When Jorge Lorenzo gets into the 'zone', he's just about unbeatable. And so it was again at Le Mans when he moved into the lead on the second corner and was thereafter in total command, cruising to an effortless victory over his Movistar Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi and Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso.
Lorenzo is now the first rider to win back-to-back races in 2015 — normally the domain of his countryman Marc Marquez — as he moved to second in the standings, 15pts behind Rossi and four ahead of Dovizioso.
Marquez finished in a lacklustre fourth place, suffering with front-end grip problems from lap four. He managed to stay upright though, unlike his fellow Honda riders Dani Pedrosa, Cal Crutchlow, Scott Redding and Aussie Jack Miller, who all crashed. Pedrosa, returning to action after surgery to alleviate arm pump, was the only one of the fallen quartet who managed to return to the track, and he finished in 16th.
While the attrition rate was higher than usual, Lorenzo didn’t have any such concerns as he flexed his muscles in another sublime display. Dovizioso was within striking distance of Lorenzo during the first half of the race — the gap was consistently below one second — before Rossi eventually moved into second place, but the Italian just couldn't make a dent on his teammate.
"It was important to be second and overtake Marc at the start and Dovizioso in the first corner," said Lorenzo. "This is the way I prefer to ride, because with nobody in front I can brake perfectly, keep the corner speed and try to increase the gap, so that is what happened.
"Winning two races in a row after finishing outside of the podium in three Grand Prix is a big contrast. These are much better results, but you have to keep your feet on the ground and not hesitate, because things can change very quickly and I can have bad results in the future. Mugello is a good track for Yamaha and especially for me, because it's my favourite track, but Valentino is also very fast there, so who knows what's going to happen."
The top 10 was completed by Andrea Iannone (Ducati), Monster Yamaha Tech 3 riders Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro, Yonny Hernandez (Pramac Ducati), Maverick Vinales (Suzuki Ecstar) and Danilo Petrucci (Pramac Ducati).
Miller was in 12th place when he crashed on lap 15.
“I was happy with the way the race was going. After about six laps I was right behind (Nicky) Hayden and Petrucci but I was having a few too many moments. I kept losing the front and so I decided to drop the pace a little bit," said Miller.
“It was still a decent pace but it wasn't what I needed, Maverick caught up and passed me so I tried to stay with him and see what we could do. About two laps later I lost the front and couldn't save it. It's one of those things; the track temperature was almost 20 degrees hotter than we've had all weekend and we weren't quite prepared for it.
“Apart from that we have had a strong and consistent weekend so I am looking forward to taking the things we have learnt here to Mugello.”
Rossi has now moved to 102pts, from Lorenzo (87), Dovizioso (83), Marquez (69) and Iannone (61).
1. Jorge Lorenzo, Movistar Yamaha, 43m 44.143s
2. Valentino Rossi, Movistar Yamaha, +3.820s
3. Andrea Dovizioso, Ducati Team, +12.380s
DNF. Jack Miller, CWM LCR Honda, +14 laps
Pole Position: Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda, 1:32.246 = 163.3km/h
Fastest lap and new record: Rossi, 1:32.879 = 162.2km/h
Championship top 3
Rossi 102 • Lorenzo 87 • Dovizioso 83
Thomas Luthi provided the front-running encore for Lorenzo, on a circuit which has been fertile ground for the Swiss rider over a number of years. Frenchman Johann Zarco gave his home crowd some optimism in the early laps when he led the way, but Luthi was in front by lap five and that's where he stayed for the balance of the race.
World champion Tito Rabat edged past Zarco with eight laps to go to finish second, while Sam Lowes (Speed Up Racing) and Franco Morbidelli (Italtrans Racing Team) were fourth and fifth.
"That race felt good, as I had a fast pace and was able to attack," said Luthi. "After I hit the lead I just tried to stay focus and concentrate. I want to maintain the momentum now."
Polesitter Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) made a poor start and then crashed, while German Jonas Folger (AGR Team) continued his topsy-turvy season when he also went down. Folger is third in the standings on 57pts behind Zarco (89) and Luthi (68).
Australia's Antony West (QMMF Racing) was 11th at Le Mans.
1. Thomas Luthi, Derendinger Racing Interwetten, 42m 27.011s
2. Tito Rabat, EG 0,0 Marc VDS, +1.767s
3. Johann Zarco, Ajo Motorsport, +3.760s
11. Anthony West, QMMF Racing, +29.478s
Pole Position: Alex Rins, Paginas Amarillas HP 40, 1:37.114 = 155.1 km/h
Fastest lap and new record: Luthi, 1:37.281 = 154.8 km/h
Championship top 3
Zarco 89 • Luthi 68 • Jonas Folger 57
An all-Italian podium at Le Mans — the first time it's happened in the junior class since the Japanese 125cc GP in 2004. Romano Fenati got the job done in a typical close battle from Enea Bastianini and Francesco Bagnaia.
It was a stunning return to form for Fenati, who has struggled to find the speed which made him such a revelation in 2014.
"The start of the season has been very difficult but we have been working very hard to turn things around and today it all came together," said Fenati. "The bike was perfect and we improved a lot."
This year's dominant rider Danny Kent (Leopard Racing) started the race way back in 31st on the grid after a tactical error in qualifying, but was brilliant with a fourth place finish — right on the hammer of the Italian trio.
Kent still extended his championship lead after main challengers, teammate Efren Vazquez and 16-year-old pole man Fabio Quartararo (Estrella Galicia 0,0), both crashed.
Australia's Remy Gardner (CIP Mahindra) crashed after being the victim of another incident just after the start. However, he was still happy with his performance.
"In practice and warm-up, I managed to drop the gap between me and the front runners to less than one second," said Gardner. "This shows good progress, and now I just need some good luck”.
1. Romano Fenati, SKY Racing Team VR46, 41m 22.829s
2. Enea Bastianini, Gresini Racing Team Moto3, +0.122s
3. Francesco Bagnaia, Mapfre Team Mahindra, +0.457s
DNF. Remy Gardner, CIP, +24 laps
Pole Position: Fabio Quartararo, Estrella Galicia, 0,0, 1:44.763 = 143.8 km/h
Fastest lap and new record: Bastianini, 1:42.525 = 146.9 km/h
Championship top 3
Dany Kent 104 • Bastianini 67 • Efren Vazquez 60