Podium joy in France for MotoGP™ rookie Álex Márquez
© Gold & Goose/Red Bull Content Pool
Honda's Álex Márquez sails from 18th to claim 2nd at a wet French MotoGP™, finishing ahead of Red Bull KTM Factory Racing's Pol Espargaró as Ducati's Danilo Petrucci wins.
The uncertainty and drama of the 2020 MotoGP™ championship continued at the historic Le Mans circuit in central France, as a downpour of rain minutes before the start of the race changed everything and produced one of the most dramatic MotoGP™ races yet this season.
Ducati's Danilo Petrucci headed home MotoGP™ rookie Álex Márquez, who mastered the conditions in his first ever wet weather premier class race. Márquez powered through from 18th on the grid to take second ahead of Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Pol Espargaró, who took an unexpected podium for the Austrian team ahead of world championship challenger Andrea Dovizioso.
This year’s racing schedule has been drastically altered and, normally speaking, the MotoGP™ field would not be racing on a European circuit in October, facing such low track temperatures. Combined with the heavy rainfall minutes before the scheduled start and with the championship battle far from resolved, there was a lot to deal with as the lights went out for 26 laps of racing at Le Mans.
The rare sight of fans lining the circuit was a welcome development after a limited number of spectators were allowed into the circuit, many of them happy to see French championship leader Fabio Quartararo start from pole on home soil. At the end of the first lap on the damp track, however, Petrucci had powered into the lead, setting the pace ahead of Jack Miller and Dovizioso.
In the hunt for his first premier class crown, Dovizioso made his way around Miller five laps into the race – moving forward as championship leader Quartararo slipped backwards down the field and out of the top 10, as, once again, rain fell over Le Mans.
Álex Márquez was relishing the conditions aboard his Honda and turned in some scintillating lap times to move up to seventh by Lap 10, his pace only superseded by Álex Rins, who'd hunted down the three leading Ducati bikes.
As the rain once again increased with 11 laps remaining, Márquez and Pol Espargaró pulled closer to the leading quartet, as Dovizioso snatched the lead as the battle for the win reached boiling point.
Miller hit mechanical trouble, Rins retired and reigning Moto2 champion Márquez suddenly found himself in a podium position in the closing stages, followed by Espargaró. Márquez claimed second from Dovizioso with three laps remaining, followed through by Espargaró and Styrian Grand Prix winner Miguel Oliveira.
After a breathtaking and draining 26 laps in France, Petrucci took the win from a brilliant Márquez and a surprised and delighted Espargaró, whilst Dovizioso struggled with rear tyre wear and did well to hang on to fourth place ahead of Johann Zarco. Racing in front of a few thousand home fans, the Avintia Ducati man showed great pace to finish as the top French rider, ahead of Tech3 KTM's Oliveira and Takaaki Nakagami in seventh.
With five races remaining this year, Dovizioso remains in the hunt for his first MotoGP™ title, sitting third in the standings, 18 points behind the leader Quartararo. Who will emerge as the eventual winner?