MotoGP 2021
Round 5

Two Tumbles Spoil Marc Marquez’s Podium Hopes

fr Le Mans

Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) led today’s chaotic French Grand Prix, the first time he has been at the front since returning to action last month following a nine-month layoff through injury.

Two Tumbles Spoil Marc Marquez’s Podium Hopes

The race followed the pattern of the entire weekend, with track conditions changing constantly according to the weather conditions. The 27 laps got underway on a dry track, following rainfall earlier in the day, with all riders on slick tyres. But within a few laps the rain had returned and everyone rode into pit lane to change to their spare bikes, equipped with rain tyres. In heavy rain the track became treacherous and several fell, all without injury.

Six-times MotoGP World Champion Marquez has always been a master of tricky conditions and grabbed the lead during his bike swap. By then the rain had intensified, soaking the circuit and making Marquez’s medium-compound front and rear tyre choice less than ideal. Nonetheless the 28-year-old Spaniard established himself in first place to lead for three laps, with a narrow advantage.

Sadly on lap eight as he attacked Turn 14 he lost the rear and fell. He bravely remounted in 18th position and was soon the fastest man on track. As the track dried somewhat his medium rear tyre started working better, but once again he slid off, this time at the downhill Turn Six, while contemplating a return to slick tyres as the track dried.

Although disappointed, Marquez could take some positives from the weekend, his third Grand Prix since last July. Not only did he lead the race, he was also fastest in yesterday morning’s FP3 session. Now he will continue his rehabilitation, working in the gym to further rebuild the muscles in his right arm, which are still a long way from full strength.

Honda’s top finisher was younger brother Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol Honda RC213V), who took the chequered flag in sixth place, his best result of the 2021 season so far. The 24-year-old Spaniard had a challenging time during Friday and Saturday but maintained his focus and determination for today’s race.

Fifteenth at the end of the first lap the 2019 Moto2 World Champion lost a few more places over the next laps, then started making forward progress in the rain, following his bike swap. He battled with fellow Honda rider Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu Honda RC213V) for several laps, before establishing himself in fourth place, but he lost two positions in the hectic final laps.

This was Marquez’s second consecutive great race at Le Mans. Last year here he finished second in the soaking rain, his first MotoGP podium.

Nakagami was next to cross the finish line, several seconds behind his fellow LCR rider. This was another good result, considering the treacherous conditions, to follow up his excellent fourth place at Jerez two weeks ago. The 29-year-old from Chiba held third place for several laps after the bike swap, but then struggled with rear grip, which prevented him from successfully defending his position. He will use what he learned today to help improve his RC213V for future races in the rain.

Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) qualified eighth and was looking forward to a good race, his fifth with Honda, after placing among the top riders in Friday’s and Saturday’s drier sessions. The 29-year-old Spaniard rode a strong first few laps, giving it his all and battling with the second group.

Following his bike swap Espargaro rode his first race laps in the rain with an RC213V and was able to run a good pace but wasn’t as competitive as he had been on dry asphalt. After some laps he found himself all alone in eighth place and maintained that position to the end.

After a chilly and mostly wet weekend at Le Mans the MotoGP paddock moves to southern Europe, hopefully for some better weather. Next stop in the 2021 championship is Mugello for the Italian GP on 30th May. The Catalan GP at Barcelona follows on 6th June.

Alex Márquez
Alex Márquez 73
It was a good result. The race was really tricky. The first few laps were in the dry, but then I started having some issues with the front brake and I was not feeling very good at that point. Then it started raining, as our weather forecast expected, and we were clear we would go in and we recovered some positions in the wet with slicks. We put on a soft rear tyre that gave me a better feeling in the first laps, but then I was struggling later on when the track went really dry. Apart from that, we can be quite happy. This Sunday helps to build our confidence and we can go to Mugello 100% confident.

Takaaki Nakagami
Takaaki Nakagami 30
It was a very tough race. I’m happy as it was my first experience of a flag-to-flag race. It was quite difficult, but I think we made a good decision to come in when we did. After that I changed to the bike for full wet conditions with rain tyres. At first it was difficult to keep a good pace in the wet conditions. After that I was P4 and then P3, but I knew in wet conditions we didn’t have a strong pace. At the end I dropped to P7, I’m a little bit disappointed about the result, but happy about our performance in the race. We were very strong in dry conditions at the start of the race, we were able to fight with Marc (Marquez), so there were many positive points. I would like to thank my team. I’m really looking forward to Mugello for the team’s home GP. It’s one of my favourite tracks and I have great confidence about the race.

Pol Espargaro
Pol Espargaro 44
Repsol Honda Team
It was a very complicated race today. If you’re strong in one condition but not the other in Le Mans it can be like this because often the race is in the middle of conditions. Today we had really good speed in the dry, we showed it throughout the weekend in the dry sessions where we were in the top five. I’m not happy with the result of the race because we struggled in the wet, but on the other hand you’re satisfied to finish a crazy race like this. I think our result would have been much better in the dry, but this is how it is. I think it’s important to look at the positives this weekend because we were strong in the dry and we finished a race where it was very easy to make a mistake.

Marc Márquez
Marc Márquez 93
Repsol Honda Team
I’m disappointed with today, we weren’t able to profit from the special situation where normally we feel really comfortable. The positive is that we showed our speed today – even after the crash I was able to be fast on the bike. It’s true that we didn’t use the opportunity that the weather gave to us. The first crash we had can happen in the wet, maybe the tyre was a little cold, but I am more disappointed with the second crash. It was not the time to crash again but we keep learning. Maybe I wasn’t fully concentrated on the track conditions, I was thinking more about changing back to slicks and I arrived at Turn 6 too fast and fell. This is very disappointing. In a normal dry weekend, I knew it would be harder. We’re happy with our performance of the weekend but not happy about Sunday because it was not the best Marc on track.

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