Aleix Espargaro (9th) and Bradley Smith (10th).
For those looking weaknesses in Marquez's armor, here's the slimmest of offerings: He's not a great starter. Of course, he compensates with those finishes.
At the outset, Marquez was pushed to sixth by the lead pack and then ran wide while locked in behind Jorge Lorenzo to let another three riders through. He now found himself in 10th position at the end of the first lap.
At the front, Dovizioso took the lead with Bradl in second and Rossi in third. Rossi made quick work of Bradl and settled in briefly behind Dovizioso. Three laps into the contest, Rossi grabbed the lead. Behind him, Dovizioso began his steady drop back through the pack. Pol Espargaro pushed into second followed by Bradl. Lorenzo had settled into fifth with 24 laps to go. It was short-lived. Already Marquez had begun moving through the cluster of riders like a scythe. With 21 laps to go, he had climbed into fourth and four laps after that -- while running lap times six-tenths of a second faster than the entire field -- he passed Pol Espargaro for second.
He was half a second behind Rossi at this point. Three laps later, he pressured Rossi into a mistake at the circuit's Bleu Esses and moved into the lead. He was never seriously threatened for the rest of the race. Neither was Rossi who maintained a comfortable gap to third for the duration.
But behind the pair, another rider was making a charge: Alvaro Bautista. The satellite Honda rider, who had a miserable start to the season with crashes in three of the first five races, had dropped as low as eighth early on. But the Spanish rider steadily pushed through the pack and passed Pol Espargaro for the final podium position with 10 laps to go.
Qualifying sensation Andrea Iannone crashed out of the race early as did Hector Barbera. Nicky Hayden went down on the first lap and didn't restart.
|Pos.||No.||Rider||Bike||Time / Diff.|
|9||41||Aleix ESPARGARO||Forward Yamaha||22.626|
|17||5||Colin EDWARDS||Forward Yamaha||+1'19.723|
|19||63||Mike DI MEGLIO||Avintia||+1'34.521|
|29||Andrea IANNONE||Ducati||27 Laps|
|8||Hector BARBERA||Avintia||27 Laps|
|Not Finished 1st Lap|
|69||Nicky HAYDEN||Honda||0 Lap|