A strong performance for Husqvarna Motorcycles in front of passionate French fans at Le Mans as Ayumu Sasaki rides to 2nd place at round seven of the 2022 MotoGP™ series.
The Le Mans Bugatti circuit is one of the most distinctive layouts on the MotoGP world championship trail at 4.2km and with fourteen varied turns that make tough demands of the riders for braking and acceleration but also test their bravery for corner entry and slipstreaming. These qualities were of particular importance for the Moto3 Grand Prix at a dry but cloudy seventh round of twenty-one this year.
Sterilgarda Max Racing approached the weekend with Ayumu Sasaki in fiercely competitive form and hunting his third podium result of the season. The team were able to count on their full line-up for the first time since the opening round in Qatar. John McPhee had recovered sufficiently from the back injury he’d sustained in training to be able to wheel out the FR 250 GP from the pitbox.
Le Mans witnessed busy attendances throughout Friday and Saturday when the sunshine beamed down onto the venue in northeast France. Sasaki was the best qualifier after Saturday’s Q2 and occupied 12th place on the grid. McPhee, getting back in the flow of Moto3, was on the sixth row in 15th.
Sunday saw the climate shift to clouds and a light shower in the first laps caused a considerable shift for the grip and feeling on the French asphalt. The Moto3 class was the first to lay down rubber trails and the 22-laps was soon halted due to rain in the first two circulations. Sasaki was one of several fallers at Turn 14 but the red flag allowed the Japanese to restart after some great work by the team to get the FR 250 GP repaired in less than 15 minutes.
Sasaki was brilliant in the 14-lap resumption. He cut through the top ten to challenge of the win in the closing stages thanks to some inventive overtaking moves and some bold lines. He led with three corner remaining but was just pipped to the flag by Jaume Masia. The gap was only a tenth of a second. 2nd place is still Sasaki’s best result of 2022, beating the 3rd positions obtained in Argentina and Portugal. McPhee, winner of the 2019 Grand Prix at Le Mans, pocketed three points for coming home 12th, just three seconds adrift of his teammate.
Sasaki’s residence in the Riders’ standings holds fast with 5th place. McPhee’s second points-score means he has risen to 16th. Sterilgarda Max Racing Team are 4th in the Teams list and Husqvarna Motorcycles sit 4th in the Constructors championship.
After a free weekend MotoGP will tackle the picturesque setting of Mugello for the Italian Grand Prix directly followed by the Catalan race at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
Ayumu Sasaki: “Again close to win, so I’m disappointed. After crashing in the first race and damaging the bike the team did a great job to get it fixed. It was just one minute before the pitlane opened for the restart so they did a fantastic job. I stayed focused and trusted myself. I tried to win on the last lap and I was so close but not enough! We’ll try again in Mugello because we were very competitive.”
John McPhee: “Today was a successful day. As a rider you cannot always be happy with P12 but today I am because we were three seconds from victory and as part of the [leading] group with a nice rhythm. The bike was working really well but the thing that held me back was my physical condition. I felt great for the first ten laps but in the last five I struggled to have the correct movement on the bike. So, to come away with points on the board meant it was a good day. A big thanks to the team and we’ll look forward to the next two races in Mugello and Barcelona.”
Results – 2022 Moto3 World Championship, Round 7
1. Jaume Masia (KTM) 24:04.119, 2. Ayumu Sasaki (Husqvarna) +0.150, 3. Izan Guevara (GASGAS) +0.220, 12. John McPhee (Husqvarna) +3.193
Moto3 world championship standings
1. Sergio Garcia (GASGAS) 112pts, 2. Jaume Masia (KTM) 95. 3. Dennis Foggia (Honda) 95. 5. Ayumu Sasaki (Husqvarna) 75, 16. John McPhee (Husqvarna) 15