(CNN)Jorge Lorenzo clinched his second successive MotoGP victory Sunday with a metronomic ride in front of 93,500 spectators at France's famous Le Mans circuit .
Lorenzo lights up Le Mans while Marquez malaise continues
The Spaniard topped a Yamaha one-two, with championship leader Valentino Rossi claiming a convincing second place after starting from the third row of the grid.
Lorenzo's victory closed the gap on Rossi at the top of the championship to just 15 points, and underlined his return to title winning form. The 28 year old led from the first lap with the kind of precise performance that is his hallmark, and never once looked like relinquishing top spot.
Behind the two Yamahas, Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso continued his consistent run of controlled performances for the resurgent Italian team, claiming another richly deserved podium.
Marc Marquez, who this time last year was celebrating his fifth consecutive MotoGP victory, finished in a distant fourth place.
The normally laconic Lorenzo was bright eyed and verbose at the end of the race, confessing that he had been concerned about his tires in the early laps, but had slowly relaxed as the race developed. He also admitted that his early lead helped him. "It was important to be second and overtake Marc at the start and Dovizioso in the first corner," he explained. "This is the way I prefer to ride, because with nobody in front I can brake perfectly, keep the corner speed and try to increase the gap, so that is what happened.
Rossi was full of praise for his teammate. "When he's like that it's very difficult to come close to him," he told reporters. "This weekend he was stronger than us and was better prepared for the race, so he deserved to win, but I'm happy also for Yamaha because this year our bike is very strong. These twenty points are very important for the championship."
Both Rossi's championship lead and Lorenzo's return to his imperious best will be a source of concern to Marc Marquez and his Honda team. The world champion's topsy turvy campaign continues, and he admitted that the change in weather for the race had caught his team out. Qualifying had been cool and overcast, but race day saw intense heat and bright sunshine.
"Today the temperature rose sharply; we had not ridden in such conditions at any time this the weekend. On the fourth lap I started to notice that I had a lot of problems with the front end," he said after the race. "I think all the Hondas had the same trouble; in fact a lot crashed after losing front grip because we were really suffering."
Indeed, Honda endured a miserable day across the board, with the in-form Briton Cal Crutchlow and his compatriot Scott Redding both losing their front ends at the steep La Chappelle curve and crashing out. Australian rookie Jack Miller tumbled too.
Marquez's teammate Dani Pedrosa also lost the front on just his second lap, but managed to re-mount and finish a highly creditable 16th on his return from major surgery to correct an arm-pump problem.
"It was a shame to crash so early in the race," he said, and confessed that he didn't know why he had crashed, "I don't understand much about the crash, because I just lost the front end. I tried to restart the engine and get back in the race, even though the handlebars were bent, because I wanted to try completing an entire race. It was a positive test for me, although there is still room for improvement, but fitness-wise things are a little better."
Dovizioso, while happy with another podium to consolidate his third place in the championship, told reporters that the Ducati remains work in progress. "I thought my speed was good enough to get me to the flag and allow me to fight for the win, but it was not possible. This confirms that we are still missing a little something and, even though we have to be satisfied with another podium, we still have to work hard and make further improvements to the GP15."
Next up in the calendar is Italy's heart-stoppingly rapid Mugello circuit. Ducati have been testing there recently, and at his home GP Rossi can count on even more passionately partisan support than usual.
The Italian is clearly relishing every moment of his return to the top. "I arrive in Mugello with this great condition I'm in and that makes me very happy. The problem is that it's also Jorge's favorite track. Today was a great result for our team, a Yamaha 1-2, and we hope that in Mugello we can reverse the order."
With back to back wins, Lorenzo is also full of confidence. "Mugello is a good track for Yamaha and especially for me, because it's my favorite track, but Valentino is also very fast there, so who knows what's going to happen."
With Yamaha's dominance and Ducati's continuing progress Honda must find answers soon. Even just five races in, Marquez knows his grip on the title is no longer strong. "We must learn from this race and especially from the data we have gathered," he said. For the fans, however, this unpredictable season shows all the signs of becoming a classic.