Maverick Viñales moved back into the lead of the MotoGP riders’ championship by winning Sunday’s French Grand Prix in Le Mans as Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi crashed on the final lap.
Viñales took pole on Saturday ahead of Rossi and MotoGP rookie Johann Zarco, who appeared to be in contention for a famous home victory when he charged into the lead on the first lap.
Zarco was powerless to keep Viñales back when the Spaniard made a pass for the lead seven laps on, but the Tech3 rider did well to defend from Rossi and hold on to second place.
Rossi eventually overhauled Zarco with six laps to go before setting off in pursuit of Viñales, who he quickly caught and passed with three to go.
Rossi opened the door for Viñales late on to allow the Spaniard back past, but then saw his push to take back the lead on the final lap end in dramatic fashion when he slid off the track and out of the race.
Viñales crossed the line with a three-second buffer over Zarco in second, allowing him to pull out a 17-point lead in the riders’ championship in the process.
Viñales closest title rival is now Dani Pedrosa, who battled from 13th on the grid to take the final podium position in third place.
Pedrosa led Honda’s charge at the Circuit de la Sarthe after three-time world champion Marc Marquez crashed out, leaving him empty handed.
Andrea Dovizioso finished fourth for Ducati ahead Cal Crutchlow and teammate Jorge Lorenzo, who like Pedrosa had to fight back from a Q1 exit.
Jonas Folger was seventh on the second Tech3 entry ahead of Jack Miller and Loris Baz, while Andrea Iannone rounded out the top 10.