Bezzecchi wins wild French GP, Bagnaia crashes with Vinales

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
4 min read

Marco Bezzecchi was victorious in MotoGP’s French Grand Prix at Le Mans, as points leader Pecco Bagnaia was eliminated in a collision with Maverick Vinales.

Bezzecchi’s win is his and the VR46 Ducati team’s second in MotoGP, and it came in what the championship counts as its 1000th premier-class race.

Bagnaia had had a decent enough getaway from pole, but was muscled down to fifth by the time he went through the Dunlop chicane – and though he’d recover a couple of positions over the next two laps, being in the pack would ultimately put him in the firing line.

After major contact between Vinales and Luca Marini behind him, Vinales finally forced his way past Marini by taking a sweeping outside line through the Dunlop chicane.

He then immediately tried to deal with Bagnaia for third place, launching it down the Ducati’s inside at Garage Bleu – but with him coming out wide through the second part of the S-curve, Bagnaia tried to stay around the outside and they came together in a hard hit that took both of them down.

Vinales felt compelled to remonstrate with Bagnaia in the gravel in the immediate aftermath, this nearly escalating into a full-on fight between the pair – although they did then exchange a handshake arriving back into the paddock.

Their collision had been immediately followed by a much scarier multi-bike incident, as Marini tucked the front coming out of the Dunlop chicane on the following tour – and, as he tried to save the crash with his elbow, he was hit from behind by Alex Marquez.

Both were down on the ground, with Marquez forced to scramble away from the racing line in a terrifying few moments with the rest of the MotoGP grid bearing down on him.

Those two incidents had whittled down what was a considerable lead group to one of just four bikes, headed by the KTM of Jack Miller.

Marc Marquez had taken the lead at the start, but Miller launched it down his inside at the Museum corner on the second lap – and while Marquez rebuffed that attack, he was powerless to stop Miller from going through at the Dunlop chicane next time around.

Yet Miller’s pace just didn’t hold up, although further scrapping behind him afforded the Aussie a few more laps of running at the front.

Bezzecchi, having just narrowly avoided the Marini/Marquez crash, was third in that lead group after the incidents, and moved up to second with an eighth-lap lunge on Marquez that effectively sent the Honda man to the long-lap loop.

The stewards took a dim view of that, ordering him to drop position, though by the time he did he was letting through not Marquez but Jorge Martin – the Pramac man’s race recovering remarkably after he had dropped down to an early 10th by getting Garage Vert massively wrong.

The penalty was a temporary setback for Bezzecchi, as Martin then ran wide at La Chapelle, handing the spot back. And just a lap later, lap 11 of 27, Bezzecchi dealt with Miller through the high-speed first corner.

Miller began to drop off badly from there – but even by the time Marquez passed him for second later that same lap at Chemin aux Boeufs, Bezzecchi was already half a second clear. And Marquez had no answer for Bezzecchi’s pace.

Instead, as the VR46 bike disappeared into the distance, Marquez would have his hands full fighting off Martin – and that battle ultimately ended his race.

Martin lunged at Marquez down the inside of Garage Bleu on lap 21 but couldn’t keep the line tight enough to prevent a cut-back. The same happened on lap 22 at Garage Vert and lap 24 through Turn 1.

Yet when Martin passed Marquez on the brakes at the Museum corner on the penultimate corner, Marquez fell trying to stay with him – ending his first grand prix race after a three-round absence with a barrel roll through the gravel.

Marquez’s exit left Martin free to consolidate second, finishing 4.3s behind Bezzecchi. His Pramac team-mate Johann Zarco was close behind in third, the local hero having threatened to join the Marquez/Martin battle but ultimately never getting close enough.

Claiming a remarkable fourth behind them, just six seconds off the winner, was Tech3 Gas Gas rookie Augusto Fernandez, who fought off Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro in a late battle.

Fernandez’s fourth place marked the best finish for Tech3 since Miguel Oliveira had won the 2020 season finale.

Both Espargaro and KTM’s Brad Binder were compromised on the opening lap by Alex Marquez having tried to cram himself down a tiny gap left by Zarco on the inside of La Chapelle, the knock-on effect taking every party involved but Marquez very wide.

Binder ultimately recovered to a distant sixth. He was trailing his sinking team-mate Miller when a failed lunge at Chemin aux Boeufs saw him cut the corner and receive a long-lap penalty – but he re-passed Fabio Quartararo after serving it, and inherited another position when Miller crashed with three laps left.

Quartararo took seventh as the lead Yamaha, followed by Gresini Ducati’s Fabio Di Giannantonio, LCR Honda’s Takaaki Nakagami and Yamaha’s Franco Morbidelli.

The three injury stand-ins taking part all finished, and were all well in the points thanks to attrition. Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci claimed 11th on his MotoGP return, followed by RNF Aprilia’s Lorenzo Savadori and Tech3 Gas Gas rider Jonas Folger.

Remarkably, ninth-placed Nakagami was the only Honda finisher. Both Marc Marquez’s works team-mate Joan Mir and Nakagami’s team-mate Alex Rins had crashed around the halfway point of the race.

Bezzecchi’s win means he now trails Bagnaia by just one point, with Binder and Martin 13 and 14 points off Bagnaia respectively.

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