Rossi and Lorenzo celebrate on the Le Mans podium - Bridgestone photoEnlarge Photo
Weather conditions deteriorated at Le Mans Sunday afternoon, placing the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France MotoGP race on the Bugatti circuit at Le Mans strictly in the hands of rain-master Jorge Lorenzo on the Factory Yamaha Racing motorcycle.
The Spaniard charged past pole man Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner on their Repsol Hondas on the first lap and instantly pulled out a gap. At mid-race Stoner closed on his rival but was immediately foiled as Lorenzo put the bit between his teeth and, by the time 28 laps of the Le Mans circuit were complete Lorenzo had 9.9 seconds in hand.
"It was really difficult to hold concentration today," Lorenzo admitted. "The race feels much longer (when it rains) and you have to remember where the corners are slippery each lap. If you forget one you can crash very easily." When Stoner pushed him Lorenzo "waited for a few more laps to see what happened then opened the gap again to win this fantastic race. A big thank you to my team who worked very hard in difficult conditions to make a set-up that worked for me."
It wasn't reigning champ Stoner behind the Yamaha; rather Ducati Team's Valentino Rossi earned the second podium spot, after starting the race in seventh and surging to fifth on the first lap behind Cal Crutchlow. This was Rossi's best result on the Ducati since joining the team last year. Stoner finished third with the Repsol Honda, all riders using the Bridgestone soft wet tire front and ear.
Rossi was involved in a lengthy battle with the Monster Tech3 Yamaha bikes for third but got the better of them and hunted down Stoner, passing the titleholder in a last-lap battle. "I knew that today I'd have a special chance to fight for the podium in these conditions because the bike is always good in the wet," The Doctor said. "I had some problems with the visor at one time but when I fixed that problem, I could push and I had good pace, so I managed to pass Stoner. This second place is very important for me and for all the guys from Ducati."
Stoner was happy to take a podium considering the conditions: "I enjoyed the battle with Valentino at the end, there was clean overtaking and we swapped positions a few times, but in the end we knew that Valentino had better pace than us and after he passed there was no way I could stay with him. We did everything we could today and to come away with a podium is a good result."
Polesitter Dani Pedrosa finished fourth, more than 29 seconds behind Lorenzo, while Stefan Bradl's LCR Honda was fifth. Nicky Hayden came from 11th on the grid to take a determined sixth place this afternoon on the second factory Ducati. Both Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Ctuchlow had small crashes on the Monster Tech3 Yamaha bikes to finish seventh and eighth, with Crutchlow a little more than a minute back.
Hector Barbera finished ninth for the Pramac Rcing Team (Ducati) and Alvaro Bautista rounded out the top 10 finishers, almost 1:15 behind Lorenzo. There was severe disappointment for the French fans when Randy de Puniet dropped his bike on the grid and had to go to his spare. Paul Bird Motorsport's James Ellison gave an exceptional race to finish as top CRT in 11th place.
The next MotoGP race takes place the first weekend of June in Catalunya. Lorenzo now has eight points in hand over Stoner going into the next contest.