Quartararo Battles Rainy Conditions for Third Place at French GP
Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP emerged victorious once again thanks to Fabio Quartararo, who braved rainy, treacherous track conditions at Le Mans, emerging with a third place finish, remarkable considering he returned to the podium only a week after arm pump surgery. Teammate Maverick Viñales led in the earlier dry laps but made a mistake when it started raining, costing him valuable time and causing him to finish tenth.
These ENEOS-sponsored riders had a stellar Q2 session, going all out on their final lap during a shootout to secure a front row, 1-2 race start at the Grand Prix de France. For the hometown hero, Quartararo launched from pole position, slotting into third after the opening corners but regained the lead again from his teammate and Jack Miller. With 22 laps remaining, the rain started pouring down, which he promptly went to pit lane for a bike swap, returning to the track in third.
El Diablo took the lead again after two riders crashed out with 20 laps to go, but Miller passed him again four laps later, receiving a long-lap penalty for an incorrect bike swap because he didn’t pull into the garage at the correct spot. Quartararo handled the penalty smoothly in second place but as the dry line began to form during the latter stages, his soft front rain tire started to drop. He had to let Johann Zarco pass with six laps left, but still happy to take third place with very difficult conditions, only 14.468sec from first.
“To take a podium in these circumstances is amazing,” said Quartararo. “I never expected it in these mixed conditions, which means we’re doing a great job. I was scared to lose positions but we gained one.”
Viñales had a good start from second on the grid, maintaining position in the first corners, and even leading early on until the rain started. By going wide, he dropped to fifth but was able to safely negotiate his way back to the pits for a bike swap, rejoining the race in ninth place. Overall, he struggled to find his groove in the wet, and overheated his soft rain tires when the dry line formed. He crossed the finish line tenth, 40.577sec from the leader.
“If we had dry conditions, I would’ve had the opportunity to win,” Viñales said. “I started well from second and took the lead; the bike felt incredible, something I’ve missed since Qatar. But once it started raining, I lost my concentration and made a mistake. Overall it was important to start well here; it’s been a while since I’ve had one, and I know we have good potential for Mugello.”
Quartararo regained the championship lead with 80 points and a point lead over second place. Viñales drops to fifth with 56 points. Yamaha is second in the manufacturer standings with 107 points, and Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP is also second with 136 points.
Quartararo and Viñales head to Italy for the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello from May 28-30, 2021.