Yamaha’s triple MotoGP world champion Jorge Lorenzo won a crash-strewn French Grand Prix from pole position on Sunday to wrest the overall lead from fellow-Spaniard Marc Marquez after the Honda rider slid out.
Italian great Valentino Rossi clinched the Yamaha one-two, 10.654 seconds behind, with Spaniard Maverick Vinales — tipped to replace Lorenzo next season — taking his first top-flight podium finish on a Suzuki.
That third place at Le Mans’ Bugatti circuit was Suzuki’s first podium since Italian Loris Capirossi’s in the Czech Republic in 2008.
Lorenzo, who celebrated his 29th birthday earlier in the week and led from start to finish, now has 90 points from five races with Marquez on 85 after rejoining and finishing 13th.
Rossi, who started on the third row after winning the previous race in Spain, is third with 78 points.
“The race was so long,” said Lorenzo, impervious to the whistles and boos from a crowd dominated by Rossi fans, after winning in 43 minutes 51.290 seconds over the 28 laps.
“I wanted to keep the high pace and not lose the concentration. That’s why I didn’t close the throttle and kept pushing…finally when Dovizioso and Marquez crashed I could breathe a little bit more.
“I knew I could win the race but if Marquez finished second I just recover five points. Now I recovered more than 20 so it’s a great race for the championship,” added Lorenzo, who is moving to Ducati next year, of his second win of the season.
Marquez slid off with Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso on lap 16 while they were running third and fourth and as they slowed into turn seven without either making contact.
The Spaniard rejoined, other falls allowing him to score three points as the last classified rider.
Rossi had battled with Marquez and Dovizioso before settling into second.
“I lost a lot of time at the beginning but it’s normal when you start from the third row,” said the Italian. “Also, my start was very bad. But after I had guite good pace and I was a little bit faster than Dovi and Marquez.
“When I got in front I did some good laps but already Jorge was too far.”
Vinales, 21, side-stepped questions about his future but Yamaha MotoGP boss Lin Jarvis gave the rumour mill another shove by saying it was the “first time we’ve had all three on the podium”.