In a crisp afternoon in France, riders were ready for the gloves to come off, literally, together with woolly hats and jackets but Le Mans does like a surprise and just as premier class riders lined up on the grid, big dark clouds suddenly lined up above it. Rain started promptly, delaying the start and making it a wet race – a disappointing one for the home crowd but a fantastic display for all three men on the podium. Danilo Petrucci took to the conditions like a duck to water and looked in total control as he became the seventh different winner of 2020 in the premier class, after a miserable start to his season. However, comeback of the day went to Alex Marquez, the Honda rider making the Marquez name proud by going from 18th on the grid to second on the podium, where he was also joined by compatriot Pol Espargaro, who snatched the last trophy available for KTM.
26 six laps earlier, it was a totally different story, with Cal Crutchlow making an excellent start from the second row of the grid but seeing Jack Miller enter turn one ahead of the LCR man and poleman Fabio Quartararo. Infamous turn three claimed its first victim on lap one, Valentino Rossi being the chosen one and the Italian’s crash forced Joan Mir and Maverick Vinales off track and towards the back of the pack, after the two had a pretty slow start to begin with.
The Ducatis thrived in the first lap drama, with Petrucci starting lap 2 in the lead from Miller and Andrea Dovizioso, while Pol Espargaro was attacking Quartararo just behind. The big winner of lap one was Alex Rins, the Spaniard going from 16th to 7th and eager to join the podium contenders. By lap four, the Ducati trio of Petrucci, Dovizioso and Miller had stretched a two second’s gap over the pursuers, with Rins picking up the chase after his lightning start, demoting Pol Espargaro and Cal Crutchlow. Bradley Smith, Marquez and Miguel Oliveira were soon bothering Quartararo, the Frenchman pushed out of the top ten two laps later by Takaaki Nakagami. Still, his day didn’t seem to go as terribly as the one Vinales, Morbidelli and Mir were having, the trio keeping Tito Rabat company at the back of the field.
Petrucci continued to show the way to his teammates for the next few laps, with Rins pushing to reduce the nearly three seconds gap while comfortably breaking away from the next group where Pol Espargaro was fending off Crutchlow. However, the battle for fifth was far from decided, with Marquez, Oliveira and Smith not too far back and keeping us entertained by trading places, until Smith left the battle at end of lap nine.
Although the rain continued and gaps throughout the field were starting to increase, Rins was going the opposite way and brought the gap down to under a second by lap 12, tagging along to the victory battle soon after. Two seconds back, Pol Espargaro was the fastest man at that point in the race and was hoping to also join the party, leaving Crutchlow, Marquez and Oliveira a touch behind. The Repsol Honda rider made his move on Crutchlow soon after and built a one second gap by being the fastest man on track. Meanwhile, Quartararo was trying to get past compatriot Johann Zarco to join the top ten, while Mir was still out of point positions.
As soon as he got on Miller’s tail, Rins was eager to attack but Miller fought back and managed to keep third for a little while longer. There were no sparks coming from the podium battle just yet but one second behind it, Pol Espargaro and Alex Marquez looked keen to get themselves into the mix, as the fastest men on track with 11 laps to go. Another second back, Crutchlow and Oliveira also picked up the pace but then Crutchlow abandoned ship with nine laps left.
Dovizioso finally showed a wheel to Petrucci with 9 laps remaining but Rins saw an opportunity at turn 9 and going three-wide into the corner saw Petrucci exit the turn first, ahead of Miller and Rins, with Dovizioso the big loser dropping to fourth. The thrilling shenanigans allowed Espargaro and Marquez to join the podium battle, which quickly reduced in numbers as Miller’s machine gave up the ghost with 8 laps remaining and Rins crashed at turn 3 one lap later. The insane couple of laps left Petrucci with an almost three seconds advantage and Dovizioso was trying to recover that while getting harassed than Marquez and Espargaro, with Oliveira not too far back either.
The final five laps looked like the calm before the storm, Dovizioso dragging a four man group towards Petrucci. Marquez attacked Dovizioso at turn 6 with 3 laps remaining to lead the pursuit and try to bring down a 1.7 seconds deficit but everyone seemed to get a bit twitchy, helping Petrucci’s cause. Dovizioso seemed to be affected the most by tyre degradation, getting overtaken by Espargaro at turn three next time around and spending the last couple of laps fending off Oliveira.
Petrucci started the final lap one second ahead of Marquez, the Spaniard focused on keeping compatriot Espargaro at bay and the trio safely crossed the finish line to secure podium positions. Dovizioso had to settle for fourth, while Zarco, who was the fastest man in the closing stages of the race, overtook Oliveira at the final turn to claim fifth position. Nakagami and Stefan Bradl added two more Hondas to the damp mix in seventh and eighth spot, with Quartararo, Vinales and Mir engaging in battle on the final lap, the Frenchman finishing ahead of his title rivals in ninth position.
Despite the disappointing result, Quartararo extended his championship lead over Mir to 10 points, Dovizioso coming within 18 points and with Vinales another point back.
|43||Jack Miller||Ducati||7 Laps|
|21||Franco Morbidelli||Yamaha||8 Laps|
|35||Cal Crutchlow||Honda||9 Laps|
|53||Tito Rabat||Ducati||12 Laps|
|38||Bradley Smith||Aprilia||18 Laps|
|Not Finished 1st Lap|
|46||Valentino Rossi||Yamaha||0 Lap|