'Unbelievable day' for winner Bezzecchi at chaotic Le Mans MotoGP
Italian rider Marco Bezzecchi comfortably held off sprint winner Jorge Martin to take victory in the 1,000th MotoGP event at Le Mans on Sunday.
A number of race favourites such as world champion Francesco Bagnaia, who started on pole, and six-time champion Marc Marquez crashed out in a chaotic race, allowing Johann Zarco to complete the podium on his home track.
Bezzecchi, on a Ducati, had to overcome an early penalty after a hard overtake of Marquez forced both riders off the track.
But after serving the one-place drop, he quickly reestablished himself and showed total control once he hit the front to claim his second MotoGP win, following his victory in Argentina last month.
"(It) was an unbelievable day for me,” he told Motorsport.com.
“Honestly, this morning I didn’t expect to have this kind of race. But yesterday I felt good on the bike and I knew that with a good start I could make something more... obviously I didn’t expect a win, but anyway a good race.
"Then today, when I started I saw that I was faster than the guys in front of me.
"I was able to overtake them. Once I got in the lead I was able to put on a good pace and I was feeling very well with my bike and I was able to escape."
The 24-year-old, who only stepped up from Moto2 at the start of 2022, is now just one point behind championship leader Bagnaia, who came under investigation for his part in the crash that took him out of the race as well as Aprilia's Maverick Vinales.
Marquez, on his return from injury sustained in a first-lap crash in the season opener in Portugal, was running a strong second until he slid off the track on the penultimate lap.
- Bumper crowd -
The race started in sunny conditions and with another bumper crowd taking the event total to an all-time attendance record in MotoGP's 74-year history of 278,805.
The mayhem started in the fifth lap when Bagnaia leant into Vinales, who was overtaking him on a corner, resulting in both riders ending up on their backsides in the gravel.
An angry Vinales was quick to get over to Bagnaia, remonstrating with the Italian and giving him a tap on the helmet before the two men were separated by a marshall.
Moments later there was another Italian-Spanish collision as Luca Marini inadvertently took out Alex Marquez. The two riders came to rest on the track and only just escaped being hit by the riders coming through from behind.
With Jack Miller slipping down the order, before sliding out with three laps to go, it was left to Martin and Marc Marquez to provide the festive crowd with a battle royal for second spot.
The duel saw numerous overtakes before Marquez's Honda went from under him to leave the path open for Martin to take second and for Zarco to come through for an unexpected third place.
Bagnaia leads the championship with 94 points, one more than Bezzecchi with South African Brad Binder third on 81, one ahead of Martin.
"I’m still not thinking about the championship," said Bezzecchi, who can now take a break before heading to his home Italian MotoGP on June 11.
"We saw having the sprint and the main GP in the same weekend, it’s very easy to lose everything very quickly.
"So, I just want to continue like this, thinking weekend by weekend, race by race, enjoying my bike with the guys (in the team) who are fantastic. Now we go to Mugello."
Tony Arbolino (Elf MarcVDS Racing Team) produced a commanding performance to win the Moto2 race, opening up a 25 point lead over championship rival Pedro Acosta (Red Bull), who crashed out while running second and trying to reel in the Italian.
Daniel Holgado (Red Bull) won the Moto3 event and leads the championship, 21 points ahead of Ivan Ortola.