Moto2: Morbidelli takes record and win in Le Mans
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Moto2: Morbidelli takes record and win in Le Mans

The fifth round of the season for the Moto2 class resulted in all the lap records being broken and Morbidelli extending his championship lead as he collected his fourth win out of five.

danielle-overend
Danielle Overend

The sun was out and the 600cc class where ready for the fifth round of the season in Le Mans; the HJC Helmets Grand Prix de France Moto2 race.

The morning warm-up session saw lap record holder and pole position man, Thomas Luthi (CarXpert Interwetten) quickest after the 20 minute run in Le Mans. The German rider looked more than prepared and comfortable at a track he has a great history with as he set a time of 1:37.063.

Perfect conditions for a race in Le Mans

It was dry, the air temperature was 20 degrees Celsius and the ground temperature was 36 with a humidity level of 52%. After the carnage from the Moto3 race previously, the riders had to be aware of the lie of some substance that had been spread on the racing line that caused almost all the field to crash out on lap two.

The Moto2 lined up on the grid for the fifth round of the season. When the lights went out, pole position man Luthi, who was joined on the front row by rookie, Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) and championship leader Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS), led into the first corner as they powered up the hill.#

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Morbidelli immediately applying the pressure

He was quickly under pressure from Morbidelli who got a great start and stuck with him throughout the opening corners of the race. By lap 10, the Italian took the lead forcing Luthi down to second. The first incident of the race occurred on the next corner when Luca Marini (Forward Racing Team) went down at turn 11; a fast turn but fortunately he was unhurt.

The riders used the next lap to sort themselves out. Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) overtook Dominique Aegerter (Kiefer Racing) to take fourth, Marcel Schrotter (Dynavolt Intact GP) overtook his teammate, Sandro Cortese to take ninth, and Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) overtook former MotoGP rider, Yonny Hernandez (AGR Team) to take 12th.

Marquez passes Bagnaia

At the beginning of the third lap, Marquez went on to overtake rookie, Bagnaia at turn two. Behind them, Aegerter was forced off track by Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Racing Team). The Swiss rider returned to the track wrestling his bike and slotted in in sixth behind the Italian. On the next lap, Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) overtook the Swiss rider to claim the position.

Unfortunately for rookie, Jorge Navarro, he came off his Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 Kalex at turn 13 of the fifth lap. He was unhurt but did not look happy when he returned to the pits.

Luthi and Morbidelli battle for the lead

At the front Luthi was stalking Morbidelli. At the first chicane, turns three to four, Luthi regained the lead briefly as Morbidelli retaliated immediately. Marquez was following the two closely. The Spaniard, who broke his toe during Free Practice, accidentally ran wide on lap at turn nine of lap six allowing Bagnaia to close in on him. Further down the field Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) overtook Xavier Simeon (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2) to take 12th.

The following lap, Luthi once again replicated his earlier move on Morbidelli and this time was able to retain the lead as it proved successful second time around. Next time around, Morbidelli made his attempt and the two battled for several corners before he forced Luthi wide at turn six when the two almost made contact on track. When he rejoined it was in fourth position.

The incident meant that Marquez and Bagnaia were able to catch up to make it four for the lead and on the seventh lap Bagnaia made a strong move passed Marquez to claim second.

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Baldassarri crashes out

It was race over for Baldassarri who came off at turn four on lap seven. He spun out and the bike landed in the rack. He had no choice to stand and wait for the rest of the field to pass to retrieve his bike by that time he was so far out of the running that he chose to retire later on. Rookie Stefano Manzi (Sky Racing Team VR46) came off at turn eight of the track and also had to retire from the French round.

Back at the front, Luthi made an attempt to go up the inside of Marquez but had to abort his plan. He remained close and ready to pounce at any time. As the leaders tripped each other up it allowed Pasini in fifth to catch Luthi and in turn the lead group; the lead group of four soon enough became five.

Large group of riders fighting for positions

Further down the field over the duration of the next laps more switches took place between a large group fighting for positions. Hernandez passed Simeon and Schrotter to end up 10th, Cortese overtook Xavi Vierge (Tech3 Racing) to take seventh and Ricky Cardus standing in for injured Red Bull KTM Ajo rider, Brad Binder, passed his teammate Miguel Oliveira for 15th; the Portuguese rider soon lost another place to Hafizh Syahrin (Petronas Raceline Malaysia). Nakagami was also chasing Pasini, Aegerter and Corsi who continued to battle things out for fifth place.

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Bagnaia continued pursuit of Morbidelli

Back at the front Bagnaia was pushing hard and at one point set the fastest lap as he pursued Morbidelli. A mistake from Morbidelli who was trying to respond to the pressure from the rookie at turn six allowed Bagnaia to close in further.  The two pushing meant that they either pulled away, or Marquez and Luthi eased their pace as the gap between the battles for first and third increased.

Coming to the end of the race on lap 20, Luthi finally made his move on Marquez to claim third. He made a fantastic pass up the inside of the Spaniard on a right-handed turn of the track, turn 8. Bagnaia set a personal best time as he managed to reduce the gap between him and Morbidelli down to under half a second.

Mackenzie crashes on Moto2 debut

Unfortunately for Tarran Mackenzie, he crashed out of his Moto2 debut. The British rider was signed up t replace Danny Kent who recently decided to part ways with Kiefer Racing for several reasons. Mackenize was released from his contract with his current team so he could step up to the world stage and had made a great start at a brand new track but his success came to an early end when he fell off at turn 10. One final crash on the final lap saw Isaac Vinales (Be-A-VIP SAG Team) come off preventing him from finishing the race.

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Morbidelli wins race with record breaking final lap

Nothing more could be done. On the final lap of the raced, Morbidelli set the fastest lap breaking the Circuit Lap Record, set during the race, previously held by Luthi with his fastest lap time of 1:36.836. His final push meant he won in Le Mans, collecting his fourth win of the season just five rounds in, and in doing so extending his championship lead. An amazing ride from rookie Bagnaia saw him finish 1.714 seconds behind collected his second podium in his fifth Moto2 race.

Completing the podium was German rider Luthi who finished the Le Mans Moto2 race in third. As well as finishing on the bottom step, he comes away from Le Mans wit a new lap record set during Qualifying with a time of 1:36.548. Just missing out on a podium after winning his first Moto2 race in Jerez the previous round, Marquez was fourth.

Pasini finished up the race in fifth ahead of Aegerter, Nakagami, Corsi, Vierge and former MotoGP rider Hernandez who completed the top 10. The final championship points were collected by Syahrin, Schrotter, Cardus, Cortese and Axel Pons (RW Racing GP) who finished a crash-filled weekend in the points.

Morbidelli extends championship lead

Morbidelli remains the championship leader now on 100 points after his fourth win. Luthi is second on 80 points, 18 ahead of Marquez in third with 62 points. Oliveria is fourth ahead of the highest placed rookie, Bagnaia in fifth. Nakagami, Aegerter, Vierge, marini and Corsi complete the top 10.

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