Le Mans MotoGP: Vinales wins as Rossi crashes on final lap
Maverick Vinales took victory in the French GP at Le Mans after a thrilling duel with Yamaha MotoGP teammate Valentino Rossi ended with the Italian rider crashing on the final lap of the race.
What had been a three-way race for honours between the two factory Yamaha riders and the Tech 3 bike of Johann Zarco had boiled down to a straight fight between Vinales and Rossi in the closing stages.
It was home hero Zarco, running soft tyres front and rear, that led the opening stages after a great start from third on the grid, with Vinales slotting into second place ahead of Rossi.
But Zarco was unable to pull away from the factory Yamahas, both running medium tyres all round, and on lap 7 the Frenchman was passed by Vinales at the Dunlop chicane.
From there, Vinales maintained a small advantage over Zarco and Rossi, with the satellite rider holding on to second until Rossi made his move at the Dunlop chicane on the 23rd lap of 28.
The Italian's charge continued as he reeled in Vinales and passed him at the same location three laps later.
It seemed Rossi had done enough to seal his first MotoGP win of the season, especially as Vinales cut the track trying to keep up with the 38-year-old on the penultimate tour.
But Rossi ran wide on the very last lap at Garage Vert, allowing Vinales through into the lead, before the seven-time premier class champion lost the front end at Turn 11 and crashed out.
That meant Vinales took his third win of the year and the lead of the standings to go with it, with Zarco recording the first podium of his top-class career in second place three seconds behind.
Pedrosa goes from 13th to third
From a lowly 13th on the grid, Dani Pedrosa took the final podium spot for Honda, as his teammate Marc Marquez crashed out of fourth place at the Dunlop chicane on lap 18.
Jerez winner Pedrosa climbed up to seventh in the early stages before passing Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso and muscling his way by LCR rider Cal Crutchlow to take fifth - which became third when Marquez and Rossi crashed.
As a result, Pedrosa now moves up to second in the points on 68, 17 behind Vinales and six ahead of Rossi, who slips from first to third.
Dovizioso held on from Crutchlow to take fourth, while Jorge Lorenzo on the second factory Ducati moved up from eighth to sixth thanks to the late crashes - 10 places up on his grid slot.
Zarco's Tech 3 teammate Jonas Folger, Jack Miller (Marc VDS Honda), Loris Baz (Avintia Ducati) and Andrea Iannone (Suzuki) completed the top 10, all helped by Aleix Espargaro's Aprilia suffering engine failure while running eighth in the latter stages.
After both reaching Q2, KTM riders Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith benefitted from the attrition to finish 12th and 13th behind the second Marc VDS Honda of Tito Rabat.
Sam Lowes also scored his first points as a MotoGP rider in 14th for Aprilia, ahead of Alex Rins' Suzuki stand-in Sylvain Guintoli, who completed the scorers in 15th.
|Ret||46||Valentino Rossi||Yamaha||1 lap|
|Ret||41||Aleix Espargaro||Aprilia||5 laps|
|Ret||93||Marc Marquez||Honda||11 laps|
|Ret||9||Danilo Petrucci||Ducati||11 laps|
|Ret||45||Scott Redding||Ducati||21 laps|
|Ret||17||Karel Abraham||Ducati||23 laps|
|Ret||8||Hector Barbera||Ducati||25 laps|
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