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Miller wins French MotoGP, Quartararo leads championship

Australian rider Jack Miller made a great start to overtake polesitter Fabio Quartararo and then held him off to win the French MotoGP on Sunday.

The Ducati rider started third behind Quartararo's Yamaha teammate Maverick Vinales but surged ahead. Quartararo caught Miller a few laps in but later took a time penalty as heavy rain fell and then subsided.

Miller clinched his second straight win of the season and third overall, beating Johann Zarco by four seconds and Quartararo by 14.5 as two French riders finished on the podium.

MotoGP rider Jack Miller of Australia crosses the finish line to win the French Motorcycle Grand Prix in Le Mans, France, Sunday, May 16, 2021. (AP PhotoDavid Vincent)

“I was riding to the conditions. I was just counting the laps,” Miller said. “It’s absolutely amazing, I can’t thank the team enough.”

Quartararo moved into the championship lead with 80 points, one ahead of Italian Francesco Bagnaia, who was 16th on the grid but finished a credible fourth.

Zarco is now third overall with 68 ahead of Miller on 64.

MotoGP rider Jack Miller of Australia steers his motorcycle during the French Motorcycle Grand Prix in Le Mans, France, Sunday, May 16, 2021. (AP PhotoDavid Vincent)

The race started in warm but windy conditions on the 4.2-kilometer (2.6-mile) Le Mans circuit in northwestern France, which has a longest straight of 674 meters.

Vinales also overtook Quartararo, who dropped to third, while Franco Morbidelli crashed out on Lap 1 and the rain soon started to fall heavily.

Quartararo surged into the lead on Lap 4 as Miller briefly went off into some gravel, while world champion Joan Mir came off his Suzuki amid increasingly slippery conditions.

MotoGP rider Fabio Quartararo of France steers his motorcycle followed by Jack Miller of Australia, right, during the French Motorcycle Grand Prix in Le Mans, France, Sunday, May 16, 2021. (AP PhotoDavid Vincent)

All the riders got a bike change on Lap 5 as a result. Quartararo came out behind six-time world champion Marc Marquez, while Miller got back into third as riders adapted to new tires.

“The first couple of laps were real dodgy on the wet tires," Miller said.

A rare error from Marquez saw him ejected from his Honda after misjudging a turn, giving Quartararo the lead with 19 of 27 laps left.

MotoGP rider Fabio Quartararo of France steers his motorcycle during the French Motorcycle Grand Prix in Le Mans, France, Sunday, May 16, 2021. (AP PhotoDavid Vincent)

But the Frenchman got a time penalty with 16 laps remaining, allowing Miller to pull clear while Zarco's extra speed and nous in the rain shifted him into second.

It was a bad day for Marquez, who came off for a second time.

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MotoGP rider Fabio Quartararo of France takes a curve followed by Maverick Vinales of Spain, right, during the French Motorcycle Grand Prix in Le Mans, France, Sunday, May 16, 2021. (AP PhotoDavid Vincent)

MotoGP rider Johann Zarco of France steers his motorcycle during the French Motorcycle Grand Prix in Le Mans, France, Sunday, May 16, 2021. (AP PhotoDavid Vincent)