The French GP MotoGP has yielded yet another completely unexpected result. The French was the ninth round of a bizarre World Championship marked by the absence of a clear leader following the convalescence of defending champion, Marc Márquez.
This Sunday and against all odds, the MotoGP World Championship has lifted a seventh different driver, Danilo Petrucci, to the top of the podium at the legendary circuit of Le Mans.
Behind the Ducati rider, came a sensational Álex Márquez, for whom this was the first podium in the top category, followed Pol Espargaró. Nobody could have ever predicted this result.
The winning trio does, in any case, deserve all the honours after what became a survival race, with the rain causing havoc amongst the greatest of the title contenders. Three of those; Fabio Quartararo, Maverick Viñales and Joan Mir, finished very far from the champagne positions: 9th, 10th and 11th respectively.
As far as the Championship standings go, Quartararo retains his lead by ten points over Joan Mir, 18 over Andrea Dovizioso and 19 over Viñales.
In his goodbye to Ducati, Petrux has outdone himself, commanding the race with great authority and becoming the undisputed protagonist of the day, together with the rain. Another of the day’s great surprises came from Honda’s rookie whom, from a starting 18th position was just a few laps short from taking the win.
With three official bikes taking the podium positions, Pol Espargaró left no doubt regarding the potential of both KTM and his own.
The rain causes havoc right before the start
The French GP race morning had a theatrical twist in store as, five minutes before the start, the heavens opened and a downpour fell upon the track. Hysteria broke out in boxes in a race to switch to rain compounds.
At that moment, Quartararo saw his plans falling apart. He was hoping to leave the Ducatis of Jack Miller and Petrucci behind at the start and escape as he did in Spain and Jerez. The unexpected change in the weather, however, was an invite to other unwelcomed guests to that private party. The range of possible outcomes suddenly became a lot wider.
Ducati takes the lead
Right after a lightning start of the French GP, Miller gobbled up ‘El Diablo’, while Valentino Rossi crashed out just a few meters later, right in the middle of the group. This is the third consecutive zero for the Italian.
In the blink of an eye, Petrux was leading the race. The Italian has conquered a podium position in his last two visits to Le Mans and is well known for his accomplished driving in the wet.
After the Italian, came Miller, Dovi and Pol Espargaró, who had overtaken Quartararo in the first lap. The Ducatis began to show their muscle headed by Danilo, while Pol’s KTM tried to keep up two seconds behind.
Meanwhile, Álex Rins had climbed from the 16th position to the top 5. His teammate Mir (20th) and Quartararo (11th) suffered the opposite luck after running into trouble and losing a good handful of places in the first five laps.
Rins comeback was epic and he was already hot on the heels of the Ducatis ahead. At fifteen laps from the finish line, the Spaniard made first contact with the Italian missiles.
The leaders of the standings sink at the back of the race
At the tail of the race, it was disaster for the championship’s favourites. Quartararo was running in eleventh place; Viñales was fifteen and Mir, seventeen. The last two managed to climb one and three places respectively over the following five laps.
With nine laps to go at the French GP, colleagues at the Borgo Panigale factory, ‘Dovi’ and Petrux, were locked in a head to head for the glory. By that point and almost unnoticed Álex Márquez was in the middle of a merciless comeback.
The Spaniards capture the spotlight in the final stretch
Two laps later at the French GP, Rins kissed the ground in his attempt to hunt Petrucci down. This is definitely not the year for #42. Taking advantage of the dramatic situation, the Italian from Ducati edged Dovi by 2.5 seconds and a surprising Álex Márquez suddenly overtook Pol for third place as if by magic. Márquez was the fastest on the track.
But Marc’s brother was still thirsty for more and with two laps to go he took a gap to snatch second place form Dovizioso. Witnessing the move, Espargaró smelled the blood and the weakness of the world’s runner-up and robbed him of the podium.
Images of French GP MotoGP: Danilo Petrucci Twitter.