Fractures to both ankles at the previous Shanghai round have left Lorenzo needing a wheelchair or crutches when off the bike, and the Estoril winner raised serious doubts about his ability to race at Le Mans when he fell twice in practice - in addition to several other off-track moments.

The reigning double 250cc world champion had dug deep to qualify fifth on the grid, but later admitted he was 'dreaming' of a sixth or seventh place finish in the race - especially after lapping just 11th quickest in morning warm-up and plummeting to that same position by lap two of the grand prix.

Whilst championship rivals Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa and Rossi battled with Colin Edwards at the front, Lorenzo initially looked to be struggling and was still only ninth by lap seven.

However, the 21-year-old suddenly 'found his feet', bursting past John Hopkins, Loris Capirossi and Nicky Hayden on the following lap, before chasing down last year's winner Chris Vermeulen.

Lorenzo overtook the Rizla Suzuki rider on lap 15, by which time Rossi had escaped out front, but Edwards, Stoner and Pedrosa were well within reach. The #48 made short work of the trio, helped by an engine failure for Stoner, and crossed the line five seconds from Rossi.

The amazing ride marked Lorenzo's fourth podium from his first five MotoGP races, and he is now joint second with Pedrosa in the championship standings - just three points from Rossi.

The message was clear, if Lorenzo can finish in second with two broken ankles - at a track he had never ridden an M1 at before this weekend - what will he do when he is fit? His rivals must be worried...

"Firstly I want to say congratulations to Yamaha because it's fantastic to have three on the podium and it demonstrates how strong our bike is," said Jorge, who climbed the podium with the aid of crutches, and was given a seat to help rest his feet.

"After the weekend I have had, with the crashes and so much pain, I can't believe I'm here! All last night I worried about this race because I really thought it might be too hard. It was a dream to finish sixth or seventh, especially when I could only manage 11th in the warm-up. I knew I had to try however and on the grid one of my mechanics reminded me that my rivals were just the same ones as in Portugal; this was a good motivation!

"I had some problems at the start and it's clear that we need to work on these, but after a while I found my rhythm and once again I was able to make my way through the field and pass some riders. I think the rain helped me for the first time in my life because everyone was a little bit slower for a few laps, but second is unbelievable and I think I look a bit happier this afternoon!

"Now we have to work as hard as possible to heal my injuries and improve my physical condition, so that we can be back to our best in Mugello," concluded Lorenzo, who was the top Michelin rider in the tyre manufacturer's home event.

"Our job this weekend has been very difficult because two crashes have meant less time to perfect the bike, but the team did a great job, found the best possible set-up and then Michelin gave us the best tyre for the race. Thanks to all of them!" said team manager Daniele Romagnoli. "Now everyone needs some rest but Jorge most of all and we will all be hoping that he is able to relax and recuperate over the next ten days so that he can be back to full strength in Italy."