It was an eventful start to the Moto3 race at Le Mans before the race even got started. The French endurance circuit was the hottest it had been so far for the 250cc class as they prepared for the race later on in the day.
Crashes and record breaking pace in the warm-up
Unfortunately for Livio Loi (Leopard Racing), Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0), Albert Arenas (Aspar Mahindra) and Patrik Pulkkinen (Peugeot MC Saxoprint) all experienced crashes during the morning warm-up session. Fortunately all were unhurt or were not prevented from continuing on with the race. Then, championship leader Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) managed to set the fastest ever lap time at the French circuit with a time of 1:42.453 marginally beating the record set by Efren Vazquez in 2014.
Martin on the pole and Rodrigo out with broken collarbone
As the riders lined up on the grid we were set to be in for a great race as not only were conditions perfect, but the riders appeared fast and confident for the race. Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) was on pole after second place on the grid Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) had his last pole-setting lap cancelled; which led to a quick shift in positions in parc ferme. They were joined on the front row by Juanfran Guevara (RBA BOE Racing Team) whose teammate Gabriel Rodrigo was declared unfit after breaking his collarbone in practice.
Martin leads into turn one
The lights went out and the race got underway. Martin got a fantastic start leading into the fast and sweeping turn one that leads the riders up the hill, but he was immediately under pressure from 2016 Le Mans Moto3 race winner, Romano Fenati (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers) and the two managed to break away. Fenati passed Martin at the chicane but Martin did not want to give up the lead so easy and stuck with him. This is when the carnage started…
Four riders down at turn four
Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) went down at turn four taking Adam Norrodin (SIC Racing Team) with him. The two riders were stuck together and brought down Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Aspar Mahindra Moto3) sending him over the handle bars and he tumbled heavily on the tarmac becoming tangled with his own bike and also with Jakub Kornfeil (Peugeot MC Saxoprint)who was doing what he could to avoid the others.
Kornfeil was tagged though and also went down at the turn. It looked incredibly painful for Dalla Porta as he pounced and slid face down. They quickly scurried to try and return to the race, Norrodin could not, his bike ended up parked up at the side of the road. But then, it is suspected that one of them was leaking a substance from the damage caused and spilled it on track, something that we weren’t yet to discover….
Moto3 class begin lap two unaware of their fate
Back in the race, and Fenati had made his way to the front and was remaining under pressure from Martin. Record breaker, Mir was leading the pack of 250cc riders that followed. As they began the second lap Martin made an attempt to try and take the lead from Fenati and remained with him as they passed through the first few sweeping corners as they made their way up the hill.
He slotted in behind Fenati as they approached the right hand turn, turn six, and then this is when something unbelievable happened. Martin was the first to go down sliding out of second place, but then race leader Fenati went down, then instantly, approximately 17 more riders slid off at the turn as there was clearly something on the track.
Complete carnage at turn six
Bikes and bodies slid in every direction. Some riders were able to avoid being hit by the debris that came at them, but some were unable to control the momentum and got hit by other riders and some even by flying bikes. Some riders managed to stay upright and returned to the race, but there was no option for race control but to stop the race as conditions weren’t safe; that, and there was no one left to race it because they were all in a heap at turn six.
The riders began to scurry quickly, trying to identify their bikes and worked to try and recover it. Marshalls ran from all directions to assist and get to the riders that had not yet got back up to their feet as they were hurt from the initial impacts. It was horrific to see but fortunately all riders were able to return to the pits, and their bikes eventually did too, and then extraordinary efforts took place by everyone to get the ace underway again.
Bulega appeared hurt; he returned via scooter holding his lower back and was unwilling to take off his helmet when he got back. His bike had returned with no fairing. Fenati was sat in his pit with ice on his hand. Many of the riders were angry and frustrated.
Amazing achievements from the mechanics, officials and marshalls
How them mechanics and technicians got all of them bikes back together in time was amazing to see. However, you can do nothing but hope and pray that they get it right and don’t make mistakes; but then these along with the riders are the best in the world and they proved it today. The Moto3 class only have one bike each and every one bar Norrodin made it back to that grid.
The marshalls and officials worked to cover the line of substance that caused the accident with an absorbent powder. The line was huge, covering some distance and their efforts also deserve commending. Safety officer and MotoGP legend, Loris Capirossi over sought it all and within a short period of time they were ready to get things underway.
Race reduced to 16 laps when restarted
The new race distance was to cover 16 laps which means that tyre changes were possibly made as well as repairs to the bikes as a softer tyre would have been sought after. The Quick Race Re-Start procedure was put into place, and when given the signal, all riders had 60 seconds to exit the pits and make it onto the grid.
Martin and Fenati resume battle at the front
The riders, after their sighting lap, lined up on the grid in the original positions from Qualifying, and then completed a warm-up lap before the restarted 16 lap race was to get underway. When the lights went out, Martin on pole, once again led into turn one of the circuit and Fenati once again slotted in behind him. As they made their way down the straight, Fenati once again made a move and took the lead from the Spaniard.
Behind them, Guevara was pushed out of third by Niccolo Antonelli (Red Bull KTM Ajo), but then at turn 13 of the opening lap, the front folded on his KTM and he crashed out of the race; he was able to re-join.
Leaders break away
Martin and Fenati looked to break away from the rest of the pack as they did in race one, as behind them Marcos Ramirez (Platinum Bay Real Estate) and Guevara were battling for third. Behind them was a fight for fifth place between Mir, Darryn Binder (Platinum Bay Real Estate), Estrella Galicia 0,0 teammates Enea Bastianini and Aron Canet, and Fabio Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3).
A mistake from Canet who led the group cost him dearly as he ran wide and had to give back positions but lost four. It gave Mir the clear track he wanted and he was soon able to catch those battling for third bringing the others with him. He caught Guevara by the third lap and passed him and then corners later slipped past Ramirez to take third.
Martin and Arenas crash out at turn six again
Unfortunately for Martin, he suffered another crash on the fourth lap at turn six out of second position on the track. It was a disappointing and disastrous end to another promising weekend when the back end of his bike slid when he accelerated out of the turn and he slid out. Arenas also went down at the turn, and was far from happy understandably.
Canet’s crash left Fenati out in front in the lead on his own. Behind him was a small gap and then Mir, who was followed by a battling group. Ramirez and Canet passed Darryn Binder (Platinum Bay Real Estate), but then Binder retaliated taking fourth back from Canet.
Amazing save for Binder
On turn four of the sixth lap, Binder ran on to the kerb, the terrain meant that the bike was all over the place and as it flexed, Binder was thrown up and out of his seat but he held on tight and managed to miraculously land back in the seat and continue on without losing a single position.
Fenati crashes out of the lead
Mir was chasing Fenati for the lead and worked to close the gap, but Fenati was able to respond once it was highlighted to him on the pit wall. Behind them two, a group of 10 riders had formed all wanting to be on that French Moto3 podium. But then disaster hit, this time for Fenati as he fell down at turn seven on lap nine. The win he deserved was snatched from him when the front folded and both he and the bike slid out; he made It his priority to check his hand knowing his bike was trashed.
It meant that Mir was now out in front and so the group battle behind became more intense as two podium places had now become available. Binder passed Canet to take second on the straight, but Canet retaliated, however on the next lap Binder managed to outbrake Canet to regain second. Ramirez took a tight line up the inside of Canet to take third, and then Di Giannantonio caught and passed Canet too knowing him down to fifth. The Spaniard’s misfortune continued as he next fell victim to Bastianini who pushed him down to seventh.
The two Platinum Bay Real Estate teammates continued battling it out for second as Ramirez placed himself on the inside of Binder. But then, Binder was passed by Di Giannantonio to take third from him as behind him Bastianini overtook Guevara behind them. Ramirez then came under attack by Di Giannantonio, his experience coming through, but Ramirez worked to fend him off. British wildcard rider, Danny Kent (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was up to seventh in the group that chased leader Mir.
Third crash for Antonelli
On the 12th lap, Antonelli had what would be his third crash of the day, and his second of race two, at turn three of the French circuit. This time it was game over, he had to admit defeat and call it a day.
The battle for second continued as Di Giannantonio and Ramirez made several manoeuvres fighting over second, Kent passed Binder for sixth but then Binder and Jules Danilo (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers) both overtook to take advantage of the wildcard rider. Ramirez soon found himself under pressure from Bastianini, there was no telling who was going to make it onto that podium.
Several riders make mistakes on final laps
They were all trying so hard to be near the front, Ramirez ran wide on the penultimate lap and had to give up a position re-joining in third, and then Bastianini almost crashed when the back end acted up when he accelerated out of the corner. It all went wrong for Di Giannantonio when they started the last lap as he ran wide and he ended up compensating for it by giving back three positions.
Then, unfortunately for Binder, after his great save earlier on in the race, he came off at turn seven on the final lap his bike destroyed itself after the front folded and they slid out on the left hand turn which was the first after a series of right hand turns.
The final incident came on the last lap when Suzuki and rookie, Kato Toba (Honda Team Asia) came off on turn 10 after both got tangled up and ended up down in the gravel. Both riders struggled to get up after the incident.
Record breaker Mir wins in Le Mans
It was record breaking pace rider and championship leader, Mir who won the French Moto3 round at Le Mans; he finished with a comfortable lead of 4.252 seconds extending his championship lead with the added 25 points he claimed. Not only did he set the Circuit Record lap with a time of 1:42.485, he also has the Best Lap Record from the warm-up with a time of 1:42.453.
Canet and Di Giannantonio complete the podium
Emerging successful from the battle, was Canet in second and he was joined on the podium by Di Giannantonio who finished the fifth round in third and collecting 16 championship points. Ramirez just missed out on his first podium finishing fourth ahead of Guevara in fifth. Danilo was sixth ahead of Migno, Bendsneyder and wildcard Kent who completed the top 10. Kornfeil was 12th ahead of John McPhee (British Talent Team), rookie Nakarin Atiratphuvapat (Honda Team Asia), Dalla Porta and Bezzecchi who collected the remainder of the points finishing up to 15th.
Mir continues to lead the championship
Where the championship is concerned Mir is now leading with 74 points ahead of Fenati on 65 and Martin on 9. McPhee is fourth with 49 points ahead of Canet, Di Giannantonio, Migno, Ramirez, Guevara and Bulega who complete the top 10.