Petrucci takes Factory Ducati’s first win at Le Mans, ahead of rookie Alex Marquez and Pol Espargaro
Danilo Petrucci was the one to brave the wet weather to take the win yesterday. However, it wasn’t without its fair share of drama. With less than 5 minutes before the race was set to start, rain began pouring across the Le Mans Circuit, resulting in a bike-swap dash and a quick start procedure to match. Who knew this was only the beginning?
The opening lap was set to be the start of a very nerve-wracking 26-lap race. While LCR’s Cal Crutchlow made a flier of a start into Turn 1, it was Jack Miller who took the lead. As the rest of the pack tiptoed into the first sector, the first victim came in the form of Valentino Rossi, who lost the rear at Turn 3. Making this weekend the third successive race DNF for The Doctor, after Misano and Catalunya.
The Ducati’s made light work of title leader Fabio Quartararo, as both Andrea Dovizioso and Petrucci overtook the Petronas Racing rider to join Miller at the front. Towards the end of Lap 1, Petrucci made the move into P1 as the Ducati trio pulled away from Pol Espargaro – who sat in fourth after taking Quartararo on the start / finish straight.
Further back in the pack, Bradley Smith had made up 10 positions into P9 by the end of Lap 1. With the Brit having a history of success in the wet, it was no surprise to see his name rising up the board.
As Dovi overtook Miller in Lap 2, the pair got comfortable behind Petrucci to pull away from the rest of the grid. The battle for P4 between Espargaro and Quartararo soon became a 5-way battle, as Alex Rins, Cal Crutchlow and Bradley Smith all began to look to overtake the Frenchman in fifth. Another pair to work their way up the board in Lap 2 were Alex Marquez and Miguel Oliveira, who currently sat in 9th and 10th, after qualifying in 18th and 12th respectively.
Alex Rins managed to fight his way through the group and began to break away from the guys in fifth with 20 laps to go; heading to bridge the gap to the podium-placers, the Suzuki man looked set to be a spanner in Ducati’s wheels.
Heading towards the mid-point of the race, fans were able to have somewhat of a breather from the action; with Rins still hunting down the Ducs, the biggest drama came from Smith, as the wet-race-hopeful fell victim to Turn 14, crashing out from P9 in the race.
The lap times continued to drop, with Alex Marquez being the main setter, the MotoGP rookie showed pure talent in his first wet race at the top level.
It was with 14 laps to go when Rins finally joined the front runners; with his eyes set on a podium spot, the Spaniard wasted no time before attempting to steal Miller’s third spot on the track. With the fight for first becoming a quartet, next up to bridge the gap were Espargaro and Marquez, the latter having impressively moved up the board from 18th on the grid.
The break from theatrics was short-lived, as with under 10 laps remaining, everything was to play for for the top 6. Rins remained adamant to make his efforts count, and took a huge chance with 9 laps to go; while having a battle-of-the-brakes with Miller, Rins not only dove inside of Pramac rider, but the pair also managed to push Dovi to the back of the group from the lead. Miller retook the third position after exceeding limits, allowing Rins to head into P2, behind Petrucci.
Despite the phenomenal run, however, within a lap’s distance we bore witness to the end of both Miller and Rins’ race, as if we hadn’t had enough turmoil so far. Miller succumbed to a mechanical failure that pulled him out of the race, while the Suzuki rider crashed out at Turn 3; despite Rins re-joining the race, not much could be salvaged for the Spaniard. The double wipe-out promoted Alex Marquez to third position, hot on Dovi’s heels, while Espargaro had Tech 3’s Miguel Oliveira hunting him down in 4th.
After a monumental ride from Dovizioso, it wasn’t a particular surprise to witness his rear tyre deteriorate in the final stages of the race. With Petrucci continuing to increase his lead, Desmo Dovi simply began to fall victim to the sharks with 3 laps to go. Marquez made light work of Dovizioso, also managing to pull away before Espargaro also made his move on the penultimate lap.
The final lap saw Marquez continue to gap Espargaro while Oliveira attempted to take Dovi in the final moments. However, Avintia’s Johann Zarco seemed to appear out of nowhere to instead take Oliveira’s 5thposition in the final moments, saving Dovizioso from losing more positions and allowing him to keep his fourth-place result. On the other side of the garage, teammate and fellow compatriot Danilo Petrucci took the first victory in Le Mans for the Factory team after gliding to the line. Alex Marquez became the 15th different rider on the podium this season in second place, ahead of Pol Espargaro in third.
Fabio Quartararo battled with Joan Mir to the line for ninth position, an important fight with potential to affect the championship. While an admirable effort was made by Mir, it was Quartararo who managed to pull ahead of the Suzuki rider, the Frenchman being able to extend his title lead to 10 points.
Next weekend, we head to Aragon for Round 12. Can Quartararo maintain his championship lead?
Feature Image: MotoGP.com