Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) rode to a rousing victory at a packed Le Mans today, taking Honda to its landmark 300th premier-class Grand Prix win.
After leading the Argentine and Spanish Grands Prix from start to finish the reigning MotoGP king had to fight for his 47th MotoGP win, battling with Australian Jack Miller and then riding harder than ever to maintain his advantage over Italians Andrea Dovizioso and Danilo Petrucci, who joined him on the podium.
The 2019 French Grand Prix was a tough and complex race all the way, with cold track temperatures convincing Marquez to run a soft-compound front tire for the first time. He pushed very hard for most of the 27 laps, stretching his advantage to four seconds with seven laps remaining, then was able to ease into his own safety zone and win by 1.9 seconds.
Honda's 300th victory in the class of kings (the category included 500cc machines until 2001 and larger-capacity MotoGP bikes since 2002) comes 63 years after the company won first time out in the category, when Jim Redman won the 1966 West German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, riding an RC181. Thirty years later Spaniard carlo Checa scored Honda's 100th premier-class success at Barcelona-Catalunya, riding a Honda NSR500. And ten years after that American Nicky Hayden took Honda's 200th victory in the class at Assen, riding a Repsol Honda Team RC211V.
Marquez now stands second in Honda's league of all-time 500cc/MotoGP winners, with 47 victories since he graduated to MotoGP in 2013. Top of the league is Mick Doohan, who won 54 500cc victories between 1990 and 1998; third is Valentino Rossi (33 wins, 2000 to 2003), then Dani Pedrosa (31 wins, 2006 to 2017), Freddie Spencer (20 wins, 1982 to 1985), Wayne Gardner (18 wins, 1986 to 1992), Alex Crivillé (15 wins 1992 to 2000) and Casey Stoner (15 wins, 2011 to 2012).
These next few weeks marks another significant anniversary for Honda: it is 60 years since the company commenced its first world championship campaign at the Isle of Man TT on June 3, 1959. Five Honda riders contested the Ultra-Lightweight race on that famous day, with Naomi Taniguchi scoring world championship points at the company's first attempt. He took sixth place, riding a 125cc RC142.
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL RC213V) had a strong ride that was constrained by a fifth-row start, the consequence of yesterday's changeable weather conditions. The three-times MotoGP winner ran the same soft/soft tire combination as Marquez but never felt confident to push to the limit. Nevertheless, he did make forward progress, advancing four places on the first lap and then another two on the second lap. After that he spent much of the race chasing Franco Morbidelli, eventually finishing ninth, just behind local hero Fabio Quartararo, who set the fastest lap of the race.
Marque's team-mate Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) made another step forward in his challenging start to the 2019 season. The 32-year-old three-times MotoGP World Champion qualified on the third row of the grid and ran inside the top ten for most of the race, finally taking the flag in 11th place. Nonetheless, Lorenzo made progress this weekend, further refining the ergonomics of his RC212V to suit his precise riding technique.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU RC213V) looked set to continue his very impressive start to his second season in MotoGP, fighting for a fifth consecutive top-ten result. But the 27-year-old from Chiba slid off at two-thirds distance, without injury.
Marquez's younger brother Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Kalex) scored a dominant victory in today's Moto2 race, leading from the fourth lap all the way to the finish, despite coming under serious pressure from several rivals. It was the 23-year-old Spaniard's fourth Moto2 win and his first since the 2017 Japanese Grand Prix at Twin Ring Motegi.
The race started under heavy cloud but the track remained dry throughout. The first rider to come unstuck chasing the leader was Simone Corsi (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2 Kalex), who had charged into second before sliding off on lap ten. That tumble gave the leader a bit of a break, but soon he had pole-starter Jorge Navarro (Lightech Speed Up Speed Up) and Augusto Fernandez (Flexbox HP 40 Kalex) chasing him. The two Spaniards swapped places several times, finally Navarro taking second place, riding the fastest lap on the last lap.
Fernandez's team-mate Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP 40 Kalex) had a bad day. He had won three of the first four races to lead the championship, only to tumble out of today's race, but retain the series lead, just ahead of COTA winner Thomas Luthi (Dynavolt Intact GP Kalex), who also had a poor day, finishing sixth, behind Marquez's team-mate Xavi Vierge (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Kalex) and fourth-placed Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo KTM).
Team-mates Somkiat Chantra (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia, Kalex) and Dimas Ekky Pratama (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia Kalex) also suffered at Le Mans, which is a tricky circuit that always claims many fallers. Twenty-year-old Thai rider Chantra was the first to go, while fighting through the pack from the eighth row of the grid. He fell at turn seven. Ekky Pratama very nearly made it to the finish, only to slide off at turn ten with four laps remaining.
Honda Moto3 riders John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing Honda NSF250RW) and Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW) scored a superb one-two finish at the end of a hectic Moto3 race.
Halfway through the final lap the remarkable Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW) looked like making it an all-Honda podium, until the 19-year-old rider from Tokyo was barged wide by a rival just four corners from the checkered flag. That incident was heartbreak for the Qatar GP winner, who had fought his way from 12th place on lap seven to join the lead group in the final stages and briefly take the lead with two laps to go. Despite the collision, Toba managed to cross the finish line in sixth place, just 1.4 seconds behind winner McPhee.
This was the 24-year-old Briton's second Moto3 victory and his first since the 2016 Czech GP. After starting from pole position he spent most of the 22 laps at the back of the lead group, only moving forward during the closing stages to engage in a breath-taking battle with Dalla Porta, Toba, Andrea Migno and others.
Tatsuki Suzuki (Sic58 Squadra Corse Honda NSF250RW), who finished second to team-mate Niccolo Antonelli (Sic58 Squadra Corse Honda NSF250RW) at the Spanish GP earlier this month, dominated the first half of the race. The 21-year-old from Chiba lost the lead when he ran wide at turn seven on lap 15, but he was soon in front again, only to lose the lead once again when he crashed at the first chicane, taking Tony Arbolino (Snipers Team Honda NSF250RW) with him. Sadly, Antonelli also crashed out of the race, but retains third place overall.
Dalla Porta's second-place result, just one tenth of a second behind McPhee, puts him a strong second in the World Championship. Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3 Honda NSF250RW) was Honda's next finisher in fourth place, just two seconds outside a podium finish.
Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW) led the first day of practice here and was with the leaders when he fell on the first lap.
The MotoGP circus travels south west from Le Mans to Italy, for the Italian GP at Mugello on June 2.
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team: 1st
“Of course here in Le Mans it's always difficult with the temperature and the weather, especially today. I think this is the first time I have had a race where I had the soft tire in the front but it was the safest option. I was focused on being consistent until I saw the gap increasing, I pushed a little bit more and into the low 32s until I saw I had two seconds. I'm happy with today's result and it is fantastic to be able to take Honda's 300th premier class win!”
Jorge Lorenzo, Repsol Honda Team: 11th
“Eleventh place is not where we want to be but I saw progress. This makes me happy and gives me even more enthusiasm for the next races. It was the first weekend I finished a day in the top five, qualified in the top eight and you know, apart from Qatar where it was a slow race, this is the race where I finished closest to the winner. We're learning more each weekend and race; it is just a matter of time. Thanks to the Repsol Honda Team for continuing to work hard and congratulations to Honda for 300 wins.”
Cal Crutchlow, LCR Honda CASTROL: 9th
“A disappointing day in terms of the result, I didn't come here to finish ninth this weekend. So I'm disappointed in terms of where I finished, but the positive we have to take is that we got some more valuable data on the bike. Overall, I didn't feel comfortable with the setting of the bike and the feeling I had with the bike and the tires this afternoon, so we need to improve and work on that. We qualified in 15th and that always makes it difficult, but I got a good start and was ninth on the first lap and then finished ninth in the race. I wanted to reduce the gap to the leaders a little bit, but that was not possible today, so we'll try again in Mugello. Congratulations to HRC for the incredible success of the 300 victories: I am proud to be part of it!”
Takaaki Nakagami, LCR Honda IDEMITSU: DNF
“Of course, I'm really disappointed and first of all I want to say sorry to the team because they did a really great job all weekend. I'm upset that the weekend ended like this, but fortunately I'm okay, it was quite a nasty crash. The race was a bit of a struggle from the beginning, we knew that we didn't have really good pace, but I tried to do my best and was pushing very hard, although the data didn't show too many mistakes. Sometimes it just happens, but of course I'm disappointed (to crash) and I'll just try to stay positive. The next race is in Mugello and it's the home race for the team so hopefully we'll have a good weekend there. I really like the layout at Mugello, it's high-speed and a good circuit for my riding style and I can't wait to ride there with the new bikes.”
Alex Marquez, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS: 1st
“Finally it was a great to get a victory again and our day was made complete when Marc won the MotoGP race – it's a great day for our family, our friends, our teams and our fans, so my thanks to all of them. There was a lot of pressure in the race, with me leading most of the way and several riders trying to get close enough to attack. I just tried to stay focused and consistent, doing my best job on every lap. It's be a long wait and now I'm so happy.”
Jorge Navarro, Lightech Speed Up: 2nd
“That was a tough and exciting race, with a few moments and many fights with other riders. Of course I had big hopes after getting pole position, but the race is never the same as qualifying. The main thing is that I had enough grip and performance from the bike to fight with Augusto at the end and to ride the fastest lap on the last lap of the race, which doesn't happen so often.”
Augusto Fernandez, Flexbox HP 40: 3rd
“Getting a podium here, two weeks after we got the podium in Jerez, is a great thing. The team and I have worked so hard for this, so a very big thanks to everyone in Flexbox HP 40. It was a big fight for me, because I had to come through from 11th place, so I used a lot of my tires getting past other riders. Now we go to Mugello where our main focus will be to qualify at the front, as at Jerez, so we can go with the leaders from the start.”
Dimas Ekky Pratama, IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia: DNF
“Today I tried to be in a constant rhythm, improving every lap, but at the same time trying not to take risks, because the track was really cold. I had the real option to finish in the Top 20 but four laps before the end, at the entry of a corner I lost the front. It was impossible to avoid the crash.”
Somkiat Chantra, IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia. DNF
“The track conditions were incredible, with a big lack of grip. On the first laps I was very careful, trying to gain confidence. On lap nine I entered a corner exactly at the same speed as the laps before, but I lost both wheels and had a big highside. Because of the crash I have a lot of pain in my leg. Tomorrow I will undergo a medical examination in Barcelona.”
John McPhee, Petronas Sprinta Racing: 1st
"I can't explain my feelings right now: I'm very excited. It has been a long time since I won and throughout the season we have suffered a lot. Transforming speed into results has been difficult, and finally we managed to achieve it yesterday by taking pole position. I have to thank the team because they have given me a lot of support. We have experienced hard weekends and we have been able to change the situation. My last victory was at Brno in the wet, so it's amazing to also have a win in the dry. It's my first victory of the season, but there is still a lot of time in which to take the season where we want it. Things are very even in this series and each rider pushes 100 percent. There have been ten different winners in the last ten races and that shows that Moto3 is a tough class.”
Lorenzo Dalla Porta, Leopard Racing: 2nd
“I'm super happy with today's result. This weekend has been very difficult for us, I crashed four times and I didn't have nice feelings with my bike. We've worked a lot but I never thought I could get this result until the moment the race started. I gave my best; I recovered many positions and the only thing I did was pushing while trying to control the situation because a result like this one after the last races was something we really needed. Many thanks to the team, they've worked so hard. I'm over the moon.”
Gabriel Rodrigo, Kömmerling Gresini Moto3: 4th
“It's clear that we are looking for some more, especially when we're so close. It's been a very fast race and I was really quick in the first part. In the second half, though, with some drops of rain and the team telling me to push because two thirds of the race were completed, I wanted to attack I ended up colliding with Migno and that sent me on the green stripe and cost me some positions. Fourth place is still a good result and shows we're always competitive. Now we need a bit more luck to get on the podium.”
Kaito Toba, Honda Team Asia: 6th
“I'm disappointed because I had real chance to win. In the race I was very strong, except at the beginning when I lost a lot of time. When I reached the top group, I felt very strong, overtaking in a smooth and easy way. In the last lap I made a little mistake trying to take the lead and suddenly Canet touched me. The situation was very dangerous, and I needed to pick up the bike to avoid crashing together. Finally, I finished P6, it's a shame but at the same time is important to finish the races. Here I've lost a podium finish, but I will try again in Mugello.”
Ai Ogura, Honda Team Asia: DNF
“I don't know what I can say. During the weekend everything was going perfect, the bike permitted me to be fast in every condition. I started very well, maintaining the third position, but I did a mistake at the exit of a corner in the first lap, and I crashed. I know I've lost the chance to get a good result. Now I'm in pain because of the crash. Tomorrow I will go to visit Doctor Mir in Barcelona for a medical check.”
|1||Marc MARQUEZ (Repsol Honda Team)|
|2||Andrea DOVIZIOSO (Ducati Team)|
|3||Danilo PETRUCCI (Ducati Team)|
|4||Jack MILLER (Pramac Racing)|
|5||Valentino ROSSI (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP)|
|6||Pol ESPARGARO (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing)|
|7||Franco MORBIDELLI (Petronas Yamaha SRT)|
|8||Fabio QUARTARARO (Petronas Yamaha SRT)|
|9||Cal CRUTCHLOW (LCR Honda CASTROL)|
|10||Alex RINS (Team SUZUKI ECSTAR)|
|11||Jorge LORENZO (Repsol Honda Team)|
|12||Aleix ESPARGARO (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini)|
|13||Johann ZARCO (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing)|
|14||Hafizh SYAHRIN (Red Bull KTM Tech 3)|
|15||Miguel OLIVEIRA (Red Bull KTM Tech 3)|
|16||Joan MIR (Team SUZUKI ECSTAR)|
|RT||Takaaki NAKAGAMI (LCR Honda IDEMITSU)|
|RT||Andrea IANNONE (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini)|
|RT||Maverick VIÑALES (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP)|
|RT||Francesco BAGNAIA (Pramac Racing)|
|RT||Tito RABAT (Reale Avintia Racing)|
|Excluded||Karel ABRAHAM (Reale Avintia Racing)|
|1||Alex MARQUEZ (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS)|
|2||Jorge NAVARRO (Lightech Speed Up)|
|3||Augusto FERNANDEZ (Flexbox HP 40)|
|4||Brad BINDER (Red Bull KTM Ajo)|
|5||Xavi VIERGE (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS)|
|6||Thomas LUTHI (Dynavolt Intact GP)|
|7||Enea BASTIANINI (Italtrans Racing Team)|
|8||Marcel SCHROTTER (Dynavolt Intact GP)|
|9||Iker LECUONA (American Racing KTM)|
|10||Nicolo BULEGA (SKY Racing Team VR46)|
|11||Tetsuta NAGASHIMA (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team)|
|12||Fabio DI GIANNANTONIO (Lightech Speed Up)|
|13||Luca MARINI (SKY Racing Team VR46)|
|14||Joe ROBERTS (American Racing KTM)|
|15||Stefano MANZI (MV Agusta Idealavoro Forward)|
|16||Lukas TULOVIC (Kiefer Racing)|
|17||Jake DIXON (Sama Qatar Angel Nieto Team)|
|18||Marco BEZZECCHI (Red Bull KTM Tech 3)|
|19||Philipp OETTL (Red Bull KTM Tech 3)|
|20||Jorge MARTIN (Red Bull KTM Ajo)|
|RT||Dominique AEGERTER (MV Agusta Idealavoro Forward)|
|RT||Dimas EKKY PRATAMA (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia)|
|RT||Xavi CARDELUS (Sama Qatar Angel Nieto Team)|
|RT||Remy GARDNER (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team)|
|RT||Steven ODENDAAL (NTS RW Racing GP)|
|RT||Bo BENDSNEYDER (NTS RW Racing GP)|
|RT||Simone CORSI (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2)|
|RT||Sam LOWES (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2)|
|RT||Somkiat CHANTRA (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia)|
|RT||Lorenzo BALDASSARRI (Flexbox HP 40)|
|RT||Mattia PASINI (Petronas Sprinta Racing)|
|RT||Andrea LOCATELLI (Italtrans Racing Team)|
|1||John MCPHEE (Petronas Sprinta Racing)|
|2||Lorenzo DALLA PORTA (Leopard Racing)|
|3||Aron CANET (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team)|
|4||Gabriel RODRIGO (Kommerling Gresini Moto3)|
|5||Andrea MIGNO (Bester Capital Dubai)|
|6||Kaito TOBA (Honda Team Asia)|
|7||Celestino Vietti (SKY Racing Team VR46)|
|8||Kazuki MASAKI (BOE Skull Rider Mugen Race)|
|9||Jakub KORNFEIL (Redox PruestelGP)|
|10||Raul FERNANDEZ (Sama Qatar Angel Nieto Team)|
|11||Albert ARENAS (Sama Qatar Angel Nieto Team)|
|12||Jaume MASIA (Bester Capital Dubai)|
|13||Makar YURCHENKO (BOE Skull Rider Mugen Race)|
|14||Ayumu SASAKI (Petronas Sprinta Racing)|
|15||Filip SALAC (Redox PruestelGP)|
|16||Can ONCU (Red Bull KTM Ajo)|
|17||Tom BOOTH-AMOS (CIP Green Power)|
|RT||Dennis FOGGIA (SKY Racing Team VR46)|
|RT||Alonso LOPEZ (Estrella Galicia 0,0)|
|RT||Tatsuki SUZUKI (SIC58 Squadra Corse)|
|RT||Tony ARBOLINO (VNE Snipers)|
|RT||Vicente PEREZ (Reale Avintia Arizona 77)|
|RT||Niccolò ANTONELLI (SIC58 Squadra Corse)|
|RT||Romano FENATI (VNE Snipers)|
|RT||Marcos RAMIREZ (Leopard Racing)|
|RT||Riccardo ROSSI (Kommerling Gresini Moto3)|
|RT||Darryn BINDER (CIP Green Power)|
|RT||Ai OGURA (Honda Team Asia)|
|RT||Sergio GARCIA (Estrella Galicia 0,0)|