Andrea Iannone feels he was poised to at least battle for his first ever MotoGP victory, and Ducati's first since 2010, at Le Mans on Sunday.
The Italian held third on the grid during the opening stages of the race, then overtook team-mate Andrea Dovizioso on lap 6, leaving only eventual winner Jorge Lorenzo ahead of him.
Lorenzo had been 1.171s clear of Iannone after lap 2, which was down to 0.933s by lap 4. Despite having to overtake Dovizioso, Iannone was only 1.060s from Lorenzo on lap 7 of 28.
But that proximity counted for nothing when Iannone became the second of what would be eight riders to fall, losing the front of his Desmosedici and sliding into the gravel at Turn 7.
“Is completely strange and very very difficult to explain what happened in my crash. Because from the beginning, I have a very good feeling with the bike, and especially in the first three or four laps I push more [than when I fell] with the braking and with the front tyre, and I don't have any problems,” Iannone said.
“When I close the gap to Jorge I think, 'it is not necessary to push a lot to recover the gap', because Jorge at this moment is more slow than me. But then I crash. So is very very strange.”
Asked if he thought he could have won the race, Iannone replied:
“I think we have a very good potential for the podium. And I don't know in 28 laps what will happen. But for sure, before the crash, we have a very good pace. [A win] why not? For sure is a very great fight with Jorge. But I think we have this potential today.”
Iannone has now fallen from three of the opening five races - just as Ducati are mulling who to retain as Jorge Lorenzo's 2017 team-mate.
“Last year when I ride, I understand everything,” Iannone explained. “I understand the feeling with the front, I understand the feeling with the bike. This year also I think everything is OK when I ride, also in the race. But suddenly in this moment everything changes. So this is a very bad situation for everybody. I hope it is the last time we have to experience this.”
Dovizioso also failed to finish, crashing out on lap 16.
By Peter McLaren