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Vinales takes MotoGP victory at Le Mans, Rossi crashes on last lap

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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.

Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

PRACTICE CHART: Click here to see the speed rundown from Thursday’s session

FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at ground zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.