Motorcycling: Marquez cruises at Le Mans to extend MotoGP lead as local rider Zarco tumbles out

Winner Repsol Honda Team's Spanish rider Marc Marquez celebrates on the podium after the MotoGP race of the French motorcycling Grand Prix on May 20, 2018, in Le Mans, northwestern France. PHOTO: AFP

LE MANS, France (AFP) - Marc Marquez reeled off his third win on the bounce in the French Grand Prix on Sunday (May 20), as home favourite and pole sitter Johann Zarco crashed out.

The Spaniard took his 38th success in the top MotoGP category unchallenged from Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Pramac), with Italian veteran Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) in third.

"I saw that the track had a little bit less grip than yesterday and especially this morning," said the Honda ace in the paddock.

"But I'm happy because this victory is important on a circuit where normally we struggle."

Zarco had the home fans at Le Mans' Bugatti circuit dreaming of a rare French win after his record-setting pole 24 hours earlier but the Yamaha Tech star slid out of contention on lap seven.

Zarco's premature exit left Marquez in control in a race that after early drama turned into something of a procession.

The result tightened Marquez's grip on the MotoGP standings with the defending four-time champion on 95 points.

His closest pursuer is Maverick Vinales, albeit 36 points behind, with Zarco on 58 points in third, and seven-time world champion Rossi two points further adrift.

At the start, Zarco was quickly displaced at the front by track specialist Jorge Lorenzo, as behind Andrea Iannone on a Suzuki came to grief at the sixth corner.

Andrea Dovizioso's Ducati then swept past Lorenzo but no sooner had the Italian made his move than he too crashed.

It was then hapless Zarco's turn to exit, stage left, as the French MotoGP idol parted company with his bike with 20 laps remaining.

With the great Gallic home hope out of the picture it did not take long for Marquez to make his decisive move as Lorenzo back pedalled, eventually finishing sixth.

If the MotoGP race was lacking in whiteknuckle excitement, the same was certainly not the case in the Moto3 Grand Prix with Spain's Albert Arenas awarded the win after Fabio di Giannantonio was demoted to fourth for cutting a corner.

Honda's Italian rider crossed the line first at Le Mans' Bugatti circuit but was hit with a three-second penalty, with KTM's Arenas promoted from second to first.

"That's fantastic, it's hard to believe," said the 21-year-old, celebrating his first win since his debut season in 2014.

Andrea Migno and Marcos Ramirez joined Arenas on the all KTM podium.

Another KTM rider, Marco Bezzecchi leads the championship standings on 63 points, with di Giannantonio four points behind in second and his Honda teammate Aron Canet in third, three points further back.

Bezzecchi held onto the championship lead despite a final bend crash with Honda's Jorge Martin.

In Moto2, championship leader Francesco Bagnaia then made it three wins out of five this season. Kalex's Italian rider set off from pole and held off all challengers to add this to his wins in the opening race in Qatar and at the Grand Prix of the Americas.

Joining him on the Kalex-dominated podium were Spaniards Alex Marquez and reigning Moto3 champion Joan Mir.

Bagnaia moved up to 98 points in the Moto2 standings, 19 points clear of Miguel Oliveira.

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