Fiat Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo took a stunning second win of the season in Le Mans today, negotiating varying track conditions and a change of bikes to lead from the first lap to the flag and take the championship lead. It was a doom-laden day for his team-mate Valentino Rossi however as the world champion slid off early on and then had a ride-through penalty to compound his misfortune.
With the track still wet from a rainy morning all riders started the race on rain tyres, with the mechanics readying the dry bikes in pit lane in anticipation of an early change as the track dried out. Lorenzo, starting from second, slipped a place at the start but had passed both Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa by the end of the first lap to take the lead. By lap five a dry line had begun to appear and a few riders chose to make early pit stops to change bikes. The 22-year-old Spaniard however was feeling comfortable and had an excellent pace on his Bridgestone wets and so he stayed out, constantly stretching his lead. In the end he was the last of the front-runners to pit, a gamble which paid off brilliantly as he was by then nearly 34 seconds clear and was able to rejoin the race in the lead on lap 13. Once he had bit of heat in his slick tyres the youngster put his head down and kept his nerve for the remaining 15 laps and he eventually took the chequered flag an impressive 17.710 seconds clear of second-placed Marco Melandri.
It was a day of stark contrasts on the opposite side of the garage, with Rossi forced to make an incredible four visits to pit lane. The Italian was in second behind his team-mate when he elected for an early bike change, coming in to swap onto his second M1 on dry Bridgestones after just five laps. The change went smoothly but the track was still damp in places and he went down on the next lap whilst trying to warm his tyres up. He returned to the pits next time around to swap back onto his other bike, with the rules stipulating that he had to keep one wet tyre with the second bike change, but a problem with his pit-limiter meant he was penalised for speeding on exit and forced to return once again two laps later to perform a ride-through penalty. His final visit to the garage came on lap 11 when he changed once again onto a fully-dry machine, but by then he was some two laps adrift and he finished in 16th.
Lorenzo’s 25-point haul takes him into the lead by one point and he now has 66 points to Rossi’s 65. Stoner has the same points as Rossi but lies third as the Italian has more second places, and Pedrosa follow in the standings. With just nine points separating the top four the next round in Mugello is sure to be a thrilling spectacle.
Jorge Lorenzo – Position: 1Time: 47’52.678
"Never in all my dreams did I imagine this situation today – winning the race and leading the championship. This season I have been much more calm and careful and so I was really upset after the crash in Jerez because I didn’t expect it! Today has made up for that though. I had a very good pace with both types of tyre and the strategy of our team worked perfectly. I felt happy to stay out on the wet tyres for such a long time and in the end I think we changed at exactly the right time for our race; there was some luck on our side but we were also strong, calm and careful and this paid off. It was the first time in my life that I’ve had to change bikes during the race and I was very nervous, but it went smoothly and I was able to rejoin in the lead. I’m sorry for Valentino because it was bad luck to crash, but now we are nearly on the same points and it seems like the championship is starting again! I want to thank my team because they were very clever today, I’m so happy to be here and to have won a third MotoGP race."
Valentino Rossi – Position: 16thTime: +2 Laps
"I had difficulties from the start today and I really could not ride my bike to its best. Already by the fourth lap I felt that I was quite slow and that I couldn’t ride as I wanted. I decided to change bikes early because usually this strategy – being among the first to change the bike – pays off. Of course I knew that I had to warm the tyres up a little bit but I crashed anyway in that corner because at that point the track was still wet and I just didn’t ride into it in a calm enough manner. Luckily I was able to make it back to the pits and I changed again, but the rule says that if you change the bike again then you have to use one wet tyre, and so this is what we did. When I started that time, the pit-limiter on my bike was not on and so I was given a ride-through for speeding, but by that time it was too late for our race anyway. We’ve had problems throughout the entire weekend with the set-up of the bike and today I was just hoping that I could stay with the riders in front and get some important points for the championship. Now we go to Mugello, my home GP, where I will perhaps be even more motivated than usual!"
Daniele Romagnoli – Team Manager
"We’re so happy to win today because everyone has done a great job all weekend to give Jorge a competitive machine on which he was able to ride very fast and this is a well deserved victory. The team did a very important job during the race to find a great strategy and the best moment to change the bike. Thanks and well done to all; the championship is looking very exciting now!" Davide Brivio – Team Manager
"Everything happened to us today so let’s hope that’s it for now! I don’t think that the decision to stop early was wrong, and it paid off for Melandri among others, but unfortunately Valentino crashed and that, coupled with the ride-through penalty, was the end of our challenge today. This type of race is always a gamble; sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t and today it really didn’t for us! Luckily we’re still just one point off the top of the championship and we will restart our challenge again at the next race."
Edwards fights back for super seventh, Toseland back in top ten
Colin Edwards produced a rousing fight back in an incident-packed French Grand Prix today, the American claiming a deserved seventh place for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team in its home race.
And on the 20th anniversary of the Tech 3 Team competing in the Grand Prix world championship, British rider James Toseland secured a determined ninth in a gripping flag-to-flag encounter over 28-laps.
Texan Edwards was left to rue a missed opportunity to claim a second successive podium in Le Mans after a disappointing start from sixth on the grid in wet conditions. But once he’d switched to his Monster Yamaha YZR-M1 fitted with slick tyres on lap 11 as the track dried rapidly, the 35-year-old produced a stunning surge through the field.
He passed team-mate Toseland with five laps remaining and at the end he was just over two seconds away from the top six having set the third fastest lap of the race in his brilliant late attack in front of 75,903 fans.
Toseland showed more of his true potential in today’s race, which started under grey and gloomy skies but ended in sunny conditions. The British rider set a stunning pace on wet tyres in the early stages and fought his way through from 12th on the grid to seventh. He changed bikes to slick tyres as conditions improved on lap seven and for a while he closely pursued Australian duo Casey Stoner and Chris Vermeulen.
He eventually claimed his second top ten finish of the campaign, his ninth position in his first taste of a flag-to-flag MotoGP race another encouraging sign that the 28-year-old is making big progress with the set-up of his YZR-M1 machine.
Colin Edwards 7th – 35 points
"I’m really disappointed because it was definitely a missed opportunity today for a podium. In the first part of the race on the wet tyres I just couldn’t get the bike to turn. I’d lost so many places I was nearly at the back and I just wasn’t comfortable. The bike was just sitting on the rear and I had no weight on the front, so I couldn’t get into the corner. I saw some guys come into the pits and I thought it was a couple of laps too early because there were still some wet patches out there. I waited for a bit and came in and on the first couple of laps back out of the pits I lost so much time again. I was on the hard front tyre because I can’t run the soft compound and it took a while to get some heat into it. I had a couple of moments but once it came good, it came really good and I got my head down. I think only Jorge (Lorenzo) was lapping faster than me and once I got my pace going I was catching people pretty quickly. To only finish seventh is a bit frustrating when you look at my times in the dry. At the end of the day I rode a good second half of the race. But the first half wasn’t great and that cost me. I’m confident for Mugello though and hopefully we’ll get plenty of dry track time."
James Toseland 9th 17 points
"That was pretty eventful and my team did a great job for the change of bikes. I’ve never been in a flag-to-flag race before and it is definitely different. There’s no time to lose concentration in the pits because everything is still happening so quickly. And when you go out on a damp track on slicks you can’t lose focus. The team told me they were going to put ‚OK‘ on the board as soon as the first person came in, and though nobody was coming in around me, I felt I came in at the right time. It’s always a risk because there were a couple of corners where it was still quite damp, but for two-thirds of the track you definitely needed slick tyres. My pace on the slicks at the start was really good and I was seventh at one point. But I was on the soft front tyre and it kept getting hotter and hotter and the stronger front harder tyre was what I needed. When I was trying to stay with Colin at the end I just didn’t have the front grip unfortunately. It was nice to be fighting up there again but on the other hand a bit frustrating because I think we could have had a seventh. It’s not the best finish but I really feel we have made a step forward here and my team is working great. As long as we can keep working like this I’m really looking forward to the next few races."
Herve Poncharal – Team Manager
"Unfortunately a race that promised so much for us ended a little disappointingly, but Colin and James still did Tech 3 proud in our home race, which had extra significance because of our 20th anniversary. We have to think that we missed something big. We’d said that top five would be a dream but we could see from Colin’s brilliant pace in the dry that had he started better when it was wet he could have had another podium in Le Mans. Colin struggled with some issues in the wet but as soon as he switched to the dry bike he was the fastest rider on track at some points and for sure a top three was a possibility. It’s a pity for him but he showed his potential in the dry. I’m really happy with James. The whole weekend he has shown a big improvement compared to the first three races and it was by far the best race of the season for him. We knew he wasn’t going to recover from the problems of the winter so quickly, but step-by-step he is showing his true potential. Hopefully for Mugello we won’t have any rain and the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team can get a strong result."