Another Marquez masterclass as title rivals fall away
MARC Marquez's rivals are making it very hard for him to not win the 2018 MotoGP World Championship.
Marquez romped to his third win on the bounce in the Grand Prix de France at Le Mans ahead of Danilo Petrucci and Valentino Rossi, benefitting from both pole man Johann Zarco and title rival Andrea Dovizioso crashing out early in the race.
The results means Marquez now holds a 36 point lead just five races into the season.
"I saw that the track had a little bit less grip than yesterday and especially this morning," said Marquez in the paddock.
"But I'm happy because this victory is important on a circuit where normally we struggle."
Jack Miller posted one of his best results in MotoGP with a fourth placing, hounding Rossi all the way home and only just failing to snag a spot on the podium.
Zarco had the 105,000 home fans at Le Mans' Bugatti circuit dreaming of a rare French win after his record-setting pole 24 hours earlier, but the Yamaha Tech star slid out of contention on Lap 7.
"I overdid it trying to overtake Lorenzo," said Zarco. "The fans will understand me, I was going all out for the win," he said.
Zarco's premature exit left Marquez in control of a race that, after the early drama, turned into something of a procession.
At the start, Zarco was quickly displaced at the front by a fast starting Jorge Lorenzo, the Frenchman snatching back second place by lunging past Marquez at the Dunlop Curve.
Marquez was forced to sit up, allowing Andrea Iannone into third - briefly. The Suzuki rider's race ended in a crash at Turn 6.
Andrea Dovizioso's Ducati then swept past Lorenzo but no sooner had the Italian made his move than he too crashed.
It was then hapless Zarco's turn to exit, stage left, as the French MotoGP idol parted company with his bike with 20 laps remaining.
With the great gallic home hope out of the picture it didn't take long for Marquez to make his decisive move as Lorenzo faded after his early charge, eventually finishing sixth, over 13 seconds ahead of Yamaha's Maverick Vinales, who'd won the corresponding race 12 months ago.
A late charge netted Cal Crutchlow eighth, an impressive result given he'd checked himself out of hospital that morning to take part in the race, the Englishman still tender after his massive qualifying crash.
Aleix Espargaro and Alex Rins rounded out the top 10.
The result tightened Marquez's grip on the MotoGP standings with the defending four-time champion on 95 points.
Dovizioso's disaster drops him to a tie for eighth in the standings, almost two full race wins behind the man he fought for last year's world title.
Vinales is Marquez's closest pursuer on 59, one point ahead of Zarco, and seven-time world champion Rossi two points further adrift.
Miller's fourth placing equals his best result of 2018 and continues a run of eight consecutive top 10 placings dating back to the Australian Grand Prix last October.
The Australian's consistency has him sixth in the championship, just 10 points behind second-placed Vinales.
If the MotoGP race was lacking in whiteknuckle excitement, the same was certainly not the case in the Moto3 Grand Prix.
Spain's Albert Arenas was awarded the win after Fabio Di Giannantonio was demoted to fourth for cutting a corner.
Honda's Italian rider crossed the line first at Le Mans' Bugatti circuit but was hit with a three-second penalty, with KTM's Arenas promoted from second to first.
"That's fantastic, it's hard to believe," said the 21-year-old, celebrating his first win since his debut season in 2014.
Andrea Migno and Marcos Ramirez - who'd crossed the line fifth, but benefitted from both Di Giannantonio's penalty and another to Niccolo Antonelli - joined Arenas on the all KTM podium.
Another KTM rider, Marco Bezzecchi leads the championship standings on 63 points, with Di Giannantonio four points behind in second and his Honda teammate Aron Canet in third, three points further back.
Bezzecchi held onto the championship lead despite a final bend crash with Honda's Jorge Martin, moments after Giannantonio dove past to take what he believed at the time to be the victory.
In Moto2, championship leader Francesco Bagnaia then made it three wins out of five this season.
The Sky Italia VR46 rider set off from pole and held off all challengers to add this to his wins in the opening race in Qatar and at the Grand Prix of the Americas.
Joining him on the Kalex-dominated podium were Spaniards Alex Marquez and reigning Moto3 champion Joan Mir.
Bagnaia moved up to 98 points in the Moto2 standings, 19 points clear of KTM's Miguel Oliveira.
- with AFP