Jorge Lorenzo took his Fiat-sponsored Yamaha to his second-straight Moto GP win at Le Mans in France last weekend, an uneventful run once the Majorca native got past his team-mate Valentino Rossi. It was also Yamaha’s third win of the season and second one-two finish, giving the tuning fork factory a good lead in the manufacturer’s title chase, while Lorenzo now leads the riders’ championship over Rossi by nine points.
The race for the lead was a little uninspiring, really. Both Rossi and Lorenzo got unusually good starts, along with Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, but Rossi took the point, Lorenzo quickly disposed of his fellow Spaniard, and a little before half-distance Lorenzo jammed past his legendary team-mate and eased away for an eventual five-second win.
There was drama farther back in the pack, however. Loris Capirossi (Rizla Suzuki) and Ben Spies (Tech 3 Yamaha) both crashed out of the race, as did the fourth “alien,” Ducati’s Casey Stoner. Stoner and his American team-mate Nicky Hayden had qualified on the second row, got okay starts, and started chasing the leaders right away. Stoner was closing on Pedrosa but crashed on only the second lap when he lost the rear end after saving a front-end slide.
The Aussie was disconsolate, as he’s now crashed out of two of the three races held so far this year. “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.”
The racing in the bottom half of the field was intense, with Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda), Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Gresini Honda), Colin Edwards (Tech 3 Yamaha), Héctor Barberá (Páginas Amarillas Aspar Ducati), and Aleix Espargaró (Pramac Ducati) providing all the entertainment that was missing up front.
As the laps counted, down, however, things started to hot up in the contest for the third podium spot, as Pedrosa’s team-mate Andrea Dovizioso started to chase down third spot, while Nicky Hayden found his second wind and in turn started closing on Dovi. Pedrosa’s riding started to get noticeably ragged in the last few laps, and on the very last lap Dovizioso got past, and before Pedrosa could regroup Hayden went through as well.
Tough on Pedrosa, great for the other two and for the crowd: outside of his Spanish fans he’s probably the most disliked rider in the field.
The last-lap pass gave the revitalized American three fourth places this year: "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,” Hayden said. “I just dug in and started going a little faster … but I couldn’t get close enough … Fourth place is okay here but it won’t be good enough at Mugello (Italy, in two weeks) so we have more work to do there. I feel sorry for Casey today … hopefully we can both have something to smile about next time."
Behind Pedrosa, Marco Melandri was sixth on the other San Carlo Gresini Honda, delighted to be finally back in contention. He’s struggled with his Honda this year, and for this race decided to go back to the Showa suspension he was used to (Honda made a controversial switch to Ohlins this year) and found the bike much more to his liking.
The next race is June 6 at Mugello in Italy, home race to Rossi, Dovizioso, Melandri, and Loris Capirossi — and, of course, the Ducati team.
Standings after Moto GP of France at Le Mans, round 3 of 18:
1. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Fiat Yamaha, 70 points; 2. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Fiat Yamaha, 61; 3. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Repsol Honda, 42; 4. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 40; 5. Nicky Hayden, U.S.A., Marlboro Ducati, 39;
6. Randy de Puniet, France, LCR Honda, 26; 7. Marco Melandri, Italy, 21; 8. TIE, Marco Simoncelli, Italy, San Carlo Gresini Honda and Colin Edwards, U.S.A., Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, 16; 10. Hector Barbera, Spain, Páginas Amarillas Aspar Ducati, 15.