Starting the season barely able to walk and having missed out on valuable development time with the factory Honda RC212V, Dani Pedrosa would surely have jumped at the chance to sit just nine points from the world championship lead after four rounds.

Despite the odds being stacked against him at the start of the season, Pedrosa has finished on the podium at the last three races and, although he recently claimed victories are not yet possible, he is sticking firmly in the title fight.

Pedrosa's Le Mans podium came at the expense of Repsol Honda team-mate Andrea Dovizioso, whom Dani hunted down in the closing stages.

The Spaniard set the fastest lap of the race with one lap to go of the wet/dry grand prix, then dived inside Dovi for third on the very last lap.

"Again, this is a fantastic podium for me because the conditions were very difficult today and in the end we came through it with a good result," said Pedrosa, who began the race on pole.

"At the start of the race it really wasn't clear what the best thing to do was. In the first few laps in the wet my pace wasn't very fast and I was going backwards and losing positions. So I decided to stop quite early and change to the machine with dry tyres - at the same time as Rossi.

"On the first lap out of the pits on the slick tyres he crashed in front of me and this made me even more nervous about the conditions. I really couldn't see where it was wet and where it was dry so my lap times at this stage were not good - something like 1m 55s [20 seconds off dry pace]. I lost a lot of time at this point.

"But then towards the end of the race when I had sufficient temperature in my tyres I was able to get into a rhythm and go faster and faster - eventually closing the gap on Andrea. In the end I caught and passed him on the last lap - really close to the finish. He was riding very well and made it hard to pass, but I was able to get the place, so I'm happy with podium today," Pedrosa concluded.

For Dovizioso, who looked set to claim his first rostrum of the season, and therefore as a Repsol Honda rider, it was a bitter pill to swallow.

"I'm disappointed because we had a good race, the podium was very near and then I lost it at the very last lap, he said. "So I'm sorry for the team because they've done a very good job throughout the weekend and a podium finish would have been a fitting ending.

"I was racing for the podium and I had a good rhythm, but it was not enough and Dani came alongside on the straight on the last lap. I tried to close the door, braking hard, but he had the inside line and that means you're in control of the corner. I ran a little bit wide on the exit so I couldn't try to catch him. It was disappointing for me but Dani was fast, especially in the last four laps when his pace was in the low 1m 35s, so my compliments to him."

"The performance from the whole Repsol Honda Team is very positive at the moment," said team manager Kazuhiko Yamano. "We're going in the right direction and making progress but there are still areas we need to improve with our machine and this is something we're working at relentlessly."

Although Pedrosa is only nine points from the title lead, he still has Casey Stoner and Rossi between himself and new leader Jorge Lorenzo.

Pedrosa and arch-rival Lorenzo managed a rare handshake on the podium (pictured).

"Dani is now not far from the championship lead so we must ensure he and Andrea have the equipment to continue the fight. And the next race is Andrea's home race at Mugello so he'll be very motivated to get another strong result."

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