VICTORY IN FRANCE: Jorge Lorenzo raced to victory at a thrilling French MotoGP Grand Prix, topping the world championship standings. Image: AP
Le Mans, France - Jorge Lorenzo raced to victory at a thrilling French MotoGP Grand Prix, topping the world championship standings.
The Yamaha rider crossed the line more than 10 seconds ahead of his team mate Valentino Rossi, with Maverick Vinales (Suzuki) finishing in third.
A perfect weekend
Lorenzo, who takes the 2016 championship lead from Marc Marquez, completed a perfect weekend in Le Mans after setting a record-breaking lap in qualifying on Saturday.
The defending world champion enjoyed a serene afternoon at the historic Bugatti circuit, avoiding mayhem behind with no fewer than eight riders failing to complete the 28 laps.
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Lorenzo, who now leads Marquez by five points, said: "This was a very important race, a great race for the championship."
Marquez was one of those to crash, although he remounted his Honda to trail in at the rear of the pack.
From pole, Lorenzo achieved a great start to doinate the fifth leg of the season.
The main winner at the start was Andrea Dovizioso, riding for Ducati, who surged from sixth on the grid to race in second, tracked by Marquez.
Rossi, who set off from a season-lowest seventh after a mistake-strewn qualifying, triggered a huge roar from the crowd when he nipped past Marquez as the midway point of the race approached.
The hugely popular Italian veteran soon only had his team mate Lorenzo ahead of him after overtaking Dovizioso.
With 13 laps to go Marquez and Dovizioso exited the scene in carbon copy crashes on turn seven, their bikes slipping from underneath them, to promote Vinales to third.
Championship leader Marquez manfully climbed back on board.
Unaffected by all that drama, Lorenzo was racing smoothly in front, well clear of Rossi, who was seeking to follow up his win in Spain a fortnight ago with 10 laps remaining.
Turn seven was to prove the undoing of a third rider when British Yamaha rider, Bradley Smith, slithered out of the race.
Lorenzo never challenged
Lorenzo, who was never in danger of being caught by Rossi in the closing stages, reflected on his 63rd overall victory and 42nd in MotoGP.
Lorenzo said: "I wanted to keep a high pace and not lose concentration, I kept pushing on the throttle.
"I could breathe a little more when Marquez and Dovizioso crashed."
Rossi was a relieved man to add 20 points to his championship standings tally.
The Italian said: "I lost a lot of time at the beginning, but that's normal when you start from the 10th row.
"After good pace, I got in front of Marquez and Dovizioso but Lorenzo was too far in front.
"I'm happy, after a difficult weekend - 20 points is good for the championship," which now moves on to Italy on May 22.