After a strange year, Moto GP finally returns to the fabled Bugatti Circuit at Le Mans in its rightful place on the calendar. The French GP is one of the premier events on the Moto GP calendar; it is a great track that generates excellent racing. Add the fact that two of the top five riders are French, and we’re in for an exciting weekend. Pair those ingredients with a splash of rain hovering around central France, and the world’s most competitive motorsport may raise the entertainment level even higher.
The Two Muskateers
After waiting 21 years for a winner, France got it through Fabio Quartararo last year. The then Petronas Yamaha rider’s maiden win in Jerez sent a country into raptures. His strong performances in the customer Yamaha team meant he got offered a ride with the factory Yamaha squad. El Diablo replaced Valentino Rossi in the offseason, and he’s started impressively. After four races, Quartararo took victory in Portugal and Doha; the Frenchman is loving life on the full-fat Yamaha.
However, it isn’t just Quartararo that is exciting the French fans. Moto GP veteran Johann Zarco burst onto the scene in 2016 for French outfit Tech 3. After excelling on a satellite bike, Zarco joined the KTM factory programme. Unfortunately, the move panned out hopelessly as both rider and team found great difficulty in working together. For 2021, the old Zarco has returned on the Pramac Ducati machine. The Ducati’s are incredibly fast in a straight line, plus their qualifying speed has been superb. Zarco probably won’t be in the championship fight, but that makes him all the more dangerous; he is going for race wins in 2021. Second is the best he’s achieved thus far; Zarco is desperate to stand on the top step of the podium.
Can Pecco Bagnaia Maintain His Consistency?
Italy’s Pecco Bagnaia is the championship leader, despite not winning a race. His metronomic consistency is underpinning his current success. The factory Ducati isn’t the fastest bike in race-trim; nonetheless, it is mightily fast in a straight line and qualifying. His teammate Jack Miller was the winner two weeks ago in Spain; he’s another rider itching to fulfil his potential with a championship challenge.
The significant difference in this year’s championship is the struggles of Moto GP’s big names. Valentino Rossi is 21st in the championship standings with just four points to his name. The Doctor is enduring a miserable time on the Petronas bike. Marc Marquez is finally starting to emerge into his old form after missing nearly a year with an injury. Marquez still requires time to adapt to the menacing Honda motorcycle. In his absence, the world witnessed how difficult it is to ride that bike; Marquez must show patience to get back to his best.
Qualifying Report: Fabio Quarteraro Takes Pole in Dramatic Session
In a dramatic wet/dry qualifying session, home hero Fabio Quartararo snatched a last gasp pole position. With a minute left in the session, Honda held a front-row lockout as Marc Marquez was on provisional pole position. It seemed as if that would be that as most riders weren’t improving. Then, in the dying seconds, both Yamaha riders started setting the fastest sector times. Maverick Vinales went fastest to get pipped by teammate Quartararo as the track began to dry out. Jack Miller joins them on the front row. Marc Marquez will start sixth, one spot behind the other home rider Johann Zarco. Valentino Rossi enjoyed the best session of the season so far as he grabbed ninth. Q1 claimed some big scalps as reigning champion Joan Mir and championship leader Pecco Bagnaia got knocked out. They will need to come through the pack tomorrow to maintain good positions in the championship standings.
- 1st Fabio Quarteraro – Yamaha
- 2nd Maverick Vinales – Yamaha
- 3rd Jack Miller – Ducati
- 4th Franco Morbidelli – Petronas Yamaha
- 5th Johann Zarco – Pramac Ducati
- 6th Marc Marquez – Repsol Honda
- 7th Taka Nakagaami – Honda
- 8th Pol Espargaro – Repsol Honda
- 9th Valentino Rossi – Petronas Yamaha
- 10th Miguel Oliveira – KTM
- 11th Lorenzo Savadori – Aprilla
- 12th Luca Marini – Ducati
- 13th Aleix Espargaro – Aprilla
- 14th Joan Mir – Suzuki
- 15th Alex Rins – Suzuki
- 16th Pecco Bagnaia – Ducati
- 17th Danilo Petrucci – KTM
- 18th Iker Lecuona – KTM
- 19th Alex Marquez – Honda
- 20th Tito Rabat – Ducati
- 21st Brad Binder – KTM
- 22nd Enea Bastianini – Ducati
Honda is the most successful manufacturer at the French Moto GP with 53 wins. Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez are the active riders with the most wins at Le Mans with four wins each. Track length – 2.6 miles. Weather – Rain and intermittent showers forecast throughout the day. Race start time at 1 PM BST.