The start of Sunday's wet French MotoGP saw several riders struggle visibly for grip off the line, illustrated most dramatically by an accident for Randy de Puniet.

Ben Spies also got sideways, who also got sideways, felt it was the finish line paint that caused the loss of traction. But fellow American Nicky Hayden - whose Ducati was sent fishtailing - believes there must have been something present only on the pitlane side of the racetrack.

"There must have been something on the inside of the track just after the start, because everybody that went on that side either crashed or almost did," he said.

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"My jump was really good, and then just as I was ready to go to second gear, the tyre completely broke loose and the bike started fishtailing. I got buried in the pack and couldn't see for the first few laps."

Hayden finished the first lap in eleventh and reached sixth place at the finish, less than half a second behind rookie Stefan Bradl.

"Once I got through some guys and had a clear track, my rhythm wasn't too bad. I was bringing Bradl and Pedrosa back a bit, but when I got it down to two seconds, I almost crashed and had to try again," he explained.

"I got to Bradl's wheel at the end but just couldn't do anything. It's frustrating because we've got a really good wet bike. I know we had more potential than sixth, but the start hurt me. Congratulations to the team for the podium. They certainly deserve it."

Hayden's team-mate Valentino Rossi finished second.

"Nicky showed that he, like Vale and everyone at Ducati, never gives up," declared team manager Vittoriano Guareschi.