Moto3 Le Mans: John McPhee holds on to win French thriller

John McPhee held off Lorenzo Dalla Porta all the way to the chequered in a thrilling finish to win the French Moto3 Grand Prix at Le Mans.
Moto3 Le Mans: John McPhee holds on to win French thriller

John McPhee rode a perfect last lap in a highly competitive French Moto3 Grand Prix to take a second career win in Le Mans.

The victory was historic for his Petronas Sprinta Racing Team - handing them their first ever race win off the back of gaining the outfits first pole in qualifying.

The British rider initially lost a few places in the opening laps, but his pateince and racecraft saw him run comfortably in the front group, trading the lead with fellow frontrunners Tatsuki Suzuki, Andrea Migno and Leopard’s Lorenzo Dalla Porta.

When Suzuki slid out, taking Tony Arbolino out with him the lead pack fractured, leaving Dalla Porta and McPhee briefly free at the front.

They were chased down by both Migno, who lead briefly in the closing stages and Kaito Toba, looking for his second win of the season, but it remained a tight race over the final corners between the pair, McPhee slipstreamed to the front at the start of the final sector, put in a block pass and then held the on all the way to the line to win by just 0.106s.

The Honda pair were joined on the podium by Aron Canet - his final lunge for the podium on the last lap saw him budge Toba as he struggled to stay on his wobbling bike - he held on to climb on the rostrum while Toba was pushed back to sixth, leading to the Honda Team Asia rider hitting Canet on the back on the warm down lap in frustration.

The top KTM rider dedicated his third place to his Sterilgarda Max Racing Team boss Max Biaggi and his father, who passed away this weekend.

Canet still leads the championship standings too - now fourteen points clear of Dalla Porta with a total of 74.

Gabriel Rodrigo held on for fourth for Gresini, crossing the line just ahead of Bester Capital Dubai’s Migno.

Celestino Vietti staged a huge comeback as the chaos reigned up front - qualifying down in 21st he made the best of all the errors by others in the race to charge to seventh at the close, the top rookie finisher again for Sky Racing Team VR46.

Kazuki Masaki also gained places over the duration of the race, turning his 17th in qualifying into a solid eighth for BOE by the flag.

Juame Masia (Bester Capital Dubai) was one of three riders to receive an in-race penalty for taking a shortcut, he crossed the line ninth but was pushed back to twelfth after the extra time was added.

That elevated Jakub Kornfeil (Redox PruestelGP) to ninth and pushed Raul Fernandez (Samar Qatar Angel Nieto Team) into the top ten - an impressive comeback after being given a twelve place grid penalty pre-race.

His team-mate Albert Arenas gained too, claiming eleventh.

Makar Yurchenko fared better after a solid qualifying and was close to a best finish in 13th on the second BOE Skull Rider Mugen Race machine.

The final points on offer went to Ayumu Sasaki on the second Petronas entry and Filip Salac in 15th recovering after being involved in the first crash of the day - he was taken out by Sergio Garcia on the first lap.

The race was peppered with accidents which meant only 17 riders saw the chequered flag - Can Oncu and Tom Booth-Amos were the only other finishers.  

Also a first lap faller, frontrunner Ai Ogura experienced a huge crash, which saw his bike spin around and head back on to the track in front of the rest of the field. Amazingly, every single rider had the presence of mind to miss the flying machinery. The Japanese rider sustained a right hand and left foot fracture in the accident.

There were also early falls for Darryn Binder, Riccardo Rossi and Marcos Ramirez - Rossi was later diagnosed with concussion and a right shoulder dislocation.

Romano Fenati was injured far worse than initially thought after his practice crash - the clatter he took saw the visor pop off his helmet, but it was later revealed that he was caught by his bike heavily, running over his own ankle and causing ligament damage - which lead to his lacklustre qualifying and eventual retirement from the race with thirteen laps remaining.

Niccolo Antonelli, Vincente Perez, Alonso Lopez and Dennis Foggia all also failed to go the distance.