Augusto Fernandez takes the win, ahead of Aron Canet and Somkiat Chantra.
It seems that we can’t always get an amicable podium like we did last time.
While the shock of Celestino Vietti’s P19 grid position was fresh in everyone’s mind, all eyes fell to Pedro Acosta come race day. With the rookie taking his first Pole position in the class, Acosta had a dream start off the line, heading into Turn 1 with an immediate gap back to teammate Fernandez in second. As the Red Bull KTM Ajo pair pulled out of the tussling pack behind, we looked set to be witnessing a KTM 1-2 right off the bat. As the front-runners survived the chaos of the opening lap, Niccolo Antonelli became the first faller of the French Grand Prix, crashing out at Turn 6.
Starting in 7th place on the grid, Aron Canet had his work cut out for him, as Albert Arenas, Jake Dixon and Alonso Lopez all took advantage of starting ahead of him; the trio were also joined by Marcos Ramirez, who shot up the order in the opening lap from 14 to to 5th. With Canet’s injury still at play, it was set to be a hard day in the office for the Pons Racing man.
Lap 2 saw Tony Arbolino and Fermin Aldeguer enter the gravel trap, as the pair both separately lost the front at Turn 6. With Arbolino just 30 points shy of Vietti in the title race, this incident means the Italian is at risk of losing his place as a top contender.
As the Red Bull duo continued their charge at the front, Canet worked his way through the second group to quickly claim Lopez’s P3 position. Meanwhile, Jake Dixon once again fell victim to the gravel at Turn 13, the Brit was able to rejoin the race luckily. Unfortunately, soon after Dixon went down, Arenas and Lopez followed suit, as Arenas wiped out his compatriot from the inside at Turn 7. The incident between the Spaniards opened up the track for Canet to begin his efforts in bridging the gap to the duo at the front. Alongside Canet, Cameron Beaubier was able to capitalise on the fallen, following closely behind the Pons Racing rider in P4. The American looked set to fight for the podium with 17 laps still remaining.
Just as the pack began to settle, heartbreak ensued at the front, as Pedro Acosta finally found his pace only to lose it all at La Chapelle, as the youngster’s front folded in front of him. In what was Acosta’s strongest run of the entire season, a slightly wide run is all it took to call game over for the rookie. With 15 laps remaining, teammate Fernandez took to the front with a 6 second lead back to the newly-appointed second place Canet.
As the laps began to wind down, Canet was now hounded by two rivals, as Somkiat Chantra joined the hunt behind Beaubier. It wasn’t long before Chantra made light work of the American, and soon began to give the Pons Racing rider a run for his money; with Beaubier hunting down his debut rostrum in the class, the number 6 rider followed suit of Chantra’s aggression as well. However, Canet kept his cool and collected himself to retake his spot at the front of the trio after an error from Chantra put the Thai rider back in 4th position.
Entering the final laps, Canet and Beaubier began to form a gap from Chantra to bring the podium battle between the pair. However, as soon as it was made, the gap once again decreased, as a mistake by Beaubier brought Chantra back into podium contention. As Canet continued to pull away, it was a game of cat and mouse as Beaubier desperately defended his debut podium position from the Thai rider. Despite his efforts, however, it was heading into the final lap that Chantra finally reclaimed P3 from the American Racing rider.
Despite the battles behind, Augusto Fernandez failed to put a tyre out of line for his entire victory-run at Le Mans, in what could’ve been a perfect day for KTM, Fernandez still made the best of his race to take the win almost 4 seconds ahead of a much-deserving Canet. While Chantra was able to hold off Beaubier to claim the final spot of the rostrum.
Ai Ogura crossed the line in 5th place, after battling with Marcel Schrötter who follows in 6th. Joe Roberts takes P7, as Celestino Vietti made huge improvements from his grid position to take a decent 8th place. Jorge Navarro and Stefano Manzi take 9th and 10th, respectively.
Vietti currently leads the championship by just 16 points, as Ogura continues to chip away at the gap.
Happiness and heartbreak in the KTM garage this weekend. Will Pedro make his comeback in Italy?
We head to Mugello in 2 weeks’ time for the first Italian round of the season.
Feature Image: Gold & Goose