Rossi comeback in French MotoGP
HEADING FOR THE WIN: Eventual winner Jorge Lorenzo (left) on a Yamaha leads Honda's Dani Pedrosa in the closing stages of the 2012 French MotoGP at Le Mans. Image: AFP
LE MANS, France - Spain's 2010 World motorcycling champion Jorge Lorenzo won the French MotoGP here on Sunday and took the overall lead in the championship in front of an astonishing crowd of more than 80 000 who braved heavy rain.
The 25-year-old Yamaha rider, recording his second win of the season and 19th MotoGP, came home clear of Italian great Valentino Rossi (Ducati) while Australian defending World champion Casey Stoner (Honda) was third.
‘CASEY DROPPED OFF’
For 33-year-old Rossi it was only his second podium finish in two years and could not have come at a better time as Stoner is due to retire at the end of the year and the Italian suggested he would be interested in the Honda ride.
"The race went extremely well for me," said Lorenzo, who will take his lead to his home MotoGP in Barcelona in a fortnight. "I got a lead and though Casey closed on me he suddenly dropped off and I was able to relax and coast home. I admit my only problem was to keep my concentration alone up front."
Rossi, a seven-times 500cc MotoGP champion, was delighted with his result which came in front of admiring seven-times F1 World champion Michael Schumacher.
"I would like to only race when it rains," grinned the rider known as 'The Doctor'. "It was very important to stay calm in these wet conditions and even when I had a problem with my visor and had to drop back a bit I kept my composure.
"I got back into a good rhythm and then got involved in a really good battle with Casey which was like old times! This is an important result for us."
‘NOT THE BEST DAY’
Stoner, who surprised many when he announced earlier in the week that he was retiring at the end of the season aged only 26, admitted it had been a tough race.
"It wasn't the best day for us," said Stoner, who has two wins under his belt this season. "We struggled today. I gave it my all in the middle part of the race but then we lost grip and I had to just try to hold on. I'm quite pleased, really, with third."
Lorenzo had a great start and quickly established a four-second lead over Stoner while the latter's team mate and pole-starter sitter Dani Pedrosa's hopes of winning his the French GP for the first time quickly disappeared as he slipped to sixth.
It was Rossi and Cal Crutchlow who made the most progress to move into third while Crutchlow, quickest in the morning warm-up, came from fifth row on the grid to overtake team mate Andrea Dovizioso to go fourth with 19 laps to go.
The trio had a thrilling battle for third with Crutchlow and Dovizioso passing Rossi before Crutchlow was overtaken by his Italian team mate and Rossi then passed Crutchlow to go fourth.
Crutchlow's challenge for the podium came to a woeful end with 10 laps to go as he slid off on a left-hander. He got up and running again but his hopes were gone and he faded to eighth.
Rossi, though, was riding brilliantly and overtook Dovizioso and set off in pursuit of the two leaders.
Lorenzo, however, was making no mistakes up front as he hammered home his advantage and, with eight laps left, was more than six seconds ahead.
Stoner eased up, acknowledging that Lorenzo had the race in the bag, but Rossi had not given up hope of taking second and reduced the Australian's lead to two seconds with six laps remaining.
With four to go the charismatic Italian was right on Stoner's shoulder but disaster struck Dovizioso as he, like Crutchlow, went into the gravel, restarted but came back seventh.
Rossi's thrilling duel with Stoner came to a head entering the final lap when he feinted one way and then went the other to pass Stoner and fended him off for the remainder of the lap.
A brilliant end to a great race.
2012 French MotoGP result
1 Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 49min39.743
2 Valentino Rossi (Ducati) +9.905
3 Casey Stoner (Honda) +11.298
4 Dani Pedrosa (Honda) +29.361
5 Stefan Bradl (Honda) +32.477
6 Nicky Hayden (Ducati) +32.842
7 Andrea Dovizioso (Yamaha) +59.759
8 Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) +1min05.152
9 Hector Barbera (Pramac) +1min07.846
10 Alvaro Bautista (Honda) +1min13.193
1 Jorge LORENZO (Yamaha) SPA 90
2 Casey STONER (Honda) AUS 82
3 Dani PEDROSA (Honda) SPA 65
4 Cal CRUTCHLOW (Yamaha GBR 45
5 Andrea DOVIZIOSO (Yamaha) ITA 44
6 Valentino ROSSI (Ducati) ITA 42
7 Stefan BRADL (Honda) GER 35
8 Alvaro BAUTISTA (Honda) SPA 35
9 Nicky HAYDEN (Ducati) US 33
10 Hector BARBERA (Ducati) SPA 26
Le Mans 2012 MotoGP grid leaders
1 Dani Pedrosa (ESP/Honda) 1min33.638
2 Casey Stoner (AUS/Honda) +0.303
3 Andrea Dovizioso (ITA/Yamah+a) +0.338
4 Jorge Lorenzo (ESP/Yamaha) 0.466
5 Cal Crutchlow (GBR/Yamaha) +0.540
6 Ben Spies (USA/Yamaha) +1.031
7 Valentino Rossi (ITA/Ducati) +1.269
8 Alvaro Bautista (ESP/Honda) +1.284
9 Hector Barbera (ESP/Ducati) +1.312
10 Karel Abraham (CZE/Ducati) +1.612
11 Nicky Hayden (USA/Ducati) 1+.653
12 Randy de Puniet (FRA/Aprilia) +2.056