Vi­nales tri­umphs but heart­break for Rossi

New Straits Times - - Sport -

LE MANS: Spain’s Mav­er­ick Vi­nales snatched vic­tory in a thrilling French Grand Prix at Le Mans yes­ter­day af­ter a cap­ti­vat­ing duel with Ital­ian vet­eran Valentino Rossi.

Vi­nales surges into the lead of the Mo­toGP world cham­pi­onship at Rossi’s ex­pense af­ter the 38-year-old Ital­ian slid off in the fi­nal lap as he chased the fel­low Yamaha.

Lo­cal favourite Jo­hann Zarco — also on a Yamaha — was sec­ond and Spain’s Dani Pe­drosa, of Honda, was third.

The 22-year-old Vi­nales, who lost the early lead to Zarco af­ter start­ing from pole, said: “In­cred­i­ble, in­cred­i­ble. I just gave my best. I saw Valentino make a mis­take and I made a push af­ter two dis­as­trous races.”

Vi­nales and Rossi were bat­tling for the win through­out but stepped up their breath­less bat­tle with three laps to go when Rossi grabbed the lead, send­ing the 100,000 crowd un­der the Le Mans sun­shine wild.

It looked all over, but Rossi made an un­char­ac­ter­is­tic er­ror to al­low Vi­nales back into the lead on the last lap, then Rossi lost con­trol and skid­ded out the race when push­ing hard to get his nose back in front in the clos­ing mo­ments.

Rossi was left dis­traught af­ter­wards as Vi­nales cel­e­brated a third win from five grands prix this sea­son to lead the stand­ings on 85 points, with Pe­drosa on 68 and Rossi still stuck on 62 in third.

Honda’s de­fend­ing world cham­pion Marc Mar­quez, of Spain, sits fourth af­ter he too crashed out, on a day of carnage at Le Mans.

Ear­lier, half the Moto3 field went fly­ing off the track in a mass pile-up that caused the race to be stopped and restarted.

What ap­peared to be leaked fluid on only the sec­ond lap of the race saw a suc­ces­sion of rid­ers slide off at high speed one af­ter the other into the gravel trap, with some of the rac­ers whacked by fly­ing bikes.

Cham­pi­onship leader and even­tual win­ner Joan Mir from Spain was among those who went for a med­i­cal check-up — as stew­ards worked fran­ti­cally to clean up the track — but none of the rid­ers was badly hurt and all were able to re­turn for the restart.

When the ac­tion got back un­der way 30 min­utes later – the race was short­ened to 16 laps – the Honda rider Mir emerged vic­to­ri­ous.

It was the 19-year-old’s third vic­tory of the sea­son and ex­tended his lead in the cham­pi­onship stand­ings.

Franco Mor­bidelli made it four vic­to­ries from five races this sea­son as he held off hard-charg­ing fel­low Ital­ian Francesco Bag­naia to win the Moto2 race.

Mor­bidelli ap­pears peer­less in the cham­pi­onship, his lat­est wellde­served vic­tory stretch­ing his lead in the stand­ings over fel­low Kalex man Thomas Luthi, the Swiss who was third be­hind Bag­naia.

The 22-year-old Mor­bidelli tops the stand­ings with 100 points, with Luthi on 80 and a third Kalex, Alex Mar­quez of Spain, on 62.

Mav­er­ick Vi­nales

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