2018 Le Mans MotoGP Race Result: Practice Means Nothing Come Sunday

A fairly hot Le Mans welcomed the premier class for what was basically Marc Marquez being forced into a demolition job – only metaphorically – by some unexpected mistakes from his rivals. The Spaniard fought his way into the lead and once there, he sailed home to equal Casey Stoner as the fifth most successful rider in the premier class, with win number 38 in his pocket and on a track that should not have been friendly to the Honda. Despite people questioning his tire choice, Danilo Petrucci turned out to be the world champion’s main challenger and second best on the day. Valentino Rossi saved the week for Yamaha, bringing home an unlikely-looking podium.

In a flashback from two weeks ago, Jorge Lorenzo was a featured protagonist for a big part of the race as he shot into the lead at the start. Marquez had briefly gotten past poleman Johann Zarco but the Frenchman determinately pushed back past Marquez to retrieve second. Andrea Iannone was also in the mix at the start but the Italian could not complete the podium hattrick and did not see the end of lap one. The Italian’s fall costed Marquez a few places, dropping him back to fifth and briefly battling Rossi.

Lorenzo’s dream start was about to be turned down a notch by Zarco glued on his tail and both closely followed by Andrea Dovizioso. The two Ducati teammates were soon joined at the front while Marquez looked like he was being careful with his hard rear tire selection but was slowly getting back into the fight after dropping over a second to the podium battle. Behind the world champion, Petrucci led proceedings ahead of Rossi and Jack Miller, with Dani Pedrosa another second down the road. Alex Rins climbed into ninth after the start but was already three seconds down on the top eight by lap four.

On lap five, Dovizioso overtook his teammate for the lead but the joy was short lived as the Italian unexpectedly went down in turn six and littered the gravel trap with Ducati bodywork. Lorenzo found himself back in the lead, ahead of Zarco and Marquez, with Petrucci dragging Rossi towards the podium battle. Miller was another second down the road and being hunted down by Pedrosa.

Zarco and Marquez traded blows on the next few laps but the battle ended with Zarco also joining the gravel trap on lap eight as he lost the front in turn four and broke tens of thousandths of hearts around the track. With the world champion seeing his title rivals drop like flies ahead of him, he bided his time behind Lorenzo, Petrucci the only one able to keep up the pace of the leaders. Rossi was one second behind and being reeled in by Miller and Pedrosa. Eight seconds down the road, Aleix Espargaro was edging ahead of Rins, Franco Morbidelli and Maverick Viñales, who was having a pretty mediocre race but was kept busy having to fend off Pol Espargaro and Cal Crutchlow.

Marquez made the decisive move on lap ten after Lorenzo ran wide and the Repsol man snuggly cuddled against the side of the Ducati. Petrucci could not allow himself to lose touch with Marquez and swiftly made if past Lorenzo as well. The factory Ducati man was going backwards and falling into the clutches of his former teammate, Rossi getting past the Spaniard on lap 13 and making the final podium place battle a four-way affair. Lorenzo was easy pray for Miller only a few minutes later.

Back at the front, Marquez and Petrucci were holding station one second ahead of the battle for third although Rossi was pilling on personal bests and fastest laps. The Yamaha’s progress was also aided by Marquez digging his elbows in the tarmac in usual fashion as his Honda had different ideas in terms of trajectory.

With ten laps to go, the gap to Petrucci finally went over the one second mark although the top five men were still posting red sectors. Rossi was still one second back, with Miller still within touch of a podium seven tenths behind the Italian. Lorenzo had dropped another two seconds back and although Pedrosa seemed to have better pace, the Honda man struggled to find a way past his compatriot. A whooping 12 seconds behind that battle, the elder Espargaro was holding off Rins and Viñales for seventh position.

The entertainment for the next few laps was provided by fights away from the limelight, in particular Viñales vs Rins and Morbidelli vs Syahrin. Pedrosa also made it past Lorenzo with seven laps to go but the Repsol rider had dropped nearly three seconds to Miller by that time. The Australian himself was losing ground on Rossi in the battle for third.

The temperature was getting to dangerously slippery levels and became the riders’ main rival as Marquez was managing his one second gap on Petrucci, who was rather miraculously still reeling in mid 1:32s on his fairly used softs. They finally had enough in the final three laps and it allowed Marquez to stretch the gap to two seconds, Rossi safe in third, three seconds back on his compatriot.

The last lap saw Marquez finish off another masterclass ahead of Petrucci and Rossi, with Miller completing a great race for the Pramac team in fourth. Pedrosa’s race was slightly affected by the time he needed to get past Lorenzo and could only climb into fifth, making up for a fourth row start with podium pace, while Lorenzo himself will have been disappointed by sixth after leading the race early on.

Viñales crossed the line 13 seconds down on Lorenzo and two seconds behind a heroic Crutchlow, who despite still suffering from the consequences of his heavy qualifying crash, got the better of Aleix Espargaro in the end. Rins completed the top ten for Suzuki – not quite the result they were hoping for with the big boss watching trackside.

With his biggest title challengers making uncharacteristic mistakes, Marquez extended his lead to 36 points ahead of, surprisingly, Viñales. Zarco drops one position to third, only one point behind the factory Yamaha, with Rossi fourth, 39 points down on his archenemy. The first Ducati in the hierarchy became Petrucci in fifth, as Dovizioso dropped to ninth, with a challenge of 49 points to overcome.

Results:

Pos. Num. Rider Bike Gap
1 93 Marc MARQUEZ Honda 41'49.773
2 9 Danilo PETRUCCI Ducati +2.310
3 46 Valentino ROSSI Yamaha +5.350
4 43 Jack MILLER Ducati +6.314
5 26 Dani PEDROSA Honda +7.419
6 99 Jorge LORENZO Ducati +10.355
7 25 Maverick VIÑALES Yamaha +23.758
8 35 Cal CRUTCHLOW Honda +25.795
9 41 Aleix ESPARGARO Aprilia +26.206
10 42 Alex RINS Suzuki +27.937
11 44 Pol ESPARGARO KTM +32.304
12 55 Hafizh SYAHRIN Yamaha +34.962
13 21 Franco MORBIDELLI Honda +37.881
14 38 Bradley SMITH KTM +38.299
15 30 Takaaki NAKAGAMI Honda +41.986
16 12 Thomas LUTHI Honda +45.260
17 17 Karel ABRAHAM Ducati +56.872
18 10 Xavier SIMEON Ducati +1'12.117
    Not Classified    
  45 Scott REDDING Aprilia 17 Laps
  53 Tito RABAT Ducati 17 Laps
  5 Johann ZARCO Yamaha 19 Laps
  4 Andrea DOVIZIOSO Ducati 23 Laps
  19 Alvaro BAUTISTA Ducati 26 Laps
    Not Finished 1st Lap    
  29 Andrea IANNONE Suzuki 0 Lap
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Round Number: 
5
2018
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Total votes: 32

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Comments

Boring race, predictable winner, championship over, Yamaha still lost (Rossi’s 3rd flattered to deceive) also-ran manufacturers still also-rans.....sigh. 

The only mildly interesting point of note was pondering who I would pick to replace Lorenzo out of Petrux or Miller. 

If I wasn’t away working I would have headed out to work on bikes in the shed by half way through. Sad but true.

Total votes: 15

The race I expected never took off and the title battle has taken a huge swing in Marc's direction. Basically it was a perfect weekend for him even if some fans are disappointed.

Unless things take a turn the battle for 2nd will be the most tightly contested from now on.

Anyhow, it was another very solid weekend for Miller and he continues to make a solid case for himself to get the factory set in 2019. What was Maverick doing so far back? Le Mans was not supposed to be hard on the M1 and both Rossi and Zarco, until his spill, were much more up front. Great day for Petrucci.

Cal must be nuts. The tough bike racing nuts. But definitely nuts.

Total votes: 24

It should be noted regarding the factory Ducati situation that Petrucci was on the same exact bike and tyre combination as Lorenzo and finished basically where Lorenzo should finish as the factory rider. It's a toss up between Petrux and Miller on paper in my opinion. 

Total votes: 16

I'm losing faith in Lorenzo ever coming to terms with Ducati. This year as last, he heads out with soft tyres when others use medium / hards and after the pre ordained number of laps, he fades and pretends to be surprised by his backwards progress through the field. I'm reminded of Aleix Espargaro on the CRT Aprilia with super soft tyres qualifying on pole, then fading in the race after several laps. At least Aleix and his softs were exploiting a tyre rule and giving valuable exposure to a fledgling team.

Surely he has advisers who are all smarter than me, so why is he gunning for such short term exposure at the expense of results ? Does he see this as his only chance to shine ?

 

Total votes: 9

was it just me???. I thought Vale disposed Lorenzo with ease, but all the others struggled. 

Dovi's failure to overtake Lorenzo quickly has costed him twice, just my thought.

Total votes: 17

To which Marquez has elegantly and with grace alluded: Stoner and Marquez.

Marquez and Stoner share the same number of wins in the premier class.  

Mathematically, Marquez has the advantage: 38 wins from 95 starts on the one-marque factory bike (he has never had anything but that for his motoGp career)  vs. 38 wins for Stoner in 99 starts on a factory bike, on two different marques. 

Both, six seasons (so far, for Marquez) of racing motoGp for a factory.

Commonsense says Marquez will overhaul Stoner's total by the time he has started 99 races.  There could be endless opinion-swapping as to how much the bikes favoured/hampered the two riders over their years.

However, I suggest that the raw figures plus a sprinkle of 'empathy', would draw us to the conclusion that never having seen these two on competitive bikes over a season, is one of the great disappointments of motoGp.

Total votes: 12

I thought Stoner was on Satellite bike for a year, and back in those days that means you don't win ...

Total votes: 12

Stoner was on the satellite LCR Homda in their maiden season after a deal to join Yamaha fell through.  Definitely not a bike expectef to win anything. I would also guess that if you look at other riders who also one on the same bike there would be a lower number which could indicate he was working with inferior equipment.

That being said i do see parallels and differences between them.  Casey had incredible throttle control.  I recall NH saying he was WOT 3 seconds a lap more than CS but a second slower . While the rest of the grid relied on aggressive riding styles and electronics to sort it out Stoner found a balance and was able to make his package faster than anyone else.  

MM has not only mimicked that ability but combined it with an aggressiveness that has him finding the absolute limit in practice so he can do what he needs to in the race.  They both saved lots of crashes every weekend but MM saves are more spectacular.

Total votes: 4