Wet-dry antics at Le Mans


Lorenzo in a celebratory wheelie

Jorge Lorenzo scored a surprise win on a wet, then dry Le Mans track in France on May 17, hauling himself into the lead in the Moto GP series by a single point over his Fiat Yamaha team-mate Valentino Rossi. "Never in all my dreams did I imagine this situation today — winning the race and leading the championship," said the Majorca native.

His more famous team-mate inadvertently turned his race into a complete Laurel & Hardy routine after changing bikes as the track began to dry (in Moto GP they don’t change tires; they have bikes set up for wet and dry conditions and swap them during the race depending on track conditions).

First Rossi crashed on the still-wet track, but restarted and got back to the pits to swap back to the wet-setup bike. Then his speed limiter malfunctioned and he exceeded the pit-lane speed limit and had to come back in for a ride-through penalty. His fourth and final pit stop was to swap back to the dry bike, but by this time he was so far adrift he could only manage 16th — and last — place on the day. He was his usual amusingly philosophical self about it all: "We’ve had problems throughout the entire weekend … Now we go to Mugello, my home GP, where I will perhaps be even more motivated than usual!"

Even more of a shock than Lorenzo’s victory or Rossi’s antics was second place, which went to Marco Melandri on the Hayate (the Bike That Used to be a Kawasaki); we suspect the team was as surprised as everyone else. Like Rossi, Melandri pitted early to swap bikes, but he managed to keep the thing upright for his fairy-tale result.

Third came down to a battle between the factory Repsol Hondas of Andrea Dovizioso and Dani Pedrosa, with Pedrosa just managing to squeak by on the last lap for the final podium position. Still recovering from wrist and knee injuries, Pedrosa is certainly more motivated than usual by persistent rumours that Repsol and Honda are getting tired of waiting for him to win them a championship.

Farther down the field, Casey Stoner brought his Marlboro Ducati home fifth, while the best his frustrated team-mate Nicky Hayden could do was 12th after running as high as fifth. An on-track collision with fellow Ducati rider Mika Kallio (that put Kallio out of the race) didn’t help things much.


Colin Edwards

Colin Edwards had a poor start in the wet, but scythed his way back up the field on the Tech 3 Yamaha to take seventh behind Chris Vermeulen. No doubt Edwards’ day was made when he chopped past his "team-mate" James Toseland (their feud certainly shows no signs of dying down); Toseland later fell back another spot when Loris Capirossi on the other Suzuki got him just before the race finished.

After four of 17 races, the series heads for Mugello in Italy with the top four riders essentially equal; given easily foreseeable events, any of them could be on top after the Italian round May 31. At this point, the standings are:

1. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Fiat Yamaha, 66; 2. (tie) Valentino Rossi, Italy, Fiat Yamaha and Casey Stoner, Australia, Marlboro Ducati, 65; 4. Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda, 57; 5. (tie) Marco Melandri, Italy, Hayate Racing Team, and Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Repsol Honda, 43; 7. Colin Edwards, USA, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, 35; 8. Chris Vermeulen, Australia, Rizla Suzuki; 31; 9. Loris Capirossi, Italy, Rizla Suzuki, 27; 10. Randy de Puniet, France, LCR Gresini Honda, 20.

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