Louis Rossi sent the Le Mans spectators into ecstasy by clinching his first Grand Prix win in torrential conditions. The Frenchman became the first home victor for four years in an epic race which saw three different riders crash out of the lead and several others from podium positions.
Zulfahmi Khairuddin was the early leader after storming past polesitter Maverick Vinales at Garage Vert on the opening lap. The Malaysian only held the lead for a couple of laps though when Hector Faubel hit the front for Bankia Aspar, putting his significant experience to good use. Compatriot Luis Salom followed him through into second but Khairuddin and Vinales were falling backwards, with Jakub Kornfeil and Miguel Oliveira pushing them out of the top four.
Oliveira was looking like the rider to watch in the leading group and dived up the inside of Kornfeil into MusÃ©e on lap seven before making quick work of Salom shortly afterwards. The Portuguese rider settled in behind Faubel and his patience was rewarded on lap 13 as the leader slid off at turn 12. Oliveira didn't lead from Kornfeil though who'd fallen off seconds after Faubel, nor did he lead from Salom whose Kalex-KTM was falling back with an apparent technical problem. Instead, it was the canny Vinales who inherited second but Louis Rossi was lurking in third after charging up from fifteenth on the grid.
Oliveira held a lead of just over a second but just as in Jerez, his victory hopes disappeared into the gravel trap with a crash at the double-apex final corner. Vinales couldn't believe his luck after taking it easy at the tail of the leading group but he didn't stay at the front of it for long, highsiding his FTR-Honda as he came on to the pit straight at the end of lap 16. The sight of the Avintia Blusens rider's fall triggered deafening cheers in the grandstands as Rossi took over at the front.
Luis Salom and Zulfahmi Khairuddin had kept themselves in touch despite their early setbacks but both riders joined the lengthy list of high-profile retirements. Salom crashed at the slippery turn ten on lap 14 while Khairuddin surrendered third moments after Vinales had disappeared.
This all promoted the careful Sandro Cortese to second, albeit 21 seconds behind Rossi, and the German looked to have judged it perfectly with all his title rivals out of contention. But the dramatic Grand Prix had yet more drama as the KTM rider dropped it at the Dunlop chicane just three laps from home, dropping him down to sixth.
From almost nowhere, Alberto Moncayo moved up to second on the second Aspar machine while two rookies fought it out for the final podium position. Alex Rins and Niccolo Antonelli, who'd started the race in 26th and 27th respectively were now in the top four with another newcomer, Arthur Sissis was up in fifth ahead of his factory KTM teammate.
As the patriotic fans bit their nails, Louis Rossi cruised through the final few corners to win his first Grand Prix at the 51st attempt. Moncayo took a career-best second while Rins won the battle for third, claiming his first GP podium. Antonelli held on to fourth despite coming close to crashing on the final lap with Sissis and Cortese completing the top six for Red Bull KTM Ajo.
Jasper Iwema scored his first points of the year in seventh while Alan Techer finished eighth in his first home Grand Prix. Ivan Moreno and Giulian Pedone rounded out an unfamiliar-looking top ten but Danny Kent and Danny Webb couldn't score points, both having crashed out. Championship frontrunner Romano Fenati did likewise on the third lap.
Having qualified second, Efren Vazquez didn’t even get a chance to take the start as his FTR-Honda broke down on the formation lap.