The full capacity crowd deserved better than the moody forecast for race day and the weather gods clearly agreed, as premier class riders were greeted by clear blue skies, hot tarmac and can-can dancers. However, the dream French victory didn’t quite go to plan and it was mostly an Italian affair, with Enea Bastianini taking his third victory of the season after pressuring poleman Pecco Bagnaia into a big mistake and cruising unchallenged to the chequered flag. Jack Miller was the happy recipient of a second place inheritance, while Aleix Espargaro caused some heartbreak as he denied the home favourite a place on the podium.
Miller was the star at the start of the 27-lap race, getting the holeshot over teammate Bagnaia and with Bastianini straight into the mix to separate the two factory Ducatis. The two Suzukis were hot on their tail as well, while front-row starter Espargaro dropped down to sixth over a chaotic opening lap. Fabio Quartararo made a pretty poor start on home soil, finding himself challenged by the Hondas of Marc Marquez and Takaki Nakagami in the early battle for seventh, with Johann Zarco waiting to pounce too.
Alex Rins was keeping up with the fast-starting Ducatis early on but maybe not as comfortably as it first seemed, the Spaniard losing control around turn two and taking a familiar trip through the gravel at the Dunlop chicane, crashing as he rejoined the track at turn four. He thankfully avoided any collision and the incident left the Bologna bullets with a second's advantage at the front. The poleman soon attacked his teammate at turn seven, retaking control of proceedings on lap four while Bastianini pushed to catch up with his colleagues, bringing Joan Mir with him but some mistakes losing Espargaro a second on the duo. In the time it took Quartararo to find a way past Marquez, the Frenchman dropped three seconds behind the leader, but as soon as he got some breathing room from the Hondas, he picked up the pace and reeled in Espargaro by lap six, who in turn was catching up with Mir once again.
By lap 10, the podium battle became an all-Ducati affair once more, Bagnaia, Miller and Bastianini starting to drop Mir from their exclusive group and the Suzuki man had a feisty Aprilia and Yamaha on his tail. Marquez was circulating in a rather lonely seventh position, over two and a half seconds behind the reigning world champion and with Zarco trying to bridge a one second gap to the Honda headliner. The Frenchman turned the timing screens red and was close enough to Marquez for a piggyback only a couple laps later.
Meanwhile, Bastianini had altered the order at the front slightly, attacking Miller at Garage Vert on lap 12, leaving Bagnaia without his wingman. Miller immediately dropped a second behind the duo and was about to come under threat from the trio behind but after doing the hard work in closing the gap, Mir crashed out of fourth at the final corner, as the race was entering its second half. Espargaro and Quartararo were left to reel in Miller, while Zarco was still struggling to find a way past Marquez in the fight for sixth place. The Frenchman’s mission was eventually simplified by the Spaniard running wide at La Chapelle with 11 laps remaining.
Back at the front, Bastianini was comfortably keeping Bagnaia company without showing any intentions until seven laps were left, when he made a first approach at the Dunlop Chicane and then sealed the deal at Garage Vert, helped by Bagnaia running well wide. Under pressure to recover the second he lost on his colleague, Bagnaia followed it up with a crash at the penultimate corner of the same lap.
With Bastianini running away at the front and showing impeccable pace all the way to the chequered flag, Miller inherited second, just outside of striking distance of Espargaro. Although the gap between them was just one second at the time, the Spaniard was focusing on the threat from behind, where Quartararo suddenly saw an opportunity for a podium on home soil. Although the Frenchman started the final lap only one tenth of a second behind Espargaro, he couldn’t find a way past the Aprilia man and had to settle for fourth. Behind the podium battle, Zarco, Marquez and Nakagami were cruising to the finish line with sizeable gaps around them, only Brad Binder enjoying some company in the battle for eight, until teammate Miguel Oliveira crashed out at turn four with three laps left. Taking avoiding action in the incident lost Pol Espargaro a top 10 position to the benefit of Luca Marini and Maverick Viñales.
The battle on track extended to the world championship standings, where Espargaro reduced Quartararo’s advantage to four points, with Bastianini only eight points back. Rins dropped to a 33-point deficit, while Bagnaia is seventh, with 46 points to recover.
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