It was the most challenging start so far this year for Marc Marquez at the Monster Energy MotoGP of France. The Le Mans circuit is a tight track dominated by first
gear corners that place the emphasis on late braking and hard acceleration. Pressure by Jorge Lorenzo forced Marquez wide, a mistake that put the reigning champion back to 10th place by the end of the first lap before a crowd of 88,222 spectators.
The Doctor fought from his fifth place grid position start to lead the early laps of the race. With Marquez dropping back, Rossi out-maneuvered Stefan Bradl and then race leader Andrea Dovizioso to take the lead with 25 laps remaining. The nine-time world champion rode to the limit and had increased the lead to nearly a second before Marquez began to close in. As the pace steadied and the race found it’s tempo, Marquez started picking off the riders in front of him and by lap seven he was up to fourth. On lap 10, Marquez set the fastest lap of the race en route to passing Stefan Bradl and Pol Espargaro, and by lap 13 he was on the tail of race leader Valentino Rossi. With 16 laps to go Rossi made a costly error and ran wide into the last chicane, allowing Marquez past. He tucked in behind but was unable to regain his position, finishing in second place.
Meanwhile, Alvaro Bautista rode his GO&FUN Gresini Honda to a third place finish, his first podium since 2012 and a great reward for the determination he has shown since his three DNFs at the start of this season.
Rookie Pol Espargaro completed an exceptional weekend at his Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team’s home Grand Prix in Le Mans by finishing in 4th position. Espargaro held off Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda who came in fifth and appeared to be riding in significant discomfort after recent arm pump surgery.
Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) finished three seconds behind Pedrosa in sixth; Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda MotoGP) also recovering from a recent arm operation, was seventh, with Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), Aleix Espargaro (NGM Forward Racing) and Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech3) rounding out the top 10.
Nicky Hayden (Drive M7 Aspar) crashed on the first lap after contact with Andrea Iannone (Pramac Racing) who also went down shortly afterwards. Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing) was also an early crasher, though none of those three were seriously affected by the incidents.
In addition to winning the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France, Marquez set a new fastest race lap (1’33.548 on lap 8) and now extends his lead over teammate Dani Pedrosa in the riders’ Championship to 42 points.He also became the youngest ever rider (21 years and 90 days) to win five successive races in the premier class, taking the record from Mike Hailwood (22 years and 160 days old).
With his fifth win of 2014, Marquez is the first rider since Giacomo Agostini in 1972 to win the opening five races of the year in the premier class, the first rider since Valentino Rossi in 2008 to win five successive MotoGP races and the first to win them all from pole since Mick Doohan (also on a Honda) in 1997.