Red Bull Yamaha's test rider, Jean-Michel Bayle, returned to the grand prix fray in unusual fashion this past weekend, as he replaced the still injured Garry McCoy alongside young American John Hopkins.

There is nothing new about replacement riders being drafted into a team's line-up at various stages during the season, but Bayle had to wait until Saturday's practice session before making his first appearance with the Red Bull team as McCoy only decided that his broken leg was not up to the task of tackling the Le Mans Bugatti circuit after Friday's opening day of action.

"I am delighted to be riding for the Red Bull Yamaha Team at Le Mans and I am grateful for the opportunity to have already tested the Yamaha at Mugello last week and at Valencia in March," the Frenchman said on being called up, "I have plenty of experience at this track with the Le Mans 24 Hours just last month and from racing here in the 250 and 500cc class [in previous years]. This is a physically a very hard track, there is a lot of braking from fast straights followed again by more slow corners and this sequence is repeated many times."

Bayle went on to finish the race in 14th position, three behind his young rookie team-mate, after the event was red-flagged on lap 21 of 28 due to dangerous wet conditions.

"I had some trouble at the beginning of the race with the grip of the tyres but, as the race progressed, I was getting faster and able to slide the bike some more," he said, "As I did not ride on Friday, I was short on set-up time, but it's good that I finished in the points.

"I really need some more time to set this bike up for myself and some more time on the track. Today, though, I did not want to do anything crazy or crash and I wanted to improve on my time each lap. It is not so bad - we have two points, but we still have some work to do with the bike and tyres."

"Jean-Michel had a great ride today and he clocked his fastest lap of the race on lap 18 - at 1min 38.336secs - which shows he was getting quicker as the race progressed," commented team manager Peter Clifford, "We are obviously very happy to continue with him as our test rider for the remainder of the year.

"It's obviously terribly disappointing for all of us [to have an injured McCoy], but we have been able to understand just a fraction of what Garry has been going through from the look of his face as he gets off the motorcycle."

Teenager Hopkins took eleventh place at Le Mans, his best finish in just four grands prix.

"I felt really good racing today and, on the starting grid, I had my sights set on catching the guys two rows ahead of me," 'Hopper' revealed, "I had a really good start and it all got a bit wild going into the first chicane, but I just put my head down and worked my way through the field.

"I had Jean-Michel on my tail in the first early laps, but I was focused on the riders in front of me and I started to chase down [Jeremy] McWilliams. I moved up to twelfth position and was determined to chase down Sete Gibernau. I am finding that my strongest point on the bike is under braking. I thought I could take him on the back double apex, so I planned my move, got a good early line, held it tight and just flew on by. I turn 19 next week, so it looks like the week is off to a good start for me."


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