Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Augusto Fernandez claimed a dominant victory in the Moto2 French GP at Le Mans on Sunday.
The Spaniard crossed the line five seconds ahead of the pack for his first win in over two years with Flexbox HP40’s Aron Canet and Honda’s Somkiat Chantra claiming the podium battle over American Racing’s Cameron Beaubier in the final lap.
Rookie Pedro Acosta headed the intermediate class grid for the first time in his Moto2 career as the 25-lap FrenchGP prepared. Aspar’s Jake Dixon and Ajo teammate Fernandez joining him on the front row with fourth placed rider Sam Lowes declared unfit due to neck pain and dizziness following his Q2 crash.
Acosta grabbed the holeshot as the lights released, Fernandez joining him to head the pack through the first corner with Albert Arenas and Alonso Lopez sitting third and fourth. Dixon suffering a disappointing start as he dropped to sixth.
VR46’s Niccolo Antonelli suffered the first crash of the race through turn six as Marco Ramirez and Canet battled for fifth with Dixon dropping further to seventh.
A good start found Beaubier running ninth as lap two began. Elf Marc VDS’ disappointing Sunday going from bad to worse as Tony Arbolino succumbed to turn six with Fermin Aldeguer doing likewise on the Speed Up seconds later.
His MC Conveyors teammate Lopez was in podium contention as the race played out up front. Arenas, Canet and Ramirez joined by Beaubier in seventh as Dixon continued to fall backwards. The leading Ajo duo were split by half a second as Acosta continued to shine with the American matching their pace as he too looked to climb.
Dixon’s heartbreak was compounded by a final corner fall as his GasGas slid out at Raccordement. His Aspar teammate Arenas and Lopez suffering a similar fate after a collision at turn seven next time around.
Canet circulated in the final podium position as lap seven played out. Almost five seconds separating him from the KTM’s out front with Beaubier just three-tenths back. Honda Team Asia riders Chantra and Ai Ogura ran fifth and seventh with Ramirez splitting the pair on the MV Agusta with Marcel Schrotter, Jorge Navarro and Joe Roberts completing the top ten with a third distance dispatched. A Dunlop chicane shortcut bringing Bo Bendsneyder a long lap penalty from 13th.
Championship leader Celestino Vietti’s rollercoaster run of form continued as the Mooney VR46 rider ran wide and through the gravel at Garage Vert as he dropped down to 20th. Gabriel Rodrigo almost immediately crashed out at turn 13 before disaster struck the leader and Acosta’s run was finished at six after ten dominant laps.
The crash released Fernandez with a six-minute lead. Canet and Beaubier now battling for second with Chantra half a second back in a very comfortable fourth. Ramirez the next to succumb to the Le Mans circuit at turn seven as the front runners were gifted even more breathing space.
Chantra captured third from Beaubier at the halfway stage with the American unable to immediately hit back. Schrotter bettering the second Honda rider for fifth but over seven seconds adrift as both Chantra then Beaubier made a move on Canet at turn eight as the podium fight fired up.
Barry Baltus headed the VR46 Master Camp duo of Stefano Manzi and Manuel Gonzales on the edge of the top ten as Vietti regrouped two places behind. Canet returning to the podium at the expense of Beaubier with eight laps to go as his American Racing teammate Sean Dylan Kelly retired to pitlane from 20th.
A mistake at Garage Vert saw Chantra down to fourth as the duo ahead capitalised. Fernandez still running a strong seven second lead while Baltus crashed out of a personal best run from ninth at turn seven with five laps to go.
Vietti was the fastest man on track in the closing stages as he homed in on the top ten and his VR46 academy colleagues. Canet and Beaubier setting identical pace in the podium battle as the race counted down. Gonzales the first to meet the Mooney machine with just a tenth to replacement rider Manzi and three to go.
Vietti was through to ninth as the penultimate lap began. Beaubier fading with Chantra for company on the edge of the podium before the Honda rider made the move stick on the final corner.
Fernandez cruised to the flag with a near five-second margin to take the victory from Canet, Chantra defending the final podium position from the determined American as Beaubier secured his career-best finish in fourth from 16th on the grid.
Ogura headed Schrotter and Roberts with Vietti recovering to eighth from outside of the points. Navarro and Manzi rounding out the top ten from Gonzales, Lorenzo Dalla Porta, Jeremy Alcoba, Bendsneyder and Filip Salac.