A tumultuous Moto3 race shows the riders who are most capable of maintaining mixed conditions in an action packed session.
The 5th round of the world championship, promises action as the first wet race of 2021.
The track is not wet enough to have a full wet race. But the riders will start on the wet tires and pray that they will last for the SHARK Grand Prix of France.
Our pole man Andrea Migno starts the race with a wheelie off of the line, Masia taking the lead early on. Niccolo Antonelli joins the race for the race win but gets crashes out at the end of the first lap. Tatsuki Suzuki followed, making it seven crashes out of the last nine races. Not long after, Jeremy Alcoba goes as well, the cold conditions catching the riders out.
Championship leader, Pedro Acosta, started the Grand Prix in 21st and was able to make up positions in the first lap to end up in 10th. Soon after Masia crashes out, the bike nicking him in the side, Acosta also crashes out of the chicane. He was able to mount the bike quickly and rejoin the grid in 21st, unlike Gabriel Rodrigo who was caught out soon after.
Lap five begins with the wildcard Matsuyama crashing before the start/finish line. Sergio Garcia is leading the race with Filip Salac following closely behind. Behind them is Riccardo Rossi who is around 4.4 seconds off of the race leaders.
The top five riders are lapping the track in the 1:56’s with the rest of the grid following behind at least three seconds slower. With the conditions being as tricky as they are and their inability to change the bikes, it’s no surprise. But as the circuit begins to dry with 15 laps left, race leader Garcia begins to have moments on his rear tire.
It would make sense if the riders had the wet tires on for the track but kept the settings as if it was a dry race. That way, as the track dries, the riders can have the settings they would need. This is another tricky part of Moto3 strategy- unlike MotoGP, Moto3 and Moto2 riders only have one bike each. That means that they can’t come in and swap bikes once it has dried. The riders adapt to the fast changing conditions on bikes that are not fully wet or dry settings.
On lap 10, Daryn Biner crashes out at the entrance of the chicane but is able to rejoin the race. Acosta has made up 10 positions since his crash, passing the pole man Migno to take 11th. Even if the race ends with Acosta in 11th, he would still have a large gap in the championship. It’s an example of how qualifying doesn’t really make a difference in Moto3, but qualifying better would have benefitted Acosta. The rookie sensation and championship leader needs to work on qualifying better in order to stay out of situations that force him to push too hard in the wet conditions. But if his career is going to last as long as people believe, he’ll have plenty of time to learn the art of qualifying.
Unlike the previous race leaders, Garcia and Salac seem determined to keep their positions. Instead of attempting to take the win from Garcia, Salac decides to hang back and take the podium instead of losing the points- all while putting in the fastest lap of the race. It’s one of the smartest moves made out of all of the riders.
The small moments on his rear tire finally catch up to him as Garcia goes in too hot and loses the lead to the awaiting Salac, who loses it right back to the Solunion Gaviota Aspar rider. The gap between Salac in 2nd and Rossi in 3rd has gone up to 7.120 seconds.
Despite the fact that Moto3 is one of the most dynamic levels of racing, the wet conditions have shown the riders who are capable of maintaining themselves in the wet conditions. Unlike MotoGP and Moto2, anyone can win in Moto3 and it is more about skill and surviving each race than about the manufacturer.
With that in mind, there are many commentators saying that Acosta’s overall success in the championship is not legitimate. They do not believe, whether it is about age or maturity, that he isn’t a true championship winner. This race shows it is that he is capable of both winning and maintaining himself. He is a novice, but has control in the way that the Moto3 alumni do. That is a skill worth watching out for.
On the final lap, eyes are on McPhee and Rossi. McPhee begins to creep up on Rossi with less than a lap left. The Owlride rider has kept the 3rd comfortably for most of the race. He crosses the line just ahead of McPhee, who takes a stunning 4th place.
Sergio Garcia takes the win with Salac in 2nd and Rossi in 3rd.
In terms of the championship, Acosta is in a good position to keep his strong lead. He was able to finish in 8th place despite the crash pushing him down to 21st. Garcia takes 2nd in the championship from Migno, who falls to third ahead of Romano Fenati.
Le Mans was not the race we were all expecting. Yet the riders display an admirable amount of control over the bikes and conditions.
One of these riders was Rossi, whose presence in Moto3 has been questioned quite heavily. No one could have seen his first podium coming so soon. But he took the opportunity and produced a great result.
What comes next? In two weeks time we’ll be in Mugello, where the championship run will continue.
Hopefully in the sun.
See you all again in two weeks.