Le Mans (France) (AFP)
Danilo Petrucci created an “incredible” surprise by fending off rookie Alex Marquez and winning the French MotoGP in the rain at Le Mans on Sunday.
Home favorite Fabio Quartararo, backed by 5,000 fans allowed to enter the Bugatti circuit under strict Covid-19 protocols, retained the championship lead despite struggling from pole to take ninth.
Petrucci, riding for Ducati, won only the second time out of 146 MotoGP. The 29-year-old was the seventh different winner of the nine races held so far in this campaign disrupted by the coronavirus.
” Unbelievable! I don’t understand what I just did, ”said the Italian, who will join the KTM Tech 3 team next season.
“I have waited so long for this victory. When the rain came, I thought “it’s not possible” but I’ve always been good in the wet. ”
Quartararo may have failed in his attempt to become the first Frenchman to win in the premier class at home since the championship kicked off in 1949.
But the 21-year-old Yamaha-SRT rider can take comfort in extending his two-point lead to 10 in the world title battle against Joan Mir, who finished 11th.
The MotoGP crown is there for the taking in the absence of Marc Marquez, the six-time champion out of combat since suffering a broken arm during an opening fall.
As rumors circulated on the track that Marquez could return to Aragon next weekend, his younger brother Alex was making heroics to hunt Petrucci for his first career podium and the first of the season for his Honda factory team. .
The rain that hit the circuit just before the start made life difficult for the riders, especially veteran Valentino Rossi, who escaped on turn 3 of the first lap.
– Victory for Vietti, Lowes –
Alex Rins, as he fought for the head, the British duo Bradley Smith and Cal Cathlow and Quartararo teammate Franco Morbidelli were the others to crash.
Petrucci mastered the conditions perfectly, and apart from a fleeting moment when he was passed by Andrea Dovizioso with nine laps to go, he always looked at the controls.
With five races remaining, Quartararo leads the championship with 115 points, Mir with 110 points and Dovizioso three points behind in third place.
Previously, Italian teenager Celestino Vietti had skipped a warm-up fall, his third of the weekend, to win the Moto3 race.
The 18-year-old stood up to compatriot Tony Arbolino and new championship leader Albert Arenas in the final round for his second career victory in 33 Moto3 starts.
“It was a strange race, I didn’t expect this result,” said the KTM rider, now third in the championship with 119 points, 16 behind Arenas with five races to go.
“It was difficult to overtake – I’m very happy, we managed the race well,” added Vietti, whose first class victory came in Spielberg at the Styrian Grand Prix in August.
The Spaniard Arenas was already looking forward to the next two races on his national circuit in Aragon.
“I love Aragon, I will continue (my candidacy for the world title) from there,” said the 23-year-old who rose to the top of the table with 135 points.
Splitting Arenas and Vietti in the Moto3 title race is Japanese Honda rider Ai Ogura, who led the championship ahead of this coronavirus-disrupted 10th stage of the season, but after his ninth place, Arenas now lags by six points.
In the Moto2 category which completed the action of the day, Briton Sam Lowes took top honors by beating Australian Remy Gardner and Italian Marco Bezzecchi completing the podium.
Lowes took advantage of compatriot Jake Dixon’s fall four laps from time to take the lead and cross the line nearly four seconds ahead of Gardner, whose father Wayne won the 500cc World Championship in 1987.
Lowes occupies fourth place in the standings with 103 points, 47 behind leader Luca Marini, 17th in France.
© 2020 AFP