While Maverick Vinales was celebrating Suzuki's first podium since its 2015 MotoGP return, team-mate Aleix Espargaro was left to settle for sixth position at Le Mans on Sunday.

Espargaro rose from twelfth to sixth on the opening lap, reaching a peak of fourth place on lap 16 of 28.

However in a race that saw eight riders suffer front-end falls, the Spaniard was another to struggle for grip. Espargaro was forced to make two saves with his hand and, after being in the 1m 34s bracket until lap 18, spent most of the remainder of the race in 1m 36s.

Related Articles

"We had really good grip, I was very aggressive in the first part of the race and I gained a lot of places on the first lap," he said. "I was quite competitive and I was fighting with Maverick. The bike was very good, especially the rear grip.

"But then suddenly I felt that the front had no grip and was not turning. I lose the front every time. Actually I pick up the bike with my hand two times. I was very, very lucky. I don't understand what happened.

"I don't know if [the others] crashed because of the same like me. Obviously something happened with my front tyre, because the problem is that I was not three or four tenths slower. I was almost two seconds slower.

"So something very, very strange. Something to analyse. Anyway we had a good advantage to the next rider so I just tried to finish the race very slow and take the points home.

"It was a shame because today we could fight for the podium. The only positive thing is that I nearly crashed two times, but I saved the crash and took a lot of points. Three consecutive races in the top six, so this is positive."

Espargaro is seventh in the world championship, five points behind younger brother Pol (Tech 3 Yamaha) and two more from Vinales.

By Peter McLaren