The Moto3 Championship heads to France this weekend for round 10 of the 2020 season with Ai Ogura on top of the pile.
As usual, Moto3 has been anything but predictable, with Albert Arenas and Ai Ogura being the two riders to head the charge. Arenas’ year started in the best way, securing the win in Qatar and backed up his impressive performance once the season restarted in Jerez. The Spaniard bounced back from a nasty crash in Andalucia to finish second in Brno, but since then, the former championship leader hasn’t stood on the podium with a fifth, crash, fourth and a crash – the latter not his fault. This means Arenas will need to stand on the podium in Le Mans as he looks to claw back the three-point deficit he currently lies in.
Le Mans hasn’t been happy hunting ground for Arenas however, his best result came at the 2018 Grand Prix, taking his maiden victory, but has failed to finish in the top ten in every other Grand Prix he’s entered at the french venue.
Meanwhile, for championship leader Ogura, his only race at Le Mans in the Moto3 category ended early, crashing out of the race with Sergio Garcia on the opening lap. Ogura carries a three-point lead over Arenas, but a poor weekend could see the Japanese rider fall to third, with John McPhee sat just 24 points adrfit.
McPhee, who returns to the scene of his first Honda Moto3 win and the Petronas Sprinta Racing’s maiden victory, heads to Le Mans after a non-finish from Barcelona. The Brit recovered from a lowly grid position and was fighting at the front when a front end crash took himself and championship leader at the time, Arenas, out of the running. After taking his third non-finish of the year, McPhee will be aiming for glory in northwestern France to strengthen his title attack.
John McPhee, Petronas Sprinta Racing Team – 3rdThe French GP last year is one of my best memories from my career so far. We had a small crash on day one, had to go through Q1, but then I took my first pole position of the season. Then Sunday, it was my first ever dry victory and the first win for the PETRONAS Sprinta Racing team, so it was a great feeling. I really enjoyed the battle last year and I can’t wait to be back there this weekend; although let’s see what the track conditions will be. We have to put behind us the disappointing end to the Catalan GP and look ahead. There are still six races to go and less than 25 points to the leader, so we must keep fighting.
Italian duo, Tony Arbolino and Celestino Vietti are two riders currently on form. The pair are just a handful of points behind McPhee, and with both riders having okay form at the French circuit, could they spring a surprise and turn the title into a five way attack?
However, anything can happen in Moto3. Darryn Binder will be another rider looking to upset the applecart this weekend. The South African stormed to his long-awaited maiden Grand Prix victory in Barcelona whilst Emilia Romagna winner, Romano Fenati could also find himself in a championship hunting position should the Italian deliver this weekend.
The last few races has also seen a return to form for Fenati’s Husqvarna team-mate Alonso Lopez, who despite being a magnet for long-lap penalties, in recent rounds, finally delivered a result worth shouting about at the Catalan venue, with a fifth place, beating Fenati.
Other riders who will be aiming to continue their gradual rise of performances will be Niccolo Antonelli (15th overall), Gabriel Rodrigo (eighth), and Leopard Racing duo Jaume Masia (seventh) and Dennis Foggia (11th). The Leopard team have enjoyed success in recent rounds with the Italian winning in the Czech Republic and standing on the podium once again in Barcelona. Meanwhile, team-mate Masia has found himself on the brink of the top five, sneaking a podium in Austria and a fifth at the second Misano round.
Albert Arenas, Gaviota Aspar Team – 2nd“I’m looking forward to getting to Le Mans, a circuit that I like and of which I have special memories. Facing a new race from second place in the standings doesn’t change anything; on the contrary, that feeling of being the chaser gives you some extra energy. Since March we have been leaders, we had not experienced this position, but I travel to France wanting to face it. An important triple-header of races begins, because the end of the World Championship is approaching. Although there are still 150 points left, it will be very fast and intense.”
The Le Mans circuit has caused chaos for the lower categories in recent years, with Louis Rossi’s home victory in the maiden Moto3 season back in 2012 being one of the many races to spring to mind. That year, seventeen riders retired from the race, with every rider who finished scoring a world championship point. Niki Ajo, who was 15th, got lapped four times that day!
Secondly, who can forget that freak accident at La Chapelle in 2017 which saw over ten riders crash out on oil at the tricky downhill right-hander. And finally, you can’t talk about Moto3 and Le Mans without mentioning that heroic save from Jakub Kornfeil, who after striking Enea Bastianini’s fallen Leopard machine, found himself moto crossing through the gravel after landing a spectacular jump at the final corner.
Completed in 1966, the famous 4.185km Bugatti circuit located in north-western France has seen various changes to the course. The current layout has been in use since 2008 and provides spectacular racing. Its high and low-speed corners mixed with heavy braking zones, fast changes of direction and unpredictable weather is sure to make this weekend’s action even more unpredictable than usual.
Moto3 action gets underway on Friday, with free practice one kicking off on Friday at 09:00 local time. Friday’s action concludes for Moto3 with their second practice of the day at 13:15. Saturday starts with the third and final practice before qualifying commences at 12:35.
Sunday’s schedule see’s a slight change with warm up getting the race-day action underway at 09:00. The Moto3 race begins at a slightly later time of 11:20, who will conquer Le Mans and head the charge into the penultimate back-to-back of the year in Aragon?
Featured images: MotoGP.com