2017 Le Mans MotoGP Race Result: It's Not Over Until The Flag Man Waves

Le Mans did its best to balance its record of wet to dry races with the much-awaited sun heating things up to a cosy twenty degrees. Things got pretty heated on track as well, in a dramatic race full of home pride and surprising mistakes. Maverick Viñales converted pole into a win but it wasn’t quite as straightforward as that for the Spaniard.

Johann Zarco rocketed into the lead after the start, on the soft tyre combination, mugging Viñales into turn three. The Frenchman gave the home audience an audibly appreciated gift to lead the race for its early part and an even more precious one as the Tech 3 rider crossed the line in second place to step on his first (and very emotional) podium in the big boys class in his home race.

Having started on the fifth row, Dani Pedrosa had a clear goal in mind - to catch up quickly to the top riders - and so he did, aided by some aggressive moves and high profile crashes in front of him to jump on the third step of the podium. The story of how he got there needs a little more background.

After the first lap adventures, where Zarco took the lead from Viñales and Valentino Rossi, the top seven went into stand-by mode, no one really gaining or losing much, just biding their time and their tyres. The three Yamahas at the top kept close, with Marc Marquez trying to tag along, Crutchlow, Dovizioso and Pedrosa settled in a small group one second behind the reigning world champion as the LCR rider cautiously brought up to temperature his hard front tyre.

On lap seven Viñales decided to up the pace and found a way past Zarco but, despite setting fastest laps, the Spaniard couldn’t shake off the Tech 3 Yamaha that easily. In an attempt to keep up with the rhythm imposed by Vinales, the pursuers were forced to keep pushing and posting red and orange sector times all over the place. And the rhythm never really eased up until the checkered flag, that forcing some mistakes throughout the field.

It took until the final seven laps for Viñales to get the gap on Zarco to over half a second, as Zarco started losing a bit of performance on the softer tyre combination, Rossi going past the Frenchman one lap later. The Italian still had the win in his sights, the pair of factory Yamaha riders trading lap records as Rossi found the rough way past Vinales to snatch the lead at turn three with three laps to go. The drama did not stop however, Rossi running wide on the final lap, letting Viñales past and crashing out a few corners later in the hurry to find a way back past his teammate.

Pedrosa found himself in the lead of the chasing group by the end of lap twelve and with a two-second gap to recover on his teammate, who was tailing the trio of Yamahas at the top. Dovizioso and Crutchlow started losing touch with him after a lively Pedrosa nudged Crutchlow out of the way, leaving the two former colleagues to fight it out for fourth place eventually – a battle won by Dovizioso.

Halfway through the race, Pedrosa was the man on a charge as Marquez was lucky to escape unhurt from a big crash as he lost control in turn three while running fourth. After his and Rossi’s crash, Pedrosa broke the Yamaha monopoly on the podium positions, followed across the line by Dovizioso and Crutchlow.

Jorge Lorenzo had pretty much the opposite of his race here last year, finishing ten seconds down on fifth place, as opposed to the ten-second demolition job he did in 2016. Still, sixth place was probably beyond expectations, the Spaniard having started sixteenth. The top ten was completed by Jonas Folger, a brave Jack Miller and an impressive Loris Baz.

Following the high-profile crashes of Rossi and Marquez, Viñales is back at the lead of the world championship, holding a 17 points advantage on Pedrosa. Rossi falls a further 6 points behind Pedrosa, with Marquez now 27 points off the lead. All is not lost for either rider but the balance of power in the title chase keep changing – luckily for us watching.

Results:

Pos. Num. Rider Bike Gap
1 25 Maverick VIÑALES Yamaha 43'29.793
2 5 Johann ZARCO Yamaha +3.134
3 26 Dani PEDROSA Honda +7.717
4 4 Andrea DOVIZIOSO Ducati +11.223
5 35 Cal CRUTCHLOW Honda +13.519
6 99 Jorge LORENZO Ducati +24.002
7 94 Jonas FOLGER Yamaha +25.733
8 43 Jack MILLER Honda +32.603
9 76 Loris BAZ Ducati +45.784
10 29 Andrea IANNONE Suzuki +48.332
11 53 Tito RABAT Honda +50.036
12 44 Pol ESPARGARO KTM +52.661
13 38 Bradley SMITH KTM +53.179
14 22 Sam LOWES Aprilia +55.432
15 50 Sylvain GUINTOLI Suzuki +1'06.878
    Not Classified    
  46 Valentino ROSSI Yamaha 1 Lap
  41 Aleix ESPARGARO Aprilia 5 Laps
  93 Marc MARQUEZ Honda 11 Laps
  9 Danilo PETRUCCI Ducati 11 Laps
  45 Scott REDDING Ducati 21 Laps
  17 Karel ABRAHAM Ducati 23 Laps
  8 Hector BARBERA Ducati 25 Laps
    Not Finished 1st Lap    
  19 Alvaro BAUTISTA Ducati 0 Lap

 

Round Number: 
5
2017
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Comments

Great race, but rather dictated by the tyre saving they were all doing at various points.

Zarco keeping pace with the factory Yamahas was something special.

Marquez crashed in turn one, not three. Another one of those weird front tyre washouts without warning. One hopes the 'new' tyres Michelin will bring next weekend will fix that.

by the circuit map, marc crashed on turn two, not turn one. turn one is the long right hander before the sharp left turn, which is turn two.

zarco was doing especially great, as expected of him on his home turf.

imho rossi's pass on vinales and his two errors on the last lap is a highlight of why he couldn't get his elusive 10th title so far: impatience. old he might be, but wise he is not. not enough at least. and tyre saving might be a factor, but as vinales showed with the lap record on the very last lap, it's probably secondary. well, we still have to wait for the man themselves to speak about it. and there's still mugello :)

Racers often walk a thin line, top racers more so, between being wise and just getting what they want. Rossi has been wise either by choice or by compulsion against what is seemingly the toughest competition of his life (not that Biaggi, Gibernau or Stoner were any less, but age makes a difference).

Rossi's moves were absolutely fine if you'd like to know my opinion about it. Yesterday, for a number of reasons (Yamaha's 500th GP win... for Hayden), Rossi wasn't ready to settle for anything less than the win especially when he knew, and what we clearly saw, he was well prepared to fight with Vinales till the finish line. I was heartbroken to see him fall, but I've surprisingly got a bit of satisfaction as well seeing the old Rossi yesterday, the one who wants to get there by winning. This is how we remember him.

His mistake, as said by him, was that he entered the turn 8(?) 1kmph faster.

He sure delivered. I guess Rossi was right when he said Le Mans is too short as a track and too long as a race. 3rd tier circuit at best anytime of the calender and dangerous. Further afield, what happened at Ducati? Business as usual. Dovi spearheads the effort. Man of all seasons, any weather, any tire and any bike on any Sunday. His biggest problem has been being slotted into the kitty litter by other riders on a regular basis the past couple of seasons. The next one is a big one...Mugello/Ducati/Lorenzo/Rossi history. Lorenzo has to beat Dovi there hands down to convince me there was any merit in Gigi persuing his signing. Spare a thought for Pedrosa...great ride as ever.

Like Dovi, he is easily the best racer to have never won a premier class title.

Rossi was so brave!
He made a huge black mark with his rear tire while passing Viñales.
Almost did it. Amazing!
I thought he would not challenge Viñales this year.
Zero points but super respect!
Well done!

Great race, especially after poor start to the weekend, weather wise. Although another topsy turvy turn of results with the factory teams.

As to the MV - VR battle, I didn't think there was going to be a change, but then VR found even more pace and not only took JZ but reeled in and passed MV. My heart was in my mouth as he opened up a gap. The rest was history and I was jumping on the sofa when VR crashed.

However, despite the loss of points, I think it was an important development, because Rossi demonstrated not just a big turnaround in form, but also challenged MV significantly. Sets us up for Mugello which was his but for an unlucky blown motor last year.

As a fan, I am glad he rolled the dice and went for the win. I would much rather see him crash out challenging for a win on the last lap than limp home in 10th like last week. It wasn't greed, it was a racer doing what they are born to do.

Well said, and even if he did "throw away" certain points, I am sure Rossi will learn from this and come back wiser but just as fast. Still, MV is certainly a new alien ... and Zarco not far behind. I'm really enjoying the rebirth of MotoGP excitement over the last two years. 

He was feeling strong and fast and felt he could challenge mv and in my eyes vr could and if you can and feel confident why not try it. Mm only settle's for second if he feels he cant fight.

Great race by dp jz vr and mv

I suspect like many of us this weekend, Nicky was in the heart and mind of Rossi. He would of dearly loved to dedicate a win to Nicky and it seemed to me the anguish and emotion shown by Rossi straight after the crash was a level above his usual 100% determination to win. For the first time in a long time I was cheering Rossi on. Great to see Pedrosa giving thought to Nicky and his family post race.

Rossi's crash to some extent showed a lack of wisdom/control, but in the light of his final pace being a little better than Vinales (even considering he caught up a large chunk through a Vinales error), when loosing the lead through an error it does tend to make it that much harder to settle for second, you tend to want to wipe the error clean.  A monument FU in hindsight, which is a wonderful thing, if you can apply it as foresight.

A great race, not a heap of overtaking but everyone pushing so hard.  Pedrosa into second in the championship.  Still think him taking it is unlikely but with no-one having a clear advantage from track to track it may well be the one that can temper his emotions more than the others (read not crash overextending)  that will take it.  Pedrosa is probably the master of that.

I was looking through the lap times as the race progressed to see if there were any characteristics evident from the different compounds used.

However it appears that there are some hints of tyre management going on from the start. 

Zarco sat out in front doing 33's with Vinales following for the first few laps. On lap 7 Vinales dips into the 32's once to pass and then sits on 33's till lap 11 where both he and Zarco start doing 32's.

Others with aspirations for the front react and start doing 32's as well. The aspirants continue in the 32's till the end with some succumbing to the pace along the way and with Zarco slowing a little at the end.

When looking back at a few previous races this year it appears that the pace was fairly consistent from start to finish from the leader at least.

Possibly, it shows that people weren't sure just how well the tyres would last and managed their pace as required. I wondered why Vinales chose lap 11 to really start upping the pace? I wondered what his idea was....get a gap?, see if they have the pace? See what happens to his own tyres?