Jorge Lorenzo rode a near perfect race reclaiming the championship lead after a crash filled French Grand Prix at the Circuit Bugatti in Le Mans. Maverick Vinales scores his first MotoGP podium.
In a sport where speeds often reach and exceed 200 MPH, it might sound absurd that there is no scarier sight for a rider than Jorge Lorenzo on pole. The Spaniard and defending MotoGP champion rode a pole to flag race to near perfection claiming his 41st win and 100th podium of his career. More importantly Lorenzo reclaimed the championship lead by 12 points over his teammate Valentino Rossi who finished 2nd, 10 seconds behind Lorenzo. Marc Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso of Ducati crashed simultaneously despite no contact while trailing in 2nd and 3rd behind Lorenzo. Andrea Dovizioso crashed out from a podium position for the third time out of five races, while Andrea Iannone crashed on Lap 5 to begin what would be a chaotic French Grand Prix. In total eight riders crashed out of the race. Cal Crutchlow of LRC Honda crashed out of his fourth race this year, while Jack Miller and Scott Redding both failed to finish for VDS, Yonny Hernandez, Bradley Smith, and Tito Rabat also fell victim to the Circuit Bugatti and failed to finish the race. The crashes of Marc Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso moved Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales up to 2nd and 3rd, and saw Vinales claim his first ever MotoGP podium. Pedrosa who laggered behind in 12th at one point rode through the Espargaro brothers and stayed on the bike to finish a forgettable fourth ahead of the two brothers. Good racing saw Hector Barbara finish 8th just behind Danillo Petrucci of Pramac who featured in his first MotoGP race of 2016 after recovering from hand surgery. Eugene Laverty, the Irishman finished 11th, continuing his points finish streak which now stands at 6 races.
At a time when contracts and seats are being filled, it was a poor showing by both Ducati riders who again leave a circuit with no points after both riders were on track to win podium positions. It marks the fifth time in five races that a Ducati crashed from a podium position. With Marquez’s crash at Le Mans, Rossi’s outing in Texas, and Lorenzo’s crash in Argentina it could be a season that sees the most consistent rider crowned champion. The Ducati team must see a silver lining for 2017 as they will see Jorge Lorenzo in red, black and white next year when he joins the Bologna based squad. Clearly the Ducati with their power and winglet crazed machine have the pace to run upfront, but lack the luck and focus that a rider like Jorge Lorenzo has.
The championship now heads to Mugello, deep in the heart of Rossi Land. Slowly the last memories of winter and pre-season are eased back, and the season heads to Europe for the long summer. 12 points seperate Lorenzo and Rossi now, one makes a last push before his new chapter, the other desperately wants to win a 10th title before his legacy is finally sown. As the 2016 season comes into full view a pattern has emerged that sees one rider each race take a weekend by storm. It was Marquez at Austin, Rossi in Spain, now Lorenzo in France. All the big teams have shown the ability to dominate a circuit, with a quarter of the season now in the books its still wide open as to who will take the 2016 title.