Boris regales, and revels in, the unique delights of the French GP

MotoGP 2022 – Round Seven

SHARK Grand Prix de France with Boris

Nothing like a bunch of hot French chicks doing the Can Can on a racing grid, while 110,000 wine-crazed Frenchmen set fire to things, and rev purpose-built engines until they explode. Welcome to Le Mans.

Now this was way more impressive than umbrella girls…

I’m sure I’m not the only race-fan who was disappointed when Carmelo Ezpeleta chose not to participate in the Can Can being held on the grid.

Should be permanent addition to the MotoGP pre race activities, particularly in the Middle East….

Dorna’s CEO has been known to join in the ethnicity of whatever country is hosting the MotoGP, and I’m still trying to scrub the sight of him in lederhosen from my mind. But not this time. I don’t blame him. Those high-kicks would have murdered his ancient hamstrings.

Around the grid, a crowd capacity bayed and howled, and sang the finest national anthem in the world, as the riders waited to commence hostilities. MotoGP had returned to France with a vengeance. And with a dawning Crazy Season maybe crazier than any that had come before.

French GP

Suzuki had pulled out for next year. Perhaps the 380-million Euro fine it was facing for emission-testing fraud had something to do with the decision. Either way, Hamamatsu’s departure had turned two riders into free agents looking for a gig next year. One was a recent world champion, and one was the faster rider, but with a history of crashing a little too often. Both would be superb additions to any team.

Will Rins be on the MotoGP grid next year? Or will WorldSBK beckon if he is left without a seat when hte music stops in the musical chairs…

Apart from that, a vague cheating scandal around tire pressures had emerged in the days leading up to the race. It seems that Pecco Bagnaia and one or two others, had been running their tire pressures under the minimum required by the rules.

Everyone knew about it, and there was talk of a gentleman’s agreement between teams not to make an issue about it. I think it was Mat Oxley who first made an issue about it, so he maybe wasn’t part of that agreement.

Tire pressures have become a subject of discussion and teeth gnashing

Dorna made some huffing noises, Ducati waved its arms around, and it was decided that next year, there would be a standard pressure-testing system put in place for every team.

This, we were told, would make it easier for everyone to comply because everyone was currently using different tire-pressure gauges, and maybe that was why things looked strange and rule-breaky. Move along – nothing really to see…except Mir and Rins looking for work.

Shoulder-cam made a return, with Aleix Espargaro being chosen as the camera-platform. This sent the Pommie comments into raptures about the technological brilliance involved in fixing a tiny camera to the upper-chest of one rider, thus affording us a hitherto-never-seen angle of the race. I shrugged. Like millions of other people. We’ve had riders’ POV shots for years now. This is the same thing from a slightly different angle.

Rain was promised for the race, but all the Free Practice sessions and Qualifying was dry. It rained a tiny bit during the Moto3 race, which was red-flagged and re-started. But by the time they kicked off again, the track was dry, and it stayed sunny for the main event.

Marc Marquez crashed in qualifying

Practice had seen the lap record tumble…and then go into freefall. The Beast was the first to break it, then crashed in ecstasy, no doubt. Almost immediately afterward, Fabulous set the first sub 1:31 lap, which Bagnaia bettered a few laps later. Then Zarco smashed through it again, setting a 1:30.537, and before you knew it, the top ten riders were all under the old lap record.

Le Mans 2022 MotoGP Front Row
1 Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) – Ducati – 1’30.450
2 Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) – Ducati – +0.069
3 Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) – Aprilia – +0.157

Zarco also managed to go hairing off the track at a phenomenal pace, carved straight through the gravel, then got a little bit of air, and rejoined the track in what must have been a terrifying five seconds. During the race, Rins replicated this amazing feat…well, the first bit that saw him scything upright through the gravel at 180km/h. He did not manage to rejoin the track on two wheels, and crashed out. It broke my heart a bit. He was doing very well and was very close to the front when it went pear-shaped for him.

Pecco Bagnaia on the grid at Le Mans

The grid looked relatively normal in terms of what we’re used to seeing. Bagnaia on pole, Miller beside him, and the all-new and confident Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia’s current Golden Boy, in third.

Aleix Espargaro on the Le Mans grid

Fabulous was in fourth, the Beast in fifth, and Mir in sixth, where Zarco should have been had he not copped a penalty for upsetting Pol Espagro during qualifying. Three grid spots cost the Frenchman dearly during the race.

Zarco was pushed back on the grid three places as penalty for holding up Pol Espargaro qualifying

Marquez? Well, he was back in tenth. He’d had a crash during practice, and then he had a moment during a practice start when a vicious tank-slapper had him reaching for his dodgy shoulder in pain. His Warm Up was curtailed so he could rest up a little.

French GP

The race itself, was superb. Le Mans is a hard braking, hard accelerating track, and there are a lot of overstimulated French people surrounding it and screaming for the entire race. It must be a sensational buzz to race on it.

Bit busy up front on lap one…

Both Bags and Jack got a killer start, as did Rins, who rode around a whole bunch of chaos to wedge himself into third. Fabulous drifted back into eighth after being caught in a crowd with Nakagami and Marquez.

A pack of madmen…

Binder Senior lost one of his aero wings when Zarco nudged him, and to no-one’s surprise, Maverick Vinales, who had started 14th on the grid despite showing some semblance pace in practice, was dead last by the end of the first lap.

It was a crazy first few corners but someone they all stayed upright

Binder Junior let Maverick by a little later, so that he could continue his consistent rookie season by once again coming last.

Bagnaia took the lead from Miller on lap four

Up the front it was Miller, Bags, Rins, a slight gap, then the Beast, Mir and Aliix. Then it wasn’t. Rins did his high-speed gravel exit, and it looked like Bagnaia was faster than Miller, and he was being followed by a very fast-looking Beast, who was now in third after Rins fell off, with Mir hard on his tail.

Rins exited stage right…

Fabulous was also moving forward and making faster lap-times than Jack’s. Remy took this opportunity to chuck some rocks around, which will no doubt depress him even more. Last year King of the Universe, this year “Oh my God these things are hard to ride!” I’m thinking he’ll come good later in the season.

Quartararo had plenty of work to do after getting squeezed in the pack early on

Fabulous in sixth was now the only rider in the 1:31s, but Alex was proving impossible to get around, no matter how much the French crowd willed it. Aleix even ran wide, but Fabulous just could not capitalise on that mistake.

Remy’s team-mate, Raul Fernandez, the self-proclaimed Moral Champion of Moto2, self-proclaimed into the gravel as well, so it was not a good day for the KTM satellite team.

Bagnaia, Miller, Bastianini

Some seven laps in and the field began to look like there were three riders contesting first place – Bags, Miller, and the Beast, and three other riders, Mir, Aleix, and Fabulous, contesting for second. There was a slight gap between the two groups, but was interesting was that it looked like Bagnaia and Miller were holding the Beast up.

But not for long. The Beast went past Jack for second, and set his eyes on Bagnaia. This naturally allowed Mir, Aleix, and Fabulous to catch them up a little, and bit by bit, Fabulous was raising the hopes of the French crowd. There were 13 laps left to race, so maybe…

Jack Miller chasing Bastianini and Bagnaia after the Australian led the opening three laps

Bagnaia and the Beast now began to gap Jack, while back in sixth, Zarco contended with Marc Marquez, and managed to come out on top. Not so much Jorge Martin, who plowed the French rocks in fine style.

Pecco made a mistake that saw his championship tally take a blow.

With eight laps left, Bagnaia and the Beast had some two seconds on Jack, and a lap later the Beast made his move on Bags in the Dunlop Chicane. Bags fought back in La Chapelle, then ran wide in Garage, and finally crashed in Turn 14.

Bagnaia slipped to seventh in the MotoGP Championship points standings, and the fourth ranked Ducati rider.

And the Beast was gone. Miller was 2.3-seconds adrift, and the Beast was still doing 1:31s, much to everyone’s horror. Oliveira’s horror was such that he crashed in Turn Four.

Quartararo chased hard but Aleix Espargaro withstood the pressure and had the speed to take his third podium finish in a row and is now only four-points behind the French defending champion and current points leader Quartararo

Try as he might, Fabulous just could not close with Aleix, and was denied a home podium. The Beast declared on Twitter he had “Pushed like a bastard. Again”, which mirrored his Tweet after he won the COTA round. Jack grabbed second, and Aleix remains the Aprilia’s Golden Boy with another podium.

Enea Bastianini moved up to third place in the championship, four-points behind Aleix Espargaro and a further four-points behind points leader Quartararo

Mighty Mugello is next in two weeks, but the Silly Season is in full swing, with rumours and hints of all sorts flying fast and hard.

Jack Miller celebrates with Ducati his P2

Decisions will come soon, and they will not please everyone. I guess that’s the nature of decisions. Especially in this, the finest of all sports.

Aleix Espargaro celebrating with Aprilia Racing. The Team leads the Team Points with 131 to Suzuki’s 125

MotoGP Le Mans Race Results 2022

Pos Rider Bike Time/Gap
1 Enea BASTIANINI DUCATI 41m34.613
2 Jack MILLER DUCATI +2.718
5 Johann ZARCO DUCATI +11.139
6 Marc MARQUEZ HONDA +15.155
7 Takaaki NAKAGAMI HONDA +16.680
8 Brad Binder KTM +18.459
9 Luca MARINI DUCATI +20,541
10 Maverick VIÑALES APRILIA +21.486
11 Pol ESPARGARO HONDA +22.707
12 Marco BEZZECCHI DUCATI +23.408
14 Alex MARQUEZ HONDA +28.710
15th Franco MORBIDLI YAMAHA +29.433
16 Andrea DOVIZIOSO YAMAHA +38.149
17 Darryn Binder YAMAHA +59,748
Not Classified
DNF Miguel OLIVEIRA KTM 3 laps
DNF Francesco BAGNAIA DUCATI 7 laps
DNF Joan MIR SUZUKI 14 laps
DNF Alex RINS SUZUKI 22 laps
DNF Remy GARDNER KTM 24 laps
Can Mugello top this….?

MotoGP Championship Points Standings

Pos Rider Nat Points
4 RINS Alex SPA 69
5 MILLER Jack AUS 62
6 ZARCO Johann FR 62
7 BAGNAIA Francesco ITA 56
8 BINDER Brad RSA 56
9 MIR Joan SPA 56
10 MARQUEZ Marc SPA 54
11 OLIVEIRA Miguel POR 43
13 VIÑALES Maverick SPA 33
14 NAKAGAMI Takaaki JPN 30
15th MARTIN Jorge SPA 28
16 MARINI Luca ITA 21
17 MORBIDLI Franco ITA 19
19 MARQUEZ Alex SPA 18
21 BINDER Darryn RSA 6

Leave a Comment