Marc Marquez took the Repsol Honda to a record-breaking victory at the HJC Helmets Grand Prix de France equalling Casey Stoner’s 38 premier class wins, and extending his lead in the championship to 36 points over Movistar Yamaha’s Maverick Viñales as he cruised to victory over Danilo Petrucci and Valentino Rossi. Marquez, the only rider to use the hard rear Michelin tyre, made the best start from the lights but it was Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo who powered into the lead at turn one. Behind the Spaniard, Andrea Dovizioso and Johann Zarco were having a great battle before the Ducati title contender crashed out on lap five. The Honda man took an advantage of a rare mistake by Zarco on lap six when he ran wide on the Tech3 Yamaha but in true Zarco style he fought back and retook Marquez two corners later.
Unfortunately pole setter Zarco broke French hearts when he crashed out a lap later, leaving Marquez to hunt down Lorenzo. It wasn’t long before the reigning champion made his move and on lap ten he was in front followed by Pramac Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci leaving Lorenzo to fall back to sixth by the finish.
Marquez was in a class of his own at the front and when he felt that the tyres were up to the job he pulled the pin on lap 16 to easily take victory from Petrucci, who took his first podium of the 2018 with the ever-popular Valentino Rossi completing the rostrum for Movistar Yamaha.
British rider Cal Crutchlow, who spent the night in hospital after a massive get off in qualifying bravely brought the LCR Honda home in eighth.
“I’m particularly happy with this win here in Le Mans, as it’s one of the most difficult tracks for us,” said Marquez.
“Today I was the only one on a hard rear tyre, and that made my approach to the race a bit different because I knew it would take a little more time to reach the right temperature. But during the warm-up, I had the opportunity to verify that once the tyre was ready, it was very constant, and I was able to keep a very good rhythm.
“To be honest, things were a bit challenging at the beginning of the race. Zarco touched me in the second corner and I went a bit wide, then Iannone crashed and nearly hit me, so I lost some more positions. I decided to cool down for a while.
“When I saw that Dovi and Johann were out, my approach to the race again changed a bit. At a certain point, I had one big moment in turn three, where I had already crashed in FP3, which is why I was being extremely careful there.
“I think that helped me to avoid a crash in that moment. I’m currently experiencing a very ‘sweet’ period with my bike, and when you’ve got that kind of feeling, you also work better; then you ride better, and the bike works better.
“Things don’t exactly become easier when you get into this zone, but they’re more ‘natural.’ Of course it’s a very long season, and not all the races will be the same, so we’ll just try and keep the momentum.”
Sky Racing Team VR46 rider Franceso Bagnaia was simply unstoppable in the Moto2 race, converting pole position into a commanding victory to take his third win of 2018.
Brit Sam Lowes claimed twelfth on the Swiss Innovative Investers KTM while in Moto3 Albert Arenas on the Angel Nieto Team Moto3 claimed his first lightweight class win in a spectacular Moto3 race. British star John McPhee finished seventh on the CIP-Green Power KTM.