Vinales wins thrilling French MotoGP as Rossi comes off bike

The win put Maverick Vinales top of the standings, while pre-race championship leader Valentino Rossi dropped down to third behind Dani Pedrosa.

Maverick Vinales is on top of the standings after winning the French MotoGP.   -  AP

Italian veteran Valentino Rossi made a braking error on the last lap and fell off his bike moments later, allowing his Movistar Yamaha teammate Maverick Vinales to win a thrilling French Moto Grand Prix on Sunday.

The win put Vinales top of the standings, while pre-race championship leader Rossi dropped down to third behind Dani Pedrosa.

The 38-year-old Rossi was leading Vinales with the finish line in sight, but the Spaniard sneaked past him with a handful of turns remaining. Rossi then tried a risky move to overtake Vinales but with just two turns left he pushed too hard on the inside and slipped off his bike and span across the track.

“Incredible, I gave my best in the last laps,” Vinales said. “Le Mans is always a very good track for me.”

Rossi’s mistake allowed French rookie Johann Zarco to finish in second place for a first-ever podium, while Pedrosa took third.

“I felt great from the start and really wanted to attack,” said Zarco, who rides a Monster Yamaha. “I thought about Yamaha’s 500th victory and I thought Why not me?’ But it’s already special to get on the podium.”

The distraught Rossi picked his bike back up and slumped over the handlebars as he contemplated the wasted points especially considering defending champion Marc Marquez of Spain had earlier crashed.

After five races, Vinales has 85 points, Pedrosa has 68, Rossi 62 and Marquez 58.

The next race is the Italian MotoGP in Mugello in two weeks’ time.

The 22-year-old Vinales took pole position ahead of Rossi and Zarco. But Zarco made a flying start on the softer tire and held the lead for several laps until Vinales overtook him.

Rossi was in third place with Marquez chasing behind him.

With 11 laps to go, Marquez crashed after turning on the inside of his bike. Marquez, who had already come off his Honda during qualifying, appeared unharmed and got straight back up.

Up ahead, Zarco continued to pressure Vinales, while Rossi was picking up pace.

Rossi used all his experience to pull up to Zarco and pass him with six laps left.

Boosted by a lap record time on the 4.2kilometer Le Mans circuit, the seven-time MotoGP champion then went after Vinales. With three laps remaining, he surged past on the inside and then held him off brilliantly on the next corner.

Victory looked certain.

But Rossi, who won his last title in 2009, then lost concentration with a poor braking move.

“I saw Valentino make a mistake and I took my chance,” Vinales said.

Rather than accept second place, Rossi’s pride kicked in and he preferred to take a risk ending up with nothing.

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