Millions of pounds can be spent by some of the cleverest people to be found researching and developing the perfect layout for an exciting race track. Yet despite racetrack designers’ best efforts, there doesn’t appear to be any formula behind good racetracks.
This fact was proved once again proved at this weekend’s MotoGP meeting. The cobbled-together Le Mans Bugatti circuit, small and tired, looks on paper to be nothing special. But when the motorbikes roll up and the huge French fanbase descends upon the track, the place comes alive and treats fans to regularly thrilling races.
Sunday’s racing began with Maverick Vinales taking a dominant victory from pole position in the Moto3 race. For the third time this season, the podium consisted of the same three Spaniards, Vinales alongside Alex Rins and Luis Salom, while Jonas Folger trailed just behind after spending the first half of the race battling with them.
Things really stepped up a gear with the Moto2 race. After three years of battling against top talent and a rules formula heavily unfavourable to him, Scott Redding finally took his first Moto2 victory and with it, together with the numerous mistakes of his closest rivals, a 24 point championship lead.
The decision to enforce a minimum weight limit on each rider has allowed the six-foot tall Redding to finally prove his immense talent on an equal footing with his much smaller and lighter rivals.
Takaaki Nakagami led away from pole but was one of many of the top riders to make a mistake in the treacherous damp conditions.
Halfway through the race, with the clouds above growing steadily gloomier, Redding was looking imperious with a two second lead over Xavier Simeon, the Belgian heading towards his first podium finish.
It was these very clouds which were to provide a nail-biting finish. As the track got more damp, Simeon and Redding’s own team-mate began to close rapidly on Redding, who was getting uncomfortable with the changing conditions. With his lead ebbing away Redding began signalling for the race to be curtailed and with just two laps to go the red flags were indeed shown, securing the first none-Spanish race win of 2013.
A heavy downpour just after the Moto2 race had finished provided a dash of extra spice for the main event, the MotoGP race.
With the track dry enough for dry tyres but wet enough to require a cautious approach, the MotoGP grid raced off into the first corner. Marc Marquez belied his aggressive reputation with an overly cautious start and by the first corner was already back in ninth, his inexperience of riding a 1000cc bike in the wet glaringly apparent.
Dani Pedrosa took an assured victory and regained the mantle of championship favourite that he had pre-season. Behind him, Cal Crutchlow took a career-best second place and more importantly was easily the top Yamaha rider, with Jorge Lorenzo finishing seventh after struggling with grip problems and Valentino Rossi crashing midway through the race.
Marc Marquez recovered from a shaky first few laps to take a podium, continuing his 100% record. He overtook Andrea Dovizioso with only a couple of laps to go, the Italian’s Ducati performing more strongly than even the team expected in the changeable conditions.
Once again, the old Le Mans track had served up a treat of racing, and in just two weeks MotoGP moves on to another classic track, Mugello.