The day was gray, overcast, impossible. But Dani Pedrosa stopped being a cat last season. Victories like that in Valencia, where he started in the pit lane after electing to change his bike and then tore through the field as if he was in a video game, speak for themselves. Pedrosa no longer fears the water. And in Le Mans on Sunday he proved it again.
The rain stopped just before the race, leaving the circuit practically dry in the final laps, but the thin film of water made life difficult for several riders. But not for Pedrosa, who started from seventh on the grid but after just two curves had moved up to third on the back wheel of Jorge Lorenzo’s Yamaha and then, on lap two, passing his world champion compatriot.
Until the halfway point of the race, Pedrosa and Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso vied for the leadership. But the Italian was handed an invitation to the podium that was later retracted by the performance of Marc Márquez. Jousting for supremacy, Pedrosa forced a turn on lap six, allowing Dovizioso to sneak through. A couple of feints were repelled by the Italian but Pedrosa eventually took the lead on lap 14 and from there it was an exhibition ride to the checkered flag, the Spaniard’s Honda performing far better than anything else on the track.
By contrast, Pedrosa’s title rival Lorenzo had a dreadful afternoon on a circuit where last year he gave a masterclass in riding on a wet track. His Yamaha held off the pack until the eighth lap when it inexplicably began to lose rhythm; Valentino Rossi cruised past, followed by Cal Crutchlow and Nicky Hayden. In a single lap Lorenzo dropped to sixth and then Márquez and Stefan Bradl passed his Yamaha, which was lapping almost two seconds slower than Pedrosa, forcing the reigning world champion to settle for avoiding any mishaps to make sure he put at least some points on the board in an eventual seventh-placed finish.
The title race is still a ménage à trois between the three Spaniards
Márquez, the impetuous youth in his debut MotoGP season, might have done likewise as he struggled with his tires in the first few laps, dropping to ninth but finally achieving a podium finish. But armed with patience, the 20-year-old set a good pace lap by lap, hunting down Lorenzo, Hayden and Dovizioso, who had ceded second to Crutchlow.
The title race is still a ménage à trois between the three Spaniards, although the Honda pair of Pedrosa and Márquez have taken the initiative. Pedrosa leads the championship standings after four races on 83 points, with Márquez second on 77. Lorenzo is in third with 66 points.
Scott Redding won his maiden Moto2 victory, and assumed leadership of the category, in a race red-flagged two laps from the finish due to rain. Redding’s teammate, Mika Kallio, came in second with Xavier Simeon third. In a poor afternoon for the Spanish riders, Pol Espargaró limped in down in 20th position while erstwhile championship leader Esteve Rabat was 23rd. Toni Elías and Nicolás Terol crashed out on laps three and five respectively.
The Moto3 race brought happier tidings for Spain’s contingent in Le Mans, with Maverick Viñales claiming his second win of the season to increase his lead in the standings to 13 points from second-placed Luis Salom. Álex Rins of Estrella Galicia came in second, ahead of Red Bull KTM rider Salom. Marc Márquez’s younger brother, Rins’ Estrella Galicia teammate, finished fifth. The same three riders that ascended the podium in Le Mans lead the championship standing in a Spanish 1-2-3, with Rins on 61 points in third.