Thomas Luthi scored his first win of the 2012 Moto2 championship with a masterful ride in wet conditions at Le Mans, moving to within three points of the championship lead in the process.
Former points leader Marc Marquez suffered his first retirement since Silverstone last year, crashing out while running fifth 10 laps into the race. A spate of late incidents allowed Pol Espargaro to finish sixth and move one point clear of Marquez.
Starting from second, Luthi (Paddock Suter) stayed near the front during the early chaos and then moved into the lead seven laps in. The chasing pack initially stayed with him, but as the race progressed so did Luthi's gap, extending past the three-second mark at the halfway stage.
Last year's 125cc runner-up Johann Zarco had threatened to turn the race into a grandstand finish, closing steadily on Luthi in the final laps, but with just four to run the JIR Motobi rider high-sided out at Turn 10.
The weather kept things tense, worsening in the final laps, but with Zarco's exit Luthi was able to come home untroubled and collect his third victory across all categories at Le Mans.
Claudio Corti (Italtrans Kalex) claimed his first grand prix podium in second, while Marc VDS's Scott Redding claimed his first of the year in third.
Difficult conditions did not translate into the multitude of crashes seen in Moto3's earlier race, but incidents nonetheless played their part in determining the outcome of the race – not least in Marquez's early exit.
Tech 3's Bradley Smith was another to suffer. Up to fourth in the opening stages, he ran wide and lost huge ground on lap eight. He fought his way back and was set to finish sixth, but lost the bike on the final turn and eventually dragged it to 10th. His woe was Espargaro's gain, as the Pons Kalex rider - who had been running near the front early on – claimed sixth, and with it the points lead, in his stead.
Andrea Iannone (Speed Master) and Mika Kallio (Marc VDS Kalex) finished ahead of Espargaro in fourth and fifth.
Anthony West (QMMF Moriwaki), Max Neukirchner (Kiefer Kalex) and Gresini's Ratthapark Wilairot occupied seventh through to ninth, ahead of the returning Smith.
Results - 26 laps:
Pos Rider Team/Bike Time/Gap
1. Thomas Luthi Paddock Suter 50m02.816s
2. Claudio Corti Italtrans Kalex + 6.354s
3. Scott Redding Marc VDS Kalex + 12.162s
4. Andrea Iannone Speed Master Speed Up + 16.338s
5. Mika Kallio Marc VDS Kalex + 19.278s
6. Pol Espargaro Pons Kalex + 20.874s
7. Anthony West QMMF Moriwaki + 21.705s
8. Max Neukirchner Kiefer Kalex + 28.117s
9. Ratthapark Wilairot Gresini Suter + 38.317s
10. Bradley Smith Tech 3 + 40.940s
11. Esteve Rabat Pons Kalex + 44.077s
12. Toni Elias Aspar Suter + 59.583s
13. Julian Simon Avintia Suter + 1m01.785s
14. Nico Terol Aspar Suter + 1m03.430s
15. Dominique Aegerter Technomag-CIP Suter + 1m10.341s
16. Roberto Rolfo Technomag-CIP Suter + 1m22.145s
17. Axel Pons Pons Kalex + 1m46.994s
18. Yuki Takahashi Forward Suter + 1 lap
19. Marco Colandrea SAG FTR + 1 lap
Johann Zarco JIR Motobi 21 laps
Elena Rosell QMMF Moriwaki 18 laps
Takaaki Nakagami Italtrans Kalex 17 laps
Mike di Meglio Speed Master Speed Up 16 laps
Ricard Cardus Arguinano AJR 13 laps
Marc Marquez Monlau Suter 11 laps
Gino Rea Gresini Suter 7 laps
Alexander Lundh MZ 7 laps
Alex de Angelis Forward Suter 3 laps
Angel Rodriguez SAG Bimota 2 laps
Simone Corsi Ioda FTR 2 laps
Randy Krummenacher Switzerland Kalex 1 lap