Vinales heads up Yamaha MotoGP front-row sweep at Le Mans

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Maverick Viñales’ impressive start to life with Yamaha in MotoGP continued on Saturday as he swept to pole position for the French Grand Prix at Le Mans’ Circuit de la Sarthe.

Viñales stepped up to a factory seat with Yamaha for 2017 after three-time world champion Jorge Lorenzo’s move to Ducati, and made a splash by winning his first two races for the team.

Viñales arrived at Le Mans trailing teammate Valentino Rossi by two points at the top of the riders’ championship, and took a step towards overhauling the Italian racing icon by taking pole position on Saturday.

The Spanish rider outqualified Rossi by just one-tenth of a second in the final stage of Q2, with Johann Zarco taking P3 for Tech3, Yamaha’s satellite team, giving the Italian manufacturer a front-row lock-out.

Cal Crutchlow led Honda’s charge in fourth place, beating factory rider Marc Marquez in P5. Andrea Dovizioso took sixth for Ducati, having made it through Q1 at the expense of a number of big names.

Marquez’s teammate, Dani Pedrosa, fell by the wayside in Q1, leaving him 13th on the grid. Lorenzo’s early struggles with Ducati continued as he too dropped out, finishing a lowly 16th.

Supercross: Haiden Deegan debuts in 250s at Houston, Justin Cooper graduates to 450 class for Star Yamaha

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Rising star Haiden Deegan will make his Monster Energy Supercross debut in Houston, Texas with Yamaha Star Racing while the 2021 250 West champion Justin Cooper graduates to 450s.

Deegan, the son of motocross and off-road legend Brian Deegan and brother of NASCAR Truck Series driver Hailie Deegan, made two starts in the Pro Motocross outdoors season last year. He finished 31st overall at the Ironman Nationals in Crawfordsville, Indiana and was 13th at Fox Raceway in the season-ender at Fox Raceway in Pala, California, but the overall results did not necessarily reflect how well he ran. In both events, he challenged for top-10s during portions of the week and actually finished 10th in one of the Pala motos.

Last week, Haiden finished fifth in the Supercross 250 Futures in Anaheim 2.

“We’re really excited to get the season on the East Coast started,” said Monster Energy Team Manager Jensen Hendler in a press release. “It’s also exciting to have Haiden move up to join our pro program this season and to have Justin make his debut on the 450. The guys have been working hard and are looking forward to seeing what they can do this weekend in Houston.”

After scoring a 250SX Futures podium, Talon Hawkins gets 250 East ride.

Deegan will join Nate Thrasher and Jordon Smith in the 250 East division this week.

Cooper moves into the 450 class this weekend. According to Supercross rules, after winning the 2021 championship, he had one season to defend his title and then would be required to move up a class. Cooper missed all of last year to injury.

Cooper was healthy when the outdoor season started and he earned five podiums and nine top-fives in 12 rounds. Three of these races ended in runners-up finishes, at Hangtown, in Rancho Cordova, California, Washougal, Washington and Unadilla, New York.

Cooper joins Eli Tomac and Dylan Ferrandis in the 450 class and will race select events.

Justin Cooper learned to temper aggression with speed

Cooper’s Houston attempt will be the first of an undisclosed number of races he will compete in during the 2023 season.

“It’s been about two years since I’ve lined up for a supercross, and now it’s in a new class with the best guys, so I’m excited to just get out there,” Cooper said. “I’m looking to get back under the lights and learn what I can. Overall, I’m just really excited to be in the position to be out there, so I’m going to make the most of it and enjoy it!”

Deegan and Cooper will be part of a seven-rider Supercross lineup for Yamaha Star Racing. Nick Romano will debut in the 250 East division later this year.