MotoGP 2016 Le Mans Results

Bruce Allen
by Bruce Allen

Lorenzo Romps; Chase Tightens at the Top

The record books will show that Yamaha defector Jorge Lorenzo won today’s French Grand Prix by 10 seconds over teammate and rival Valentino Rossi. The mainstream racing media will be busy slavering over young Maverick Vinales, who put a Suzuki on the podium for the first time since Loris Capirossi did so at Brno in 2008. The real story of today’s race, however, was the eight riders, including at least three contenders, who crashed out as if the race had been run in the wet, marking the first time the Rain Gods have ruined a race on a clear sunny day.

Maverick Vinales records his first career MotoGP podium and first for Suzuki since 2008. For those wondering, Vinales was just 13 when that happened.

Q2 on Saturday was a study in contrasts. Defending world champion Lorenzo lay down a 1:32.2 early in the session, which would have sufficed to put him on his first ever premier class pole at Le Mans, in front of Marc Marquez. Later, he pitted, changed the rear tire, trimmed an annoying hangnail, then went back out and casually posted a 1:31.975, becoming the first rider ever to crack the 1:32 barrier at the Bugatti Circuit on two wheels. Meanwhile, Dani Pedrosa, suddenly the “presumptive” #2 rider on the factory Yamaha team for the next two years, lost the front entering the Dunlop Chicane, narrowly avoided getting creamed by several following riders, and ended the session sucking canal water in 11th place. Rossi, for his part, struggled through a flashback to 2015 while securing 7th, mired on the third row on a narrow track not terribly conducive to overtaking, as if that made any difference to the Italian icon.

Jorge Lorenzo was not to be denied this weekend.

Lorenzo’s lap begs the question: What’s all the fuss about the standard ECU? If qualifying lap times were two seconds slower than last year, opponents might have an argument. From here, it doesn’t appear to make any difference in qualifying. That it makes things more difficult at race distance is somewhat more credible.

28 Laps of Mayhem

As his qualifying times foreshadowed, Jorge Lorenzo jumped out to an early lead in the race and was completely untouchable.

As expected, when the lights went out, Lorenzo took the hole shot, assumed the lead, withstood a minor early threat from the factory Ducatis, and ran away from the field. My notes on Lap 2: “race over.” Fans were thus reduced to enduring a battle for second place, comparable to spending 45 minutes to see who would lose The Super Bowl. For the record, the early first group was comprised of Lorenzo, Ducati teammates Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone, Marquez and Pol Espargaro on the Tech 3 Yamaha, who got swallowed up by Rossi on Lap 3.

Marquez appeared to be struggling, while Rossi was recovering from a poor start. Iannone went through on Dovizioso on Lap 6, and it appeared Dovi was ready to strike back until he perhaps remembered the newly issued and oppressive team rule prohibiting such a move until the next lap. Fortunately for him, Iannone, who seems to be developing some kind of adversarial relationship with success, crashed unassisted out of second place on the Lap 7 in a replay of his bonehead move in the season opener in Qatar. The hapless Scott Redding’s Pramac Ducati retired at about the same time when his engine, in his words, “simply stopped.”

Yonny Hernandez failed to finish for the third time in five rounds. The young Colombian has just three points on the season.

Iannone’s crash moved Marquez up to 3rd and Rossi to 4th. On Lap 8, Cal Crutchlow crashed out of Tranche 5, as did Tito Rabat. By now, Lorenzo’s lead over Dovizioso was 1.5 seconds. Yonny Hernandez, working his way out of a good job, crashed on Lap 9. On Lap 12 my only note was “here comes Rossi.” Vale went through on Marquez at Garage Vert on Lap 13 and passed Dovizioso one lap later to take over 2nd place, with Lorenzo barely visible in the distance.

Marc Marquez was able to recover from his crash and finished 13th, scoring three points and matching Hernandez’s season-long total.

Marquez was losing great gobs of yardage to Lorenzo and Rossi exiting the corners, forcing him to brake late and hard entering the turns and putting a big load on his front tire. My sole note on Lap 15: “Marquez going down.” Sure enough, on Lap 16, both he and Dovizioso went down simultaneously at the Museum Corner. The remarkable visual reminded me of an old James Bond movie in which his tricked-out Aston Martin, at the mere touch of a button, sprayed oil on the road, causing the bad guys chasing him on motorcycles to slide off into the woods. The net effect of the Lap 16 double dip was to elevate Vinales to third place, from which he would hold off Pedrosa. Otherwise, aside from Jack Miller’s customary crash on Lap 18 and Bradley Smith’s unfortunate off on Lap 20, that was that.

Andrea Dovizioso’s string of hard luck continues with his third consecutive DNF.

So. Someone please tell me the last time a race run under perfect conditions featured eight riders crashing out, not counting Redding’s retirement. At the post-race press conference, Lorenzo said it was an ongoing issue with the Michelins, with riders not being fully under control at any time on the track. Rossi said it was just racing. Vinales said it was having less control on the brakes with a full fuel load. I wasn’t asked, but my belief is that the Rain Gods planted the expectation of a wet track in the riders’ heads and it stuck. Having gone out on slicks, the results were almost predictable.

Danilo Petrucci made his much delayed season debut. Finishing seventh as the highest-placed Ducati, one wonders what could have been for the promising Italian if he wasn’t injured to start the season.

Yamaha to Settle for Dani Pedrosa?

The latest rumors in the media suggest that Vinales, having played too hard in his negotiations with Yamaha, has been turned away in favor of… Dani Pedrosa? It may be that today’s podium will cause Yamaha to up the ante again, but, if not, it seems Yamaha has taken a very short term, conservative and dull approach to filling Lorenzo’s seat. Yes, Dani is still a good rider; that his best days are behind him is pretty clear. Yes, he will be a threat to podium most weekends, with perhaps a few wins left in him, but he will not win a title. Instead of taking a bold step, choosing a young gun, a Vinales or Rins, to serve as Rossi’s wingman and #2, primed to take over the top spot in 2019, Yamaha appears to have kicked the can down the road.

If Iannone, Dovizioso and Marquez had not collapsed mentally today, Pedrosa would have finished seventh. Just sayin’.

Dani Pedrosa is, naturally, playing it coy about potential contract talks for next season. It is important to note that Yamaha’s title sponsor, Spanish mobile phone company Movistar, would likely want a big name Spaniard to replace Jorge Lorenzo.

If Pedrosa signs with Yamaha, it raises a larger question concerning who will take over the #2 seat at Repsol Honda. Iannone would have been the logical choice last year, but has proven himself thoroughly unpredictable, a personality trait not highly prized in Japanese culture. Marquez would object to Alex Rins, and Rins might not be enamored of the idea of wrestling with the RC213V in its current state. Pol Espargaro could be a good candidate, except he’s always been a Yamaha guy. (Why Yamaha has not given Pol more consideration is a mystery.) And any reader who suggests that Cal Crutchlow is the obvious choice should immediately seek therapy. Five points in five rounds; the scoreboard doesn’t lie. Honda might as well promote Alex Marquez, who himself has managed four crashes and five points in five rounds in Moto2.

Valentino Rossi doesn’t have a teammate for next season yet but at least he’s found a Friend.

Looking Ahead

A recent Facebook meme, directed at women, said, “Sure, it’s all fun and games until your jeans don’t fit anymore.” The same could be said for the MotoGP calendar, with Mugello, Catalunya, Assen and The Sachsenring looming. Two weeks from now the season will be a third gone, and the standings at the top are as tight as wallpaper. The Movistar Yamaha team loves Mugello; I’m not sure Marquez loves any circuit other than Austin right now. The factory Ducati team will be looking for something, anything good to happen at their home crib in a season racked by disappointment and bad luck. Team Suzuki Ecstar, brimming with optimism, will want to build upon their recent success.

Meanwhile, in Moto2 action, Alex Rins beat Simone Corsi by 1.8 seconds for the win, taking over the championship lead over Sam Lowes.

We have arrived at the heart of the 2016 MotoGP calendar. The silly season will be heating up, too, with Tech 3 Yamaha having this week signed Jonas Folger from Moto2. (Folger celebrated his promotion by crashing four times at Le Mans, providing a reasonable impression of Toni Elias at his most lethal.) Even on days like today, when the race was a snooze, there’s always something to argue about in MotoGP.

2016 MotoGP Le Mans Results




Jorge LorenzoMovistar Yamaha


Valentino RossiMovistar Yamaha+10.654


Maverick VinalesSuzuki Ecstar+14.177


Dani PedrosaRepsol Honda+18.719


Pol EspargaroMonster Yamaha Tech3+24.931


Aleix EspargaroSuzuki Ecstar+32.921


Danilo PetrucciOcto Pramac Yaknich Ducati+38.251


Hector BarberaAvintia Racing+38.504


Alvaro BautistaAprilia Gresini+48.536


Stefan BradlAprilia Gresini+54.502


Eugene LavertyAspar Ducati+1:02.677


Loris BazAvintia Ducati+1:07.658


Marc MarquezRepsol Honda+1 Lap

Not Classified

Bradley SmithMonster Yamaha Tech39 Laps

Jack MillerEstrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda11 Laps

Andrea DoviziosoDucati Corse13 Laps

Andrea IannoneDucati17 Laps

Tito RabatEstrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda21 Laps

Cal CrutchlowLCR Honda22 Laps

Yonny HernandezAspar Ducati22 Laps

Scott ReddingOcto Pramac Yaknich Ducati23 Laps

2016 MotoGP Top Ten Standings After 5 Rounds




Jorge LorenzoYamaha90


Marc MarquezHonda85


Valentino RossiYamaha78


Dani PedrosaHonda53


Maverick VinalesSuzuki49


Pol EspargaroYamaha47


Aleix EspargaroYamaha42


Hector BarberaDucati39


Eugene LavertyDucati33


Andrea IannoneDucati23
Bruce Allen
Bruce Allen

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2 of 23 comments
  • Vrooom Vrooom on May 09, 2016

    Congrats to Vinales, despite all the crashes, that's impressive. He had Aleix beaten by 30 seconds if nothing else, that's an accomplishment. Hard to believe Yamaha is going with Pedrosa, it's not a stupid choice, but it is a boring one. Competent but not exciting and not going to win them any championships.

  • John phyyt John phyyt on May 10, 2016

    Gosh; Bruce, Crutchlow will now have to have a tranche all to himself. Perhaps (5C) . Stay away from him for your own sake.
    You have been following the top class since the two strokes . Michelin has always had a reputation of astounding grip followed by NONE. Seems it is in their DNA. Doohan could say a thing or two. about knowing a bike so well that you could ride it beyond common reason because the feedback was instinctive. Even Marquez doesn't know these tires well enough.
    Would Lorenzo have won if he was on a Ducati? ..
    Pedrosa is a great team player : an almost unheard of attribute amongst this class. He will support Rossi and ensure another Yamaha victory in 2017 . Unless Honda finally wake-up and give their boy horsepower.