Determination to return to his winning ways he began the season with, and to make up for lost championship points, helped Movistar Yamaha rider Maverick Vinales to pick up the Japanese manufacturers 500th Grand Prix win at the fifth round of the 2017 MotoGP season.
Third victory for Vinales with Movistar Yamaha
In his first five races since moving from Team Suzuki Ecstar to Yamaha, the Spanish newbie has brought his M1 first three times helping Yamaha to reach a fantastic achievement. Before the race it seemed the 500th win was guaranteed for the manufacturer as Vinales led a Yamaha front row as he was joined on the grid by his teammate, Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) and French rookie and double Moto2 champion, Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech3) who was determined to do well in front of his home crowd.
Vinales got a fantastic start and led into the first turn of the race at the endurance circuit, Le Mans. He was unable to pull away however as Zarco stayed in contact and by turn 10 had become the new leader when he passed the Spaniard. Vinales stayed with him until, but then he found himself under pressure from Rossi who had passed Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) and was now focusing on him to take second.
Vinales regains the lead
Vinales response instead was to catch Zarco and he passed him on the seventh lap to regain the lead. He remained there until later on in the race, when Rossi made his way past the rookie on lap 23, and then turned his attention once again to him. With Zarco out the way it was not long until Rossi closed the gap between he and his teammate.
A lap after Rossi passed Zarco at the chicane, turns three and four, he replicated his move on Vinales; not as neatly this time however it was amazing the way he made the Yamaha turn in such a small gap. Vinales did what he could to remain with him. He ran wide on the next lap using the run off area to prevent a crash and re-joined behind Rossi after managing to avoid connecting with him; Vinales did not gain a position but possibly gained a little time with the shortcut.
Rossi crashes leaving Vinales to win the 500th Grand Prix win for Yamaha
Then Vinales got the opportunity he needed. On the final lap, as they powered their way around the French circuit trying to reach the finish line first, Rossi ran wide allowing Vinales to slot through when the space opened up on track. He knew Rossi wasn’t going to give up, and kept on pushing himself, but then when accelerating out of turn 11 on the final lap, with just three corners too go, Rossi spun the rear and came off his bike ended up in the gravel.
This allowed Vinales to carry on with ease and he emerged victorious in Le Mans, collecting his third win (fourth overall) and 25 championship points. Collecting maximum points in France means he is now leading the 2017 MotoGP championship. On top with 85 points, he is 17 points clear of second place man, now Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) who finished third, which meant championship leader heading into France, Rossi, has been knocked down to third where he remains on 62 points.
Vinales has high praise for Zarco
It was an intense win for the Spaniard who was happy to return to his winning ways this year. He admitted it was “hard” when he was “keeping up with Johann in the early laps of the race”. He found that the French rookie was “really fast with the full tank” and he found that they were “not so strong as him”.
Analysing him, he said that Zarco was “exiting the corners really good and really fast”. Then, Vinales noticed that his “tyre started to drop a little but” which was in time for when his “tyre started to work good on the rear”; Vinales found that “lap by lap [he] was feeling better”.
Vinales gave everything in Le Mans
Vinales spoke of how “until the end” of the race in Le Mans, he “gave everything” he had and was left feeling “so happy and so pleased”. He exclaimed that the “team was working on an incredible level this weekend” and in the future he is hoping they can “continue like that”. He said, “For sure the tyres were working really good here” and now he hopes that they “can work like this also in Mugello.”