A wet and difficult Shark Helmets Grand Prix de France was the stage for Pol Espargaro to charge to his third top three result of 2020 on the KTM RC16 as all four KTM riders finished in the points at Le Mans. KTM also celebrated their sixth win from ten races in Moto3™
The French Grand Prix pushed the 2020 MotoGP calendar up to nine rounds for the season (10 for the Moto2 and Moto3 classes) and took place historic Le Mans circuit for the 33rd FIM World Championship race at the venue. After a weekend of changeable and cool weather conditions, race day dawned cloudy and wet with heavy showers falling as the riders lined-up on the grid.
Pol Espargaro got away strongly on his KTM RC16 and slotted into the top five of the running. As position swaps, crashed and technical problems occurred through the 26 laps Espargaro maintained his pace and closed up the fight for the rostrum. Red Bull KTM Tech3’s Miguel Oliveira also pulled along behind his brandmate as both riders sensed a strong chance of silverware. At the checkered flag Espargaro had overtaken Andrea Dovizioso for 3rd and was just 1.7 seconds from winner Danilo Petrucci. Oliveira was demoted to 6th through the last tight corner section at Le Mans.
Brad Binder took the first half of the race to gain optimum feeling with the wet surface but then set impressive lap-times to move up from the depths of the top twenty and take 12th. Fellow rookie Iker Lecuona secured the last point for the Red Bull KTM Tech3 squad with 15th place.
Pol Espargaro: “I enjoyed that so much. It was a very tough race. When I saw the rain coming I said to myself ‘I’ve got nothing to lose, so let’s send-it and try it’. On the last laps I was spinning and sliding a lot but I was super-pumped to see the podium was in reach, so I pushed. It was a great ending.”
Miguel Oliveira: “Sixth place is a good result for us and it was my first full wet race in MotoGP at the same time. Overall, it was a good performance, we had a decent race, which was very long. It’s just a pity not being able to finish fourth because I think it was there for us. We’ll go again next week and try to continue like this and finish all the races. Five to go, there are still many points up for grab, so we are focused on what we can do.”
Brad Binder: “Mixed emotions today because at the beginning of the race I was incredibly slow for the first ten-fifteen laps. Then, all of a sudden, I found two seconds on one lap and started to understand a lot more about how much grip there was available. It was disappointing that I wasted so much time in the beginning and I learnt today how incredible the tires are; I’ve never been able to do things like that in the wet and it’s quite amazing to see what you can do with the bike in those conditions. So today was a learning day because I was much, much better at the end than the beginning. The next time it’s wet we will be better-off.”
Iker Lecuona: “It was a very difficult weekend for me. My goal was just to finish, as I realized that my pace was not very strong. Normally I like wet conditions but I struggled a lot on this track from Friday, so I just tried to bring it home safely. I’m not happy but I hope I can improve next week in Aragon.”
Mike Leitner, Red Bull KTM Race Manager: “A good day with our fifth podium of the season and in some race conditions that were far from easy. Pol did a great job and pulled back a lot of time at one stage. It was pretty exciting to watch him move into the podium positions. Miguel was also very strong and was unlucky to lose that top five right at the end. Both Brad and Iker had some positives to take from today, they are both rookies and do not have much wet weather time on the race bike. We had all four RC16s in the points today so that shows how competitive the bike can be on a tricky track like this and how well the whole team worked. I think we can go to Aragon looking for more.”
Moto2 & Moto3
SKY Racing Team VR46’s Celestino Vietti claimed the Moto3 checkered flag for his second career victory and the second in 2020 with the KTM RC4. The young Italian held off Jaume Masia and Albert Arenas; the latter giving KTM a double top three result on the day with 3rd. He clinched his ninth rostrum of the season and reclaimed the lead in the Moto3 World Championship standings by six points from Ai Ogura. Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Raul Fernandez classified 7th and just over a second away from the winner.
Celestino Vietti: “A strange race because I did not expect this result, we were fast but I didn’t hope for much today. I think we chose the correct rear tire and in the last part of the race we had a bit more speed than the others. In the last three laps I tried to get to the front but all the riders were braking very hard. It was difficult to overtake but I’m very happy: we managed the race in a good way. I’m also happy for the team because we struggled with some crashes this weekend. This is for them.”
In Moto2 Jorge Martin crashed out early exiting Turn 10. Red Bull KTM Ajo teammate Tetsuta Nagashima reached the finish in 21st position.
MotoGP ploughs ahead with the 2020 fixtures and will now travel back to Spain for a double weekend residence at MotorLand Aragon for the Grands Prix of Aragon and Teruel on October 18th and 25th.
Results MotoGP Shark Helmets Grand Prix de France 2020
1. Danilo Petrucci (ITA), Ducati 45:54.736
2. Alex Marquez (ESP), Honda +1.273
3. Pol Espargaro (ESP), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing +1.711
4. Andrea Dovizioso (ESP) Suzuki +3.911
5. Johann Zarco (FRA) Ducati +4.310
6. Miguel Oliveira (POR), Red Bull KTM Tech3 +4.466
12. Brad Binder (RSA), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing +27.321
15. Iker Lecuona (ESP), Red Bull KTM Tech3 +51.087
Results Moto2 Shark Helmets Grand Prix de France 2020
1. Sam Lowes (GBR) 41:27.648
2. Remy Gardner (AUS) +3.822
3. Marco Bezzecchi (ITA) +4.184
21. Tetsuta Nagashima (JPN) Red Bull KTM Ajo +1:14.158
DNF. Jorge Martin (ESP) Red Bull KTM Ajo
Results Moto3 Shark Helmets Grand Prix de France 2020
1. Celestino Vietti (ITA) KTM 37:37.384
2. Jaume Masia (ESP) Honda +0.142
3. Albert Arenas (ESP) KTM +0.198
7. Raul Fernandez (ESP) Red Bull KTM Ajo +1.361