Things just went from perfect to more perfect for Movistar Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo, who after dominating during the build up to the race at Le Mans for the fifth round of the MotoGP in France, went on to win and claim the lead in the 2016 MotoGP Championship run.
Lorenzo was fastest in two out of the four Free Practice sessions, gained pole position in qualifying with his record breaking lap time, and then led from start to finish in winning the race with a faultless ride which allowed him to secure the full twenty-five points on offer.
Lorenzo admits he was weary of Marquez
Lorenzo was “very happy with this victory” as he felt “everything has been almost perfect”. The 2015 MotoGP Champion suspected Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) would be the most threatening contender to jeopardise his results, saying that, “I knew Marquez has the chance to fight for the victory with me” and Lorenzo knew that a top three finish would have meant Marquez would have remained at the top of the championship.
However, Marquez crashed out and ended up with a DNF under his belt, with Lorenzo’s focus remaining on the championship, saying that in essence, "we are starting the championship again" after the top three riders (including Rossi) scored very few points in one race, "but with us being five points ahead."
Record still stands for Lorenzo
Lorenzo’s pole position time of 1:31.975 remained the fastest lap ever at the French circuit as riders were only able to lap in the low 1:33 minutes on race day. Lorenzo’s ‘perfect’ run at the front meant he missed out on all of the action and chaos behind him, which he was most likely oblivious to unless it was communicated to him on his pit board.
Difficult task ahead for Rossi
Lorenzo was initially being chased by the two Ducati riders Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone. The pair are both under pressure, as they attempt to secure their futures with Ducati, full in the knowledge that someone has to leave the team at the end of the season to make way for the incoming Lorenzo, who has signed a two-year contract.
Marquez was also in pursuit, and Lorenzo’s teammate Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) was being ‘knocked around’ by the Team Suzuki Ecstar riders and the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha riders who were all hungry for a decent position in the race.
Rossi was disappointed with only managing to qualify in seventh due to “traffic” and had to start the race from the front of the third row. He came into contact with Bradley Smith (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha) as they pushed and shoved, and he lost valuable places at the beginning of the race. However, his experience outshone the others around him, and it was not long before the factory rider started to make his way through the field, plucking one rival off at a time.
Ducati endure double disaster
Iannone crashed out of third position helping Rossi to gain a place, and when the Italian had made his way up to fourth, Dovizioso and Marquez both also crashed out in a bizarre incident were both riders slid out at the same corner after taking a slightly wider line. Only Marquez could remount following the incident, with Dovizioso having to retire, and Rossi elevated to fourth on the track.
Rossi admitted that he “started quite badly" from the third row and so described the start of the race as “very complicated”. However he had “quite a good pace” and felt that he was “able to push”. The Doctor knew he was “quite fast” but decided to “stay quiet” as he thought it was “very easy to make some mistakes”.
When Rossi had progressed in the race to fourth, where he was behind Dovizioso and Marquez, he felt “at that moment I was a bit faster”. Rossi finished the race in second, without having to put in the work to get past the two fallen riders in the meantime.
Championship race remains wide open
The nine times world champion is now third in the championship, twelve points behind Lorenzo (90) and seven behind Marquez (85). Rossi feels that “the championship is wide open”, adding that for his team to catch up, “We have to concentrate”. His plan is to “think race by race” and he mentioned that he is hoping to be “competitive” at his home GP in front of his fans in Mugello in Italy on 22nd May in the next round of the season.
Vinales claims first ever MotoGP podium
Joining the current Movistar Yamaha boys on the podium was Maverick Vinales who secured his first ever MotoGP podium with team Suzuki Ecstar. Vinales also benefited from the previous crashes; however he also put in the work to get himself in such a position as he started on the same row as Rossi in eighth on the grid.
Vinales regained confidence during warm-up to rise in Championship standings
Vinales struggled to match the pace of the Yamaha, Ducati and Honda teams with his best finish coming during FP3. He felt that the day before the race was “really difficult” and he reported to be “not feeling very good with the bike”. However he said, “I regained my confidence” during the morning warm-up previous to the race, when he “found a new setup” and he felt he could “start pushing again”.
Vinales' aim during the race was “to concentrate and overtake the riders in front”. At the time of the crash involving Dovizioso and Marquez, Vinales felt he was “riding well” and was travelling “at about the same pace as Valentino” and so he was “happy”. However he admitted that he was “on the limit many times” and he experienced “some moments” when he knew that “Pedrosa started to close”. Still, he felt he was “able to ride quite smoothly and control it”.
Vinales is now fifth in the championship with 49 points, and despite his belief that the bike is still in the ‘evolving’ stages, the Spaniard is placed extremely well as both he and his teammate Aleix Espargaro are above the factory Ducatis, however so are some of the other Ducati riders.
Everyone wants to know Vinales’ decision regarding his future
His performance so far this season has caught the eye of the Movistar Yamaha team who are looking to replace Lorenzo who has signed a two year contract with Ducati. Instead of looking to their development riders including Pol Espargaro who remains the fastest independent, and not being able to sign Smith who is moving to the factory Aprilia which will be introduced next season, Ducati approached Vinales and who can blame them?
Speculation has surrounded the youngster who only completed his rookie year last season with Suzuki. Representatives of the youngster confirmed that talks are still ongoing between Vinales and the two factory teams Suzuki and Movistar Yamaha. Vinales is unsure whether to follow his head or his heart as he set out on a mission with Suzuki which he seems hopeful to achieve. The young Spanish star refrained from discussing anything to do with his future career choices; however his representatives confirmed a decision will be made shortly and an announcement is expected soon.