Race Analysis: Le Mans MotoGP
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Race Analysis: Le Mans MotoGP

By FORMULAMotoGPMag - 12 October 2020

Author: Myanna Wedes

The Le Mans 2020 MotoGP could be a deciding factor for the World Championship of 2020 with many riders suffering misfortune and crashing after rain affected the strategy of many and those less experienced in the rain being pushed to their limit. The race was nothing short of thrilling with the riders dicing and darting with one another to take the victory, although on the grid it was chaos with tyre choices and rain set ups having to be changed within minutes. This stressful experience was rewarding for Danilo Petrucci, Alex Marquez and Pol Espargaro though heartbreaking for Jack Miller and Cal Crutchlow who were racing with incredible pace and a chance at the victory or worst case a podium.

Credit - CormacGP & Repsol Honda MotoGP Team (Alex Marquez)

From a racing analysis point of view, ride of the day goes to Alex Marquez who started 18th and finished 2nd. This achievement is a major stepping stone for the young rookie rider and also living in the shadows of his brother Marc Marquez. In terms of the Le Mans circuit, baby Marquez and Petrucci outshined the field with their speciality in challenging conditions. It was a good reflection of the Italian’s skill plus a nice reminder of why he loves the circuit with a second MotoGP success at the French circuit. As one of the most genuine riders in the paddock, Petrucci utilised his weight factor with the tyres to keep the performance levels at their optimum and no doubt Ducati was happy to reap the rewards after being winless at the French circuit for so long. Good things come to those who wait.

Credit - Ducati Corse Press (Danilo Petrucci, Andrea Dovizioso and Jack Miller)

Regardless of the pressures thrown at him, Petrucci battled with teammates Andrea Dovizioso and Miller with class, precision and skill. There have been doubts about Petrucci’s ability since his rough patch onboard the Ducati red beast and this victory will put a spring in his step to finish the season off with strength. Originally, when the rain fell onto the circuit, Petrucci was disappointed though it enabled him to become the seventh different victor in 2020! His pace in the dry was strong as well although you can see the frustration in Dovi’s face after losing out and missing a golden chance for key World Championship points. Can you believe that, Fabio Quartararo even with a poor race managed to extend his lead!

Credit Ducati Corse Press (Danilo Petrucci)

Danilo Petrucci:

"It was an incredible race. As of this morning, I knew I could have done a good performance with the dry conditions, but when I saw the rain on the grid, I knew it was going to be a difficult race. I thought I had nothing to lose and that maybe, I could be equally strong even in the wet. In the past, I had managed to get podiums in those conditions, but never a win. I've waited a long time before getting back on the top step of the podium, and it's nice to do it here at Le Mans, a track where I've got some good results in the past. I want to dedicate this win to all the people who have continued to believe in me even in this difficult time."

In contrast, Alex Marquez demonstrated that he is adapting to the Honda machine and although his pace is slower in the dry, the wet certainly created the perfect environment for success. As Marc watched on at home and their dad crossed his fingers inside the garage, Marquez pushed limits and cannot really believe what he has achieved considering the negative press in past weeks. You have to be happy for the rookie rider!

Credit - CormacGP & Repsol Honda MotoGP Team

Alex Marquez:

"A great day. It wasn’t easy starting 18th on the grid but I was feeling really good on the bike. We lost some time fighting with Cal and Pol and Dovi but apart from this I did a good race and it’s a great result for the Repsol Honda Team. I want to say thank you to them for always believing in me and working so hard. Myself and the team never gave up. I felt good even in the dry Warm Up this morning so I think we have managed everything well. It’s been a great weekend and we go to Aragon for two more races. Now we just need to make this result in the dry!"

When it comes to races where the potential is to finish at the top, Miller and Crutchlow know all too well about poor luck. The Australian rider had mechanical issues with one of his bikes and then when the rain fell, had to utilise this machine which ended his race early plus also denting his World Championship bid after failing on him with his gloves being thrown in the garage as a sign of pure frustration. The conditions were a perfect combination for the Pramac MotoGP rider, and it was a real shame to see such a sight. It will take a mental reset for Miller to come back stronger and he is very good at doing this because he knows how far he can take the Ducati bike! We wish the Australian rider a boatload of luck as there is still a chance to succeed because you never know what may happen to your competition.

Credit - Pramac Racing MotoGP Team (Jack Miller)

Jack Miller:

“This is the painful face of racing, I am very sorry because we did well all weekend, the feeling with the bike during the race was great, I was doing everything well and then the technical problem forced me to return to the pit. The whole team had worked very well and when these things happen to you, you are even more sad.”

During the weekend, fellow friend Crutchlow was performing at a brilliant pace and had a promising start which was going to definitely shape up to be a battle at the very end. The LCR Honda was strong all weekend especially with the varying conditions. Right now, his career is on the line with Andrea Iannone’s court case upcoming and Crutchlow plus Dovi fighting it out for the Aprilia ride. At the present moment, every race opportunity to finish with a result is another tick on the resume to ensure you stay on board two wheels. With Aragon next up, the Honda rider will be eager to impress whilst also outperforming riders likes Alex Marquez with Marc’s return still yet to be decided.

Credit - LCR Honda Castrol MotoGP Team (Cal Crutchlow)

Cal Crutchlow:

“Today we had a great start to the race and we were in not a bad position and I didn’t really want to leave the race with how the conditions were. The first five laps of the race I struggled to get heat into the tyres and was not able to push as much as I wanted. But then I got in a good rhythm, the pace was good and at one point we were catching the leader. Unfortunately with eight laps to go I crashed in turn two, but the previous five laps I was struggling on the right-hand side in the last corner and turn two. It just seemed that I was not able to lean the bike and when I did lean the bike I crashed. Obviously not a great result, but a better weekend and it was nice to be able to be up there in the wet and the dry and we now look forward to Aragon in a week’s time.”

If there is any rider that is smooth with the tyres and ended up shredding them unexpectedly, this was Dovi. Sounds like a bad tyre decision that left him unable to challenge the race winner and end up a sitting duck with no tyre grip that became a very frustrating experience displayed on track as riders passed him with ease. There was no defensive Dovi. Races like these can make or break your mental strength, so psychologically speaking, Dovi needs to stay focused because a lapse in his concentration could see a title disappear. You can see the frustration written all over his face as he desperately wants a World Championship whilst currently being unemployed.

Ducati Corse Press (Andrea Dovizioso)

Andrea Dovizioso:

“I'm a bit disappointed because today I thought I could get a better result. Danilo was very fast, and he was riding really well. I managed to stay with him for most of the race, but at the end maybe, we paid for a wrong tyre choice. I was riding with soft tyre both at the front and the rear, and in the last laps, I couldn’t turn the bike properly. In these conditions, it is always difficult to make the correct choice, because you never know if the track will remain completely wet or if it will start to dry up in the end. Anyway, today we earned valuable points for the championship, and I am happy for Danilo’s victory. Now we're already focusing on the next race in Aragón.”

To the other title contenders, the race went not as planned. This relates to Quartararo, Mir, Maverick Vinales and Valentino Rossi. For one, it was a crash on the first lap and others a lack of pace, plus experience in being able to charge forward. The French rider rode gingerly whilst Mir felt frustrated all weekend with troubles changing corner direction, braking and just overall performance. Whereas, Rossi had a strong entry weekend although made a major mistake early in to the race by being too eager and Vinales staying within title reach though not displaying a strong race pace performance. The crowd most certainly helped Quartararo to recover points because he was like on roller blades going down a hill backwards.

Team Suzuki Ecstar (Joan Mir)

Joan Mir:

“I lost a lot of time at the start of the race where I avoided the crash and then I began struggling a lot for grip. After that I started to get into a rhythm and I was feeling really good with the bike despite the conditions. By then it was too late to catch up to the front
riders but it was a nice race to try and get the maximum points, so I’m happy about that. I was 9th heading into the last chicane but then I lost the ideal line when Fabio did an overtake and sent me wide, but this is racing. I’m hoping to get a strong result next weekend in Aragon.”

Credit - PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team (Fabio Quartararo)

Fabio Quartararo:

“We were all on the grid about to start the race and then it started raining, which was disappointing. We knew dry conditions would have been better for us. It was a hard race but I’m happy because we never gave up fighting; on the last lap when Joan [Mir] overtook me I was able to get straight back past him. It was important to score as many points as possible and actually we were able to extend our lead slightly. We will see what will happen in Aragón but I’m really pleased with my first race in these tricky conditions. Being on pole position at home with the fans was really special, there were only 5,000 of them here but they really helped me.”

The rider who certainly profited from the mistakes made was Pol Espargaro on board the KTM. The Spanish rider enjoyed the mixed conditions whilst fellow KTM rider Brad Binder struggled. It was polar opposites in terms of levels of experience. Regardless of the podium, Espargaro was aware of how challenging the race was going to be though saw the chance to overtake Dovi and did it with a gutsy move whilst ensuring not to drop and crash out. The past races are teaching the KTM crew a lot and it is nice to see as they continue to stamp their name in to the sports history books.

Credit - KTM Press & Polarity Photo (Pol Espargaro)

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.”

In sport, mistakes can be made. With that said, recovering from them can sometimes be too difficult and this appears to be the case for Rossi. Fans across the world were cheering for a 10th World Championship, although right now, it looks to be over with another crash, resulting in 0 points. In terms of the race bike quality, Rossi was looking strong! With experience, you can also misjudge conditions. From a trackside photographer we know, the conditions were cold and with cold tyres, hitting the throttle and trying to pick the bike up out of the corner, it can sometimes cause the front or back tyres to give out and this looks to be exactly what happened to Rossi. Such a shame because the battle at the front with the “Doctor” would have been incredible to witness.

Credit - Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing MotoGP Team (Valentino Rossi)

Valentino Rossi:

“It was a great shame, because a crash like this on the first corners is easily done in half-and-half conditions. You don't understand your potential yet, if you're fast with the bike, how you're feeling with the bike - nothing. But I started well, and I was already in a good position. I entered the second corner very slowly, like everyone else. We were all taking it easy, because these were very difficult conditions. It was very cold with the rain. Unfortunately I lost the rear. It's a shame and I'm also a bit unlucky in this period, because we didn't take any points in these last three races, whilst my speed and potential weren't so bad. So, we need to try again next week in Aragón, and we will see.”

The title race is very close once again and small mistakes can bring about unnecessary pressure. Mir is “Mr Consistent”. Quartararo is “The One To Beat” and Dovi is the one “Ducati Want In Their History Books”. So what happens next with two Spanish Grand Prix’s in Aragon?

Do you stick to what you know or do what Vinales did in Le Mans and try something new? We know in cooking competitions; you stick to the recipe and do not deviate… A perfect example of this is the error Vinales made in trying to start without electronics!

Credit - Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team (Maverick Vinales)

Maverick Vinales:

“I tried something different on the start, but it didn’t work. I tried to start on my own, without electronics. During the weekend this went really well, I started very fast. But then during today's race, with all the noise coming from the other bikes on the grid, I couldn't hear my bike and wasn't able to be precise. So, for the next race we will go back to electronics and try to improve starting that way. I hope the bad luck is finished, because in the first corners I got involved in Vale’s accident. To avoid the crash I had to go straight, and I was last. Then I started to fight a lot with the other riders, but I couldn’t find a good rhythm. But in the end we were fast. I’m happy that the bike was working well in the wet. Usually we struggle a little bit. It was a shame the race wasn’t one lap longer, because I was catching up with Fabio one second per lap. But it is like this and we need to feel positive, because somehow we saved a little bit of the race. We only lose one point in the championship to the leader. This is important. Next race is for sure going to be much better. Aragón is a track that I really like, and I will go for everything there.”

Will “Top Gun” Vinales finally get rid of his inner demons and shake things up!

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