Lorenzo retakes championship lead after Le Mans
Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo retook the championship lead once again at the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France as he dominated in tricky conditions, finishing ahead of Valentino Rossi, who recorded his best Ducati result ever.
In by far the worst conditions seen all season, it was Repsol Honda Team’s Dani Pedrosa who got off to one of his trademark starts followed by teammate Casey Stoner. Their lead was short lived, as Lorenzo charged past the pair and instantly pulled out a gap. Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow also made a good start in fourth, followed by a surging Rossi in fifth.
It was heartache for the French fans from the beginning as Power Electronics Aspar’s local rider Randy de Puniet dropped his bike on the grid, and had to head out on his spare one. Near the front, Rossi soon moved past Crutchlow to take fourth, with Dovizioso following suit almost instantly. Avintia Blusens’ Iván Silva’s race was ended early as he fell foul of the wet conditions, crashing out of the race in the opening stages.
With Lorenzo building a three second lead, Stoner pushed past Pedrosa to chase down his championship rival. Pedrosa seemed to struggling on the wet surface, with Rossi capitalising on this to take third with 21 laps left. The Tech 3 pair passed Pedrosa even further down the order as they looked to hunt down Rossi.
Near the back, Lorenzo’s teammate Ben Spies was struggling and had a wobble at the end of turn two, shortly after which he briefly entered the pits. Cardion AB Racing’s Karel Abraham retired with 17 laps to go, with NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s replacement rider Chris Vermeulen also having to come in for a helmet change.
As Lorenzo was maintaining his lead around the three second mark ahead of Stoner, it was the ensuing tussle for third between Crutchlow, Dovizioso and Rossi that was providing some breath-taking overtaking in horrific conditions. Ten laps before the end it was misery for Crutchlow as he lost the front in the first chicane, leaving the two Italians to fight it out for the final podium spot, with Rossi taking third just two corners later. The Brit managed to restart his bike and re-join in eighth. Meanwhile, Lorenzo had extended his lead to six seconds at the front with Stoner a further four seconds ahead of Rossi.
With five laps to go Stoner was held up slightly by Avintia’s Yonny Hernandez, allowing Rossi to get to within half a second of the Australian world champion. Two laps later Dovizioso crashed out of fourth tying to stick with the pair, while down the field Came IodaRacing Project’s Danilo Petrucci crashed out of 11th.
The last three laps gave MotoGP fans a racing delight, as old adversaries Stoner and Rossi swapped positions throughout. It was however Rossi who looked back to his old self as he passed Stoner in the first chicane on the last lap, after which he pulled out a lead big enough to secure second. This is the highest result both Rossi and the Ducati team have had in the past two season.
It was however Lorenzo who took the chequered flag to take an eight point lead at the top of the championship ahead of Stoner, who came home in third. Pedrosa managed fourth, while LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl recorded his best ever result in fifth, ahead or Rossi’s teammate Nicky Hayden. Dovizioso, who managed to re-join after crashing finished seventh ahead of his teammate Crutchlow, while Pramac Racing’s Héctor Barberá and San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista completed the top ten. Paul Bird Motorsport’s James Ellison put in a great performance to finish as top CRT in 11th. De Puniet suffered yet more misery in front of his home crowd as he crashed on his spare bike towards the end.