Lorenzo wins wet Le Mans, Rossi second
20 May 2012
Jorge Lorenzo has won a soaking wet French MotoGP at Le Mans, round four of the 2012 season.
The Yamaha star led almost from start to finish, in a race that saw Valentino Rossi claim his best result as a Ducati rider after passing reigning champion Casey Stoner for second position on the very final lap.
Lorenzo was bravest on the opening lap, charging from fourth to first in the slippery conditions, overtaking Repsol Honda riders Stoner and Dani Pedrosa on the brakes.
The 2010 world champion then quickly built a buffer over his rivals, although Stoner threatened resistance around the middle stages, when he trimmed Lorenzo's lead to back under three seconds.
But the Yamaha rider responded and rode to a dominant 9.9sec victory at the conclusion of the 28 laps.
Lorenzo, who trailed reigning double world champion Stoner by just a single point heading into the race, is now back on top of the standings by eight points after his second win of the season.
While Lorenzo rode a solitary race, Rossi - whose only previous Ducati podium came at the same (dry) event last year - was involved in wheel-to-wheel battles throughout.
Moving from seventh to fourth on the opening lap, Rossi overtook the fading Pedrosa for third place on lap three. The seven time MotoGP champion was then caught by Monster Yamaha Tech 3 riders Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow.
The trio squabbled over the final podium place from laps 4 to 18, when Crutchlow lost the front of his M1 at the first chicane. The Englishman remounted - as did Dovizioso, who suffered the same fate with four laps to go. The pair finished seventh and eighth.
Rossi, who had caught Stoner in the early laps but failed to make a move, had broken free of Dovizioso and reeled in the reigning world champion over the final ten laps.
The Doctor then got within striking distance of his long-time rival when Stoner was held up by Yonny Hernandez with four laps remaining. Perhaps remembering last year's Jerez collision, Rossi was careful to pick his moment - an his first two passing attempts gave Stoner enough room to cut straight back inside.
The successful pass came on entry to the final chicane at the start of the last lap, Rossi staying close enough to Stoner through the left-right transition to block another overtake on the exit.
Rossi then put several bike lengths between himself and claimed his best Ducati finish by over one-second.
Pole sitter Pedrosa, LCR Honda rookie Stefan Bradl and Rossi's team-mate Nicky Hayden were promoted to fourth, fifth and sixth by the Tech 3 errors, while Spaniards Hector Barbera (Ducati) and Alvaro Bautista (Honda) completed the top ten.
James Ellison scored his first MotoGP points of the season in style by bringing his PBM ART home as the top CRT machine in eleventh place. Speed Master's Mattia Pasini, in twelfth, was the final rider on the lead lap.
Home star Randy de Puniet, the top CRT rider in practice and qualifying, lost control of his Aspar ART just metres after the start – the bike fish-tailing and then dumping the bemused Frenchman on the asphalt.
Lorenzo's Factory Yamaha team-mate Ben Spies also got sideways off the line, leaving him just 18th at the end of lap one. The Texan worked his way into the points, but then pitted before returning to finish 16th.
Chris Vermeulen - riding in his first MotoGP event since 2009, at the scene of his wet 2007 Suzuki victory - did well to avoid the fallen de Puniet at the start, but later pitted for a helmet change on his way to 17th.
Vermeulen was riding in place of the injured Colin Edwards for Forward Racing. Edwards aims to return at the forthcoming Catalan Grand Prix, from June 1-3.
Seven time F1 world champion Michael Schumacher was present as Le Mans today. The German was seen chatting to the likes of Rossi before the race, which he watched from the Tech 3 pits before taking part in the podium ceremony.
French Grand Prix:
1. Jorge Lorenzo
2. Valentino Rossi
3. Casey Stoner
4. Dani Pedrosa
5. Stefan Bradl
6. Nicky Hayden
7. Andrea Dovizioso
8. Cal Crutchlow
9. Hector Barbera
10. Alvaro Bautista
11. James Ellison
12. Mattia Pasini
13. Aleix Espargaro
14. Michele Pirro
15. Yonny Hernandez
16. Ben Spies
17. Chris Vermeulen
18. Ivan Silva