French MotoGP: Miller wins chaotic flag-to-flag race

Ducati’s Jack Miller won a chaotic flag-to-flag French Grand Prix despite two long-lap penalties in a crash-strewn MotoGP contest as Fabio Quartararo reclaimed the championship lead.

The 27-lap race was declared dry for the start, but early rain led to MotoGP’s first flag-to-flag grand prix since Brno 2017 – with Miller prevailing despite a double long-lap penalty, while the day proved disastrous of world champions Suzuki. 

Miller took the lead from third on the grid at the start ahead of Yamaha duo Maverick Vinales and Fabio Quartararo, while Marc Marquez muscled his way into fourth past Takaaki Nakagami. 

Vinales took the lead from Miller into the downhill La Chapelle right-hander on the second lap, with the top three quickly opening up 1.7s to the pack behind as spots of rain began to appear.

The rain fell heavier on lap three, with Miller bravely blasting back into the lead at the start of lap four as Vinales slipped back to fifth. 

Despite the rain falling, Quartararo and Miller engaged over the lead across the fourth tour, the Yamaha rider barging past at the Garage Vert double-apex right-hander.

Miller retaliated at the next corner and would drop to fourth on lap five when he ran off track at the Blue esses having ceded the lead to Quartararo again at the Dunlop chicane earlier in the tour.

A moment for Suzuki’s Alex Rins – leaping up from 15th at the start – at the Musee left-hander allowed Marquez into third on lap five, with Quartararo leading the Honda rider, Rins and Miller into pitlane at the end of lap five to switch to their wet bikes. 

Drama ensued in the pitlane as both Miller and Ducati teammate Francesco Bagnaia were hit with double long-lap penalties for speeding in pitlane, while Quartararo stopped in the wrong side of the Yamaha box – which netted him a long lap penalty. 

With Quartararo losing time swapping to his other Yamaha, Marquez moved into the lead in pitlane ahead of Rins.

Rins’ podium hopes were dashed just seconds later, however, as he crashed at the Dunlop chicane, while world champion teammate Joan Mir fell out of the grand prix moments earlier before getting to pitlane. 

A master of flag-to-flag races, Marquez immediately opened up a two-second lead on Quartararo, with the Yamaha rider having nothing to respond to the Spaniard. 

But Marquez crashed at the final corner on lap nine, promoting Quartararo back into the lead ahead of Miller – who served his long lap penalties on lap nine and 10.

Despite the penalty, Miller’s pace on the soft wet rear tyre relative to Quartararo on the medium wet rear was such that he was only just over a second adrift of the Yamaha rider after his second long lap.

Miller made light work of Quartararo at La Chapelle on lap 12, with Quartararo serving his long lap – situated on the outside of Garage Vert – on the same tour.

Miller got his lead out to well over four seconds for the latter stages and came under no threat through to the chequered flag to secure his second win of the 2021 season.

As the rain abated and the track dried in the latter stages of the race, Quartararo’s pace dropped well off a cliff as he overstressed his soft front wet tyre, with Pramac’s Zarco ghosting up to the Yamaha by lap 21.

With no drive grip out of the final corner, Zarco breezed past Quartararo to take a second he wouldn’t let go of through to the chequered flag on home soil. 

Quartararo held onto third to take a one-point lead in the championship over Bagnaia, who recovered from his earlier penalties and 16th on the grid to finish fourth ahead of 2020 Le Mans winner Danilo Petrucci on the Tech 3 KTM

Alex Marquez used the conditions to come from 19th on the grid to sixth on his LCR Honda ahead of Nakagami and the factory Honda of Pol Espargaro, with Iker Lecuona (Tech 3) and Vinales rounding out the top 10.

Valentino Rossi slid to 11th on his Petronas SRT Yamaha, while teammate Franco Morbidell crashed on the opening lap at the Blue esses but remounted to finish 16th. 

Avintia rookie Luca Marini was 12th on his first wet MotoGP race ahead of KTM’s Brad Binder, the other Avintia rookie Enea Bastianini and Pramac stand-in Tito Rabat.

Marc Marquez did re-join after his earlier crash but fell a second time on lap 18, with KTM’s Miguel Oliveira also crashing out – with Rins falling for a second time.

The Aprilias of Aleix Espargaro and Lorenzo Savadori were forced out with mechanical dramas.

Race results:

Cla # Rider Bike Time
1 43 Australia Jack Miller Ducati  
2 5 France Johann Zarco Ducati 3.970
3 20 France Fabio Quartararo Yamaha 14.468
4 63 Italy Francesco Bagnaia Ducati 16.172
5 9 Italy Danilo Petrucci KTM 21.430
6 73 Spain Alex Marquez Honda 23.509
7 30 Japan Takaaki Nakagami Honda 30.164
8 44 Spain Pol Espargaro Honda 35.221
9 27 Spain Iker Lecuona KTM 40.432
10 12 Spain Maverick Viñales Yamaha 40.577
11 46 Italy Valentino Rossi Yamaha 42.198
12 10 Italy Luca Marini Ducati 52.408
13 33 South Africa Brad Binder KTM 59.377
14 23 Italy Enea Bastianini Ducati 1'02.224
15 53 Spain Tito Rabat Ducati 1'09.651
16 21 Italy Franco Morbidelli Yamaha 1'19.719
  93 Spain Marc Marquez Honda  
  41 Spain Aleix Espargaro Aprilia  
  88 Portugal Miguel Oliveira KTM  
  42 Spain Alex Rins Suzuki  
  32 Italy Lorenzo Savadori Aprilia  
  36 Spain Joan Mir Suzuki  
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