News 24 May 2010

MotoGP: Lorenzo stretches lead at Grand Prix of France

Lorenzo won over teammate Rossi at Le Mans on Sunday.

Lorenzo won over teammate Rossi at Le Mans on Sunday.

Jorge Lorenzo’s lead at the top of the FIM MotoGP World Championship stretched to nine points after the Spaniard won the third round at Le Mans, his second victory of the season, triumphing in the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France ahead of Valentino Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso.

Lorenzo’s success also made it three Yamaha wins in the opening three races of the season for the first time since 1980.

A superb start from Rossi from his pole position saw the Italian lead into the first turn ahead of Dani Pedrosa and Lorenzo, but the latter quickly moved into second and set his sights on his Fiat Yamaha team-mate. The early race order saw Ducati Marlboro pair Nicky Hayden and Casey Stoner and Dovizioso inside the top five, whilst San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Marco Melandri shot up from 11th on the grid to sixth.

A decisive moment in the race came on only the second lap when Stoner slid out at turn six, and the Australian was unable to remount his Desmosedici GP10 machine as he experienced the second non-finish of his stuttering season. Shortly afterwards, the race of Ben Spies was ended prematurely with a fall, and Loris Capirossi was forced to retire too after damaging his bike when he went down.

The fight for the win started on lap seven when Lorenzo took the lead from Rossi, only to see the Italian immediately reclaim it. Undeterred, Lorenzo pushed again on lap ten, this time making his move stick as he moved into first and began to open up an advantage.

As the Yamaha duo occupied the top two spots, the battle for third was also extremely engrossing, and involved another pair of team-mates. Repsol Honda’s Pedrosa and Dovizioso were tight in third and fourth, with Hayden refusing to lose touch in fifth as well.

Lorenzo’s lead over Rossi at the front had stretched to over four seconds with four laps to go, and Pedrosa and Dovizioso were by now locked in a marvellous duel for the final podium spot. Marco Simoncelli, Colin Edwards and Héctor Barberá were involved in another tricky encounter for eighth position, as was Hiroshi Aoyama until a moment on his bike saw him lose valuable seconds.

A thrilling last lap played out as Dovizioso forced his way through on Pedrosa to take third, and Hayden also squeezed past the Spaniard after he ran wide. Lorenzo crossed the line to take victory by a gap of 5.672s from Rossi, with Dovizioso taking his second podium of the season in third place.

Hayden finished fourth for the third consecutive race, with Pedrosa ending the race in fifth. Melandri was sixth as a pre-race switch of suspension paid off for him, with Randy de Puniet taking seventh in his home GP. The top ten was completed by Barberá, Aleix Espargaró and Simoncelli. Aoyama took 11th place, and was followed by Edwards and Mika Kallio.

Toni Elías opened up an 18-point lead at the top of the Moto2 World Championship standings with his second win of the season. The Spanish rider led a podium completed by Julián Simón and Simone Corsi, in a race that was extremely eventful in its opening stages.

Elías made a rapid start from seventh on the grid and took the early lead, but Alex Debón was soon in front. However, the Valencian rider was penalised for a jump-start and had to take a ride through penalty as he lost first position. Yuki Takahashi crashed out from fourth, and pole position man Kenny Noyes suffered the same disappointment.

At the head of the race Elías, Jules Cluzel and Simón established a break, but disaster struck from the Frenchman Cluzel when he lost the front of his bike. Championship leader at the start of the race, Shoya Tomizawa ran off twice, first as the result of De Rosa’s crash which forced him wide, then of his own accord, bringing down Mattia Pasini too.

As Elías stretched out his lead and Simón shored up second, Andrea Iannone and Corsi scrapped for third behind, with the latter coming out on top to claim his first Moto2 podium.

Pol Espargaró took victory with a fantastic ride in the 125cc race, edging out Nico Terol for the victory and narrowing his rival’s lead at the top of the World Championship standings to two points.

Terol led into the first turn after a storming start from his pole position, and Espargaró stuck on the Bancaja Aspar rider’s back wheel as the duo pulled away after the early stages of the race. Espargaró eventually made his decisive move to secure the win on the last lap as he crossed the line ahead of Terol.

A marvellous battle for third occurred behind, with Bradley Smith, Marc Márquez, Efrén Vázquez , and Sandro Cortese all engaged in a thrilling encounter. After Smith had been in the podium slot for most of the race, Márquez sneaked past him on the final lap, and despite the Briton’s attempts to claim the spot, in touching fairings with Marquez, Vázquez squeezed through his off-line bike for fourth. Smith finished fifth, with Cortese completing the top six.

Click here for detailed results

Jorge Lorenzo: “I am so happy to win for the second race in a row, it’s the first time for me in MotoGP and it makes me feel very confident in myself. Finally I did a good start, which I’m really happy about, then I easily got past Pedrosa. Passing Valentino wasn’t so easy because he was braking so deep and I had to be very patient, something that I might not have managed one year ago! Finally I overtook him but I didn’t expect to be able to go away in that way, my bike and Bridgestone tyres just felt so good and it wasn’t difficult for me to keep this pace up. I have had a good time in Le Mans since I joined Yamaha; one second and two victories, so I think I can say I enjoy racing here in France! It is fantastic to be leading the championship but there is a long way to go and now we go to Mugello, a track that I love but where my rivals are very strong. Thank you to my team and everyone at Yamaha for this great weekend.”

Valentino Rossi: “I got a very good start but I knew from the beginning that we lacked some pace compared to Lorenzo and we had some unexpected problems in the race, mainly to do with grip on exit and acceleration from the corners. I expected to be faster but it wasn’t the case today. I tried to stay in front of Lorenzo but it wasn’t possible and I couldn’t go with him once he was past, congratulations to him because he was very strong today! I can’t blame my shoulder, I had expected it to be a bigger problem but in fact it was okay until six or seven laps from the end and by then the race was over for me. I knew it was important to finish and take the 20 points, it’s a long championship and we are only nine points behind. Now I am looking forward to being back on top form for Mugello, my home race.”

Andrea Dovizioso: “I’m so happy to have made the podium here. It was very important because I wanted to confirm that the result in Qatar was not a one-off. We have improved a lot during the winter, so this is another important step forward. I wanted a good result for the team, to thank them and also because of last year when Dani came from 10 seconds behind to overtake me on the very last lap. Also, I’m very pleased to be going to Mugello third in the championship. It was a tough race. At the beginning I took a lot of risks to recover from starting on the third row. I made up some places and then I was able to match the leaders’ pace in the early stages. Once I caught Dani it was hard to get past and I knew Nicky was very close behind so I had to find a way by. Dani has really good acceleration so it was difficult to make the overtake. I waited for four laps, worked out my strategy and I made my move on the last lap at the corner I’d planned. This is a good start to the season, we worked a lot during the winter and Honda keeps working hard. We are close to the leaders – though still not close enough because our target is to fight for wins. We’ll go to Mugello with a lot of confidence as this a special race for me.”

Dani Pedrosa: “Well, of course I’m not satisfied to have finished in this way because we were able to stay near the leaders for the first part of the race and then dropped back. Losing two places on the final lap is not a good feeling. My start was okay and I could stay near the front in the first laps but later in the race I was making a lot of mistakes trying to maintain my pace. I had a bit of a rear brake issue which meant I couldn’t get the bike into the turns as I wanted and I was fighting the bike a bit. Andrea rode well and pushed very hard at the end, so congratulations to him on the podium finish. It’s an important part of the season coming up with many races in a short time, so we must work hard and do better in Mugello.”

Marco Melandri: “I was pretty sure we’d have a better pace today than we did in practice and that proved to be the case. We made a small change in the warm-up based on an idea that the team came up with and it worked well. Unfortunately it was quite windy today and I struggled in a few corners where we didn’t have a perfect setting for the engine braking. I’m happy though because we were able to match the speed of the front guys at the start until I made a small mistake when Hayden stepped up the pace. I tried to catch him again but I couldn’t do it and decided that was a good time to ‘pull the oars in’ and bring home an important result after such a tough start to the year. It was a good race for us and I’m happy for myself and the team.”

Randy de Puniet: “It was a special and tough GP for me because I wanted to get a good result especially for my fans. This is my best result on this track in the premier class but I am a bit disappointed. I got a bad start and dropped from the second row to the back of the group but after that I set good lap times catching the 8th place. After Stoner’s crash I was 7th but could not close any further because my front tyre started to slip and almost crashed 10 times. So I had to slow down but seventh is not so bad. I am still 6th in the world standing and we are the best private team at the moment.”

Marco Simoncelli: “I gave my maximum and wasn’t too far off today but it was a tough race because I was struggling more with the bike than yesterday. I’m a little disappointed that I allowed Barbera and Espargaro to pass me in the last couple of laps because it would have been nice to finish eighth but it didn’t happen. It is important at this stage for me to finish races and I managed that today even though I wasn’t as fast as I’d hoped so that’s a positive thing. Now we’ll assess things and try to do better at Mugello. ”

Hiroshi Aoyama: “We found a much better set-up today and I was able to stay with the other riders. We were competitive today and I think we grew up. I think we can take a lot with us after this race and I hope we can keep improving. Of course I am not really happy with the result as I lost two positions because of a small mistake I did. I could have been further in front. I was able to attack the eighth position, but I think that this target was too big and I had to step back again not to risk anything. I think we gave our best here and I will try that again in the next race.”

Nicky Hayden: “I’m about as happy with fourth as you could wish to be because I’ve struggled this weekend and once the race got started I went backwards pretty quickly. I just dug in and started going a little faster. I was pushing so hard to try and get those guys and finish on the podium but I couldn’t get close enough. As we say in America ‘close only counts in horseshoes and washers’ but I know I couldn’t have ridden any harder today and the team did a great job, so my heartfelt thanks go to them. Fourth place is okay here but it won’t be good enough at Mugello so we have more work to do there. I feel sorry for Casey today and his side of the garage because I see how hard they work, he is an unbelievably fast rider and he’ll be feeling disappointed right now, but you can be sure he will bounce back, he is very strong. It’s a long season so hopefully we can both have something to smile about next time.”

Casey Stoner: “I’m really disappointed because the bike has felt great all weekend, I’ve been pushing the front wherever I wanted but for some reason when the race has come around it felt like it was going to fold. It’s something we have to get to the bottom of and we need to do it soon because it is not good to start the season with only one finish from three races. I haven’t changed anything with my riding style but if I need to do something then we have to work out what and I can do it. Maybe it’s because when I’m behind slower riders in the race I’m not able to put the same pressure on the front. I’m not sure at the moment, to be honest, so we need to sit down and work out what’s best for the next race.”

Colin Edwards: “I know this bike inside out and I’ve had some of the best races of my career at Le Mans, but right now I just can’t seem to fix some of the problems I’m having. I can only go fast if I’m able to ride comfortable and smooth and at the moment I can’t do that because I don’t have the confidence. I’m working really hard with my guys at Tech 3 but we don’t seem to be able to get on top of the problem at the moment. I spent a lot of the race behind Simoncelli and he was able to brake deeper than me. As soon as I’d brake and lean the bike over, I started to have a problem and right now I’m struggling to find an answer. It is annoying because I came here expecting a much better result but we’ll regroup and try and be much stronger at Mugello.”

Ben Spies: “It was a tough weekend and I made it tough for myself. Yesterday morning was my fault with the crash and missing a sessi on didn’t help. I need as much track time as I can get so to miss a whole hour isn’t good. I got a good start and after the first two laps I got into a decent rhythm. Capirossi and Colin started to come back to me a little bit and I was feeling quite confident. But I looked up and saw Capirossi lose the front at the third corner and as soon as I tipped in I lost the front too and I was down. It was a weird crash but luckily I didn’t pick up any further injury. Now I can take this week off and rest and go to Mugello to push at 100 per cent. It has been a rough last couple of races but I’m still confident I can be closer to the front when things are right and be doing a lot better.”

Aleix Espargaro: “I am very happy with the outcome of the race, is by far my best result in MotoGP, and is the first time I finished the race in the top ten. I’ve had since Friday a great rhythm on this track, and I’m looking forward to race again to try to get better results. Too bad for the bad start, I lost two positions during the first lap, I could not be fast enough and I found myself second-last during the eight lap. But then I got to find my rhythm, turning a few tenths faster than the riders in front of me. I managed to cover the gap I had with the riders who preceded me and I found myself in the group that was fighting for eighth place. After a few laps I passed Aoyama and on the second-last lap I have seen the error made by Edwards and passed him as well as Simoncelli. Too bad for the little contact I had with Aoyama three corners before the finish line, this has given advantage to Barberà and I could not pass him for very little. However I have great confidence for the next race and hope to improve further.”

Mika Kallio: “The shoulder pain prevented me from being competitive, despite the painkillers they gave me an hour before the race. I felt an enormous pain that did not allow me to lead better my bike. I constantly had a second lower turning lap time compared to the other riders. From the pits my technicians have indicated me that some riders were retired and I clenched my teeth to finish the race and bring other points to my team for the season. I hope to not have any more shoulder problems for the next race and that it will be a good weekend from beginning to the end.”

Loris Capirossi: “It has again been an unlucky end to a weekend for us! It was the best we had felt at a Grand Prix this year and we had worked very hard in practice to fix everything and we made some good, positive steps. In the race I started steadily because the grip was not too good. After a couple of laps I felt a bit better and increased my rhythm and got past Colin, but in turn three I crashed. I leaned in and just lost the front, I don’t know why it happened and this is the third time I’ve crashed on the front and we will have to discover what’s causing it. During the weekend the feeling has been good and in warm-up I didn’t have any problems, but then in the race we struggled and I crashed. I am so sorry for the whole team because they all worked so hard. I am really, really upset because I feel in such good condition and we need to be getting some good results, this is no way to end the weekend, but we now must go to Mugello and try to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”