Red Bull KTM Factory Racing were close to adding another trophy to the shelves as Jack Miller led the SHARK Grand Prix de France at a sunny and capacity Le Mans and Brad Binder scored 6th for round five of twenty. Binder and the team both hold 3rd in their respective championship standings while KTM are currently the 2nd best constructor.
The short, tight but demanding Bugatti circuit within the vast Le Mans 24hr motorsport complex drew sunshine, spring temperatures and thousands and thousands of fans to round five of 2023 MotoGP. Red Bull KTM Factory Racing had already shown their competitiveness by topping Practice on Friday and finishing 2nd in the Saturday Sprint as both Jack Miller and Brad Binder respectively got down to pace with their KTM RC16.
Sunday meant the full Grand Prix distance and spectacle of 27 laps. It was Miller who made the more effective getaway and led the opening exchanges. The Australian slipped back the fringes of the top five as the laps ticked down and he battled to maximize the grip of the soft tire combination. With three circulations to go he met the gravel on the exit to Turn 4.
Binder made a fantastic getaway as well but contact with another rider into La Chapelle pushed the South African wide and almost out of the top twenty. He pulled his way back to 6th, despite having to endure a Long Lap penalty for running across the inside of Turn 9.
As the checkered flag waved, the championship standings pivoted to reflect Brad’s status in 3rd. Jack is 8th. MotoGP now breaks for three weekends before anticipation of the Gran Premio D’Italia Oakley around the epic curves of Mugello in mid-June.
Brad Binder, 6th: “I had a really good feeling for the race and had a fantastic start but unfortunately in Turn 4 someone hit the side of me and I went from 6th-7th all the way back outside the top twenty. A tough one and then a tough fight to come through. I chipped away slowly but surely until I got an amazing slipstream on Jack and overshot the mark into Turn 9. I had to make a decision to save it and just shot across the inside of the chicane. I didn’t drop back far enough and from that mistake I had a Long Lap penalty: if bad luck comes in ‘threes’ then I think I spent them this race! It was important to keep my head down then and bring the bike home.”
Jack Miller, DNF: “Obviously not the way we wanted to end things here. We had great pace all weekend and led a decent handful of laps but when the other boys came past they seemed to be able to knock-it-up a gear and I knew my marks: I knew where I could push and where I couldn’t. I was fading a little bit but also preserving the left side of the tire and I knew I had a bit left at the end. I then used too much curb on the inside of Turn 4 and that was all she wrote. I cut it tight just a little bit too much. Really disappointing for myself and the team, they have been doing an amazing job and the bike was so good all weekend. It's a bummer to come away with no points but we’ll re-group for Mugello.”
Francesco Guidotti, Red Bull KTM Team Manager: “A positive weekend even if we did not get what we deserved today. Brad had contact on the first lap and was as far down as 18th and he recovered as strong as usual, even with a dubious Long Lap penalty. We have to analyze Jack’s crash as it was strange. It was a good weekend with both riders into Q2 on Friday and we’ll look forward to the next GP with confidence. We have two fantastic riders in this team and we will keep supporting them to the maximum, from the first to the last person in the factory and from the team mechanics to any person who touches this MotoGP effort. Many congratulations to Augusto [Fernandez] as this is another sign that our group project is going in the right direction.”
Results MotoGP SHARK Grand Prix de France
1. Marco Bezzecchi (ITA) Ducati 41:37.970
2. Jorge Martin (ESP) Ducati +4.256
3. Johann Zarco (FRA) Ducati +4.795
6. Brad Binder (RSA) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing +13.638
DNF. Jack Miller (AUS) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
World championship standings MotoGP
1. Francesco Bagnaia (ITA) Ducati, 94 points
2. Marco Bezzecchi (ITA) Ducati, 93
3. Brad Binder (RSA) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 81
8. Jack Miller (AUS) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 49
KTM GP Academy
Red Bull KTM Tech3’s Daniel Holgado counted on a front row grid position and therefore slotted into the leading pack of the 20-lap Moto3 Grand Prix. The Spaniard was joined in the dispute for podium places by Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Deniz Öncü who blasted his way from the second row. Holgado marked the best rhythm for most of the race and then defied Ayumu Sasaki on the last lap to triumph by a mere tenth of a second. It was the second victory for Holgado and his second podium appearance of the year. He continues to head the championship standings, now boasting a 21-point advantage over Ivan Ortola. Öncü came home in 6th place head of Red Bull KTM Ajo teammate Jose Rueda in 9th. Filippo Farioli took 18th.
Daniel Holgado: “I had an amazing race today. I think I was the fastest rider out there and I had good pace all through the sessions but I’ve been struggling with my arms at the end of the last two races, so I’m very happy it worked out here. This win is for the team at their home Grand Prix!”
Moto2 was decided over the course of 14 laps after the race was restarted due to an early accident that involved Albert Arenas. The Spaniard was uninjured but could not get back to the pitlane to go again. Red Bull KTM Ajo teammate Pedro Acosta was running a comfortable 2nd place in the second restart but a crash entering Turn 7 meant he was also a non-finisher in France. The young star is 2nd in the championship standings.
Angel Piqueras had already taken the first checkered flag of the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup double race in France on Saturday. The teenager has been tearing up the series so far and was a tenth of a second quicker than Guido Pini on Sunday morning to complete the set at Le Mans. The Spaniard now has a massive 71-point lead in the table.
Results Moto3 SHARK Grand Prix de France
1. Daniel Holgado (ESP) Red Bull KTM Tech3 34:07.176
2. Ayumu Sasaki (JPN) Husqvarna +0.150
3. Jaume Masia (ESP), Honda +0.946
6. Deniz Öncü (TUR) Red Bull KTM Ajo +2.521
9. Jose Rueda (ESP) Red Bull KTM Ajo +11.930
18. Filippo Farioli (ITA) Red Bull KTM Tech3 +19.410
World championship standings Moto3
1. Daniel Holgado (ESP) Red Bull KTM Tech3, 84 points
2. Ivan Ortola (ESP) KTM, 63
3. Jaume Masia (ESP) Honda, 63
9. Jose Rueda (ESP) Red Bull KTM Ajo, 37
10. Deniz Öncü (TUR) Red Bull KTM Ajo, 33
24. Filippo Farioli (ITA) Red Bull KTM Tech3, 2
Results Moto2 SHARK Grand Prix de France
1. Tony Arbolino (ITA) 22:34.233
2. Filip Salac (CZE) +0.620
3. Alonso Lopez (ESP) +1.537
DNF. Pedro Acosta (ESP) Red Bull KTM Ajo
DNS. Albert Arenas (ESP) Red Bull KTM Ajo
World championship standings Moto2
1. Tony Arbolino (ITA), 99 points
2. Pedro Acosta (ESP) Red Bull KTM Ajo, 74
3. Alonso Lopez (ESP), 61
11. Albert Arenas (ESP) Red Bull KTM Ajo, 27