Bradley Smith spent the second half of the French MotoGP in a close three-way fight with world champion Marc Marquez and Factory Ducati's Andrea Iannone.

Riding for the home Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team, Smith finally lined up a move on Iannone under braking for the Dunlop chicane - only for Marquez to pass the pair of them.

Marquez and Iannone then continued their fight for fourth until the flag, the Repsol Honda star claiming the positon by just 0.347s with Smith less than one-second further back.

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"We were all doing similar lap times, but just each in a different way," Smith said. "Honestly the Ducati was extremely fast off of corners, it can even pass Marc like he's standing still down every straight.

"So it meant that lining up a pass was tough, the one time I made it happen, then Marc lunged up the inside of both of us. It was a shame, because if I had made that pass stick, the outcome would have been a little bit different in the race, but I have to be happy with sixth.

"The Hondas are able to brake really, really deep. Or Marc is just able to brake really deep, so it makes him really difficult to line up a pass on.

"So there's a few things we need to improve, to try and strengthen our armour a bit in those type of conditions, to be able to pass a little bit easier, and there's a few small things that we can do."

Nevertheless sixth equalled Smith's best result of the season and crossed the line 14-seconds clear of team-mate and next best non-Factory team rider Pol Espargaro. With Cal Crutchlow failing to finish, Smith is also now just one point behind the LCR Honda rider for sixth in the world championship.

"To end up fighting with the reigning MotoGP world champion and with another factory rider is where we want to be, so I have to be happy with finishing as the leading satellite bike. We've also gained some championship points on Cal, so we have accomplished what we set out to achieve."

Smith had made a perfect start to the weekend by leading Friday practice at Le Mans, but on race day the Factory Movistar Yamaha team were again in a class of their own.

"You have to bear in mind that a factory team has a lot more resources, and a lot more experience, let's say," Smith said. "Obviously, parts are a bit more accessible to them, so if they need to throw something a little bit different in, if they're maxed out in one area, they have something to manage that.

"Whereas what we have on Friday is what we more or less have to keep until Sunday. It's just something we have to accept, but continue to learn from them. We'll continue to try to make gains on our own program. Maybe not directly against the [factory team], because I think they'll always have those one-percenters that help them edge away in the races, but to keep ourselves away from the other satellite bikes."