MotoGP™ 2017 - MICHELIN’S home race serves up a Le Mans classic

MICHELIN was part of a MotoGP™ French frenzy at Le Mans today as Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) raced to victory at the HJC Helmets Grand Prix de France with home favourite Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech3) joining him on the podium to the delight of the local spectators.

Pole-setter Viñalesgot the holes hot from the start and led from the line, but was immediately passed by Zarco, causing the home crowd to roar with approval. Using a soft compound MICHELIN Power Slick on the front and rear of his machine, Zarco pulled away at the front and made a small gap ahead of his rivals. Viñales never gave up the hunt though and stated to close down the Frenchman, before seizing the lead on lap-seven. By this time, Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) had joined the battle at the front and he too passed Zarco to take second behind his team-mate.

It was now Rossi's turn to hunt the leader and he closed in and passed Viñales on lap-26, but the Spaniard fought back and continued to push hard forcing Rossi into an uncharacteristic mistake which saw the Italian crash on the final-lap. Viñales took the honours with a victory that also signalled Yamaha’s 500th Grand Prix win in all classes and returned the Spaniard to the top of the riders’ classification. Zarco benefited from Rossi’s crash and inherited second place to give him his best MotoGP result and the title of First Independent Team Rider, a result that saw the first French rider on a MotoGP podium since 2009 and the first one in the top-three on home soil since 1988, making his achievement in-front of the home fans even greater significance. Third place went to Pedrosa, who raced from thirteenth on the grid to take the final podium position. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) took fourth after a fascinating battle with Crutchlow and Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) finished insixth. Jonas Folger (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) was next to cross the line in seventh, with Jack Miller (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) following him home for eighth. A second Frenchman in the top-ten saw Loris Baz (Reale Avintia Racing) take ninth, with Andrea Iannone (Team SUZUKI ECSTAR) securing tenth position.

As the race wore on Viñales, Rossi, and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) all broke the existing lap record, again demonstrating that the different compounds of MICHELIN front and rear tires could be used to great effect as Viñales, and Rossi equipped their bikes with medium front and rear slick, while Pedrosa favoured and medium front and soft rear, this added to Zarco’s choice, and Cal Crutchlow using a hard front and medium rear, meant again five of the six different choices of compounds were used.

Today’s race marked another record-breaking weekend for MICHELIN. Fromthe12th circulation onwards the lap-record started to tumble as Viñales became the first to set a new marker, followed by Rossiand Pedrosa as the three recorded new bests a total of eight times between them. Viñales took the final prize as he set a time of 1’32.309 on the very last-lap and completed the race in 43’29.793to record a new race duration record, over 16-seconds better than the previous best time.

The 28-lap event was watched by over 104,000 fans at trackside and the pleasantly dry and sunny conditions were in stark contrast to the cold and wet weather the paddock had encountered on the previous two-days, which meant the whole field had very little dry set-up time in preparation for the race. This showed again the consistency of the MICHELIN slicks as they coped with new Le Mans asphalt and produced a fantastic encounter with battles throughout the field.

Sadly, all this weekend’s proceedings were overshadowed following the news that filtered through to the paddock on Thursday regarding former MotoGP and MICHELIN World Champion Nicky Hayden. The American was cycling near the Misano circuit in Italy when he was struck by a car and severely injured, resulting in serious trauma, he is currently in the Intensive Care unit at the Bufalini Hospital in Cesena, where the prognosis remains guarded. All at MICHELIN would like to wish Nicky and his family and the best, and everyone hopes for a full recovery from his injuries.

MICHELIN and the MotoGP paddock now heads across Europe to the picturesque and demanding Mugello circuit in Italy for round six of the championship, due to be held on Sunday 4thJune.