Sam Lowes cruised to a first Moto2 win of 2020 at Le Mans after long-time leader Jake Dixon crashed out with just a few tours remaining.
Lowes dropped to fourth after starting on effective pole due to original fastest qualifier Joe Roberts was forced to start from the back after electing to change his tyres from wets to slicks too late.
The Brit was keen to use the speed he had in the greasy conditions as he quickly dispatched of Jorge Martin by the end of the opening lap, before taking the lead on the second tour by passing Xavi Vierge and leader Remy Gardner.
The Marc VDS racer subsequently managed to start gapping the riders behind, though an inspired Jake Dixon took advantage of Petronas SRT team-mate passing Gardner to move into third, before moving ahead of the Frenchman as he ran wide at Turn 5.
The ex-British Superbike front-runner then began to close down Lowes’ lead, and then soon found himself leading as the three-time Moto2 victor locked his front wheel and ran wide into Turn 6 at around a quarters-distance.
Dixon was now in possession of a three second gap due to Lowes’ mistake, though this quickly reduced as the Marc VDS Kalex posted several fastest laps in order to try and regain the initiative.
Lowes ultimately managed to get within a second of Dixon, but seemed to hit a brick wall as the leader began to first of all hold the lead steady, before beginning to edge away as the race entered its closing stages.
Heartbreak unfortunately was just around the corner for Dixon though as he tucked the front of his machine just prior to the apex of the final slow bend.
He slid into the gravel on the outside of the corner into an early retirement just four laps away from a maiden Moto2 success.
This was great news for Lowes though, who now inherited a five second lead over the close battle for second between Gardner, Marco Bezzecchi and the second Marc VDS bike of Augusto Fernandez.
Lowes therefore controlled the gap over the final few circulations, taking the chequered flag 3.8 seconds clear of Gardner for his first win since 2016, while Bezzecchi’s VR46 machine completed the rostrum positions.
Fernandez completed a strong day for the Belgian Marc VDS outfit in fourth ahead of Intact GP’s Tom Luthi in a distant fifth.
Roberts put on an inspired recovery ride to bag sixth, the American displaying pace that rivalled those at the front, with Fabio Di Gianantonio bringing his factory Speed Up entry home seventh.
Lorenzo Baldassarri scored solid points for eighth ahead of title contender Enea Bastianini-the Italtrans pilot staging a small comeback of his own in the latter stages after struggling for speed throughout-while Somkiat Chanta completed the top ten for Honda Team Asia.
Luca Marini suffered badly with the injury he picked up after his fearsome high-side on Friday, the championship leader able to finish only 17th-therefore taking no points and seeing his points advantage dented.
Another front runner to hit trouble was Jorge Martin, the KTM Ajo contender lighting up the rear of his intermediate class machine on the exit of Turn 10 and high-siding out of the race.
Vierge went out in similar fashion to the ’18 Moto3 world champion several laps later, though luckily both were able to get away relatively unharmed.
Marini’s points lead has now been reduced to just 13 over Bastianini, while Lowes’ win sees him move to within 22 points of the head of the standings.