Alex Marquez returned to his winning ways at a cold and overcast French Grand Prix to take victory at the classic Le Mans circuit.
Jorge Navarro started from his second consecutive pole position, despite a late crash in Qualifying 2. But it was Swiss rider, Tom Luthi, who grabbed the holeshot as the pack stormed up the hill into the tight chicane of turns three and four. Further down the order Andrea Locatelli, who had been looking seriously fast throughout the opening day of the weekend, suffered a highside on the exit of turn 3. He landed hard on his kneck but was later confirmed okay, just badly bruised.
The troubles continued for the Italian riders on lap two as championship leader, Lorenzo Baldassarri, lost the front on the exit of the turns nine and ten. He was unfortunately clipped by the Petronas Kalex of Mattia Pasini, resulting in a dislocated shoulder for Baldassarri.
From lap 3 Tom Luthi and his Dynavolt machine started slipping back. It looked like he couldn’t hold the pace of his rivals, as Marquez hit the front with his teammate, Xavi Vierge, following through. The next man on Luthi’s case was Tasca Racings’ Simone Corsi who, after the opening five laps, found himself in the top five battle. This was despite starting down in eighteenth due to Corsi running the soft rear tyre, which gave him a handy advantage during the first half of the 25 lap race.
After a disappointing qualifying session, Sam Lowes had fought his way up into the low points paying positions. He was sadly tipped off his Gresini Racing Moto2 machine at Garage Vert (turn eight).
Simone Corsi then looked to pass Luthi for third and made it swiftly made it past Vierge for second. He then aimed to close down the gap on race leader, Alex Marquez. This was until lap eleven, when Corsi made the rookie error of catching too much inside kerb resulting in a low side crash at the penultimate corner, prematurely ending his race.
Meanwhile, Remy Gardner, who was still recovering after the big crash that red-flagged Moto2 in Jerez, was having a good race onboard his Oneox TKKR SAG Team Kalex. Whilst running within the top six, he sadly slid off at the infamous turn three.
With Marquez controlling a healthy two-second advantage over the chasing pack, the attention was quickly turned on the fight for second place with Jorge Navarro’s Speed Up leading Augusto Fernandez. Fernandez was eagerly looking to add another podium finish to his name, after his second place in Jerez.
The pair changed positions several times throughout the final few laps, but both made mistakes at the tricky downhill off-camber turn 8 undoing all their hard work.
Alex Marquez was left to cross the line with a comfortable +1.119 second gap over Jorge Navarro who hung on to second after Fernandez’s mistake, who eventually finished third.
KTM’s Brad Binder had a mixed race after fading away in the midpoint. But he bounced back to pass Vierge for fourth, leaving the Spaniard to take fifth ahead of Thomas Luthi.
There was another great result for rookie Enea Bastianini, who finished seventh ahead of an injured Marcel Schrotter, Iker Lecuona and fellow rookie, Nicolo Bulega.
Nagashima came home in a distant eleventh, ahead of Fabio Di Giannantonio. Luca Marini came home in thirteenth, ahead of Joe Roberts and Stefano Manzi, who secured his, and MV Agusta’s, first Moto2 points of the season.
Next time out, Moto2 will hit the hills of Tuscany next for the sixth round of the MotoGP World Championship. The famous Mugello Circuit will see an injured Baldassarri hoping to limit the damage made to his championship lead. This will also be another track where the new Triumph engine will have to be dialled in, with it’s long front straight, heavy braking corners and fast changes of direction, Mugello always brings great racing to the intermediate class.