Lorenzo Gets Wet-Dry Win in France

Cycle News Staff | May 17, 2009

Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo took over the MotoGP World Championship points lead with a victory in the wet/dry flag-to-flag French Grand Prix at Le Mans, while teammate Valentino Rossi crashed out, re-mounted, and finished out of the points in 16th.On a wet but drying track, Lorenzo sped to the lead off the start and built up a cushion of nearly 12 seconds before pitting at the end of 12 to 28 laps to switch machines in his first flag-to-flag race. After his first lap on slick tires, Lorenzo still had a 7.3-seconds lead and continued to stretch it to the finish.The margin of victory was 17.71 seconds.The win was Lorenzo’s second of the year – his first came in the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi – and put him atop the points table by one, 66 to 65,  over Rossi and Ducati Marlboro’s Casey Stoner, fifth today, who are tied for second.”It was a very difficult race because I am not used to changing the bike in the middle of the race and this was the first time in my life that I had to change,” Lorenzo said. “So I’m completely grateful with this victory because I was fast with the wet tire and also with the dry. And for this I said that it was difficult because you have to change the bike in the right moment, no? if you change one lap later you can lose the race, so we changed in the point and we won again and we are all again on the top.”Marco Melandri rode brilliantly to finish second on the Hayate Racing Ducati. Without a ride after Kawasaki withdrew during the off-season, Melandri gambled on the essentially private Hayate Racing team, which is racing the ZXRR with little hope of updated parts or development.The Italian was among the first to change tires when he pitted ending the sixth lap. Three laps later he was the fastest rider on dry tires and once all the riders finished their pit stops, ending the 12th lap, Melandri was in second to stay. He was never challenged for his first podium of the year.”It’s amazing to be here for me,” Melandri said before recounting his late entry back into MotoGP and thanking his team and Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, who worked hard to keep Kawasaki in MotoGP.”It’s been an awesome race. I start with the wet and I was quite confident. I was quite fast and when I saw Valentino [Rossi] change the bike I thought it was a bit too early. I changed just the lap after, but maybe I should have to wait one more lap, because the first lap with the slick tire was very, very tricky. I almost went down a few times. But I just stay quiet and I didn’t think about the lap time, I think about to clean the tire and wait a better condition. When I saw P2 on my pit board, I couldn’t believe. I just tried to control my gap with the guy behind me.”Yeah, it’s been awesome to be here. It’s so much more nice to be back right now than the past podium.”Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso was in line for his first podium as a factory rider almost to the flag. Dovi had run second to Lorenzo in the early going, then dropped to third after the pit stops. But in the final few laps teammate Dani Pedrosa found late speed. Pedrosa passed the Italian on the last lap to take the final podium spot by .562 of a second. Dovi was a safe fourth.”Yes, it’s a fantastic podium for me because in the wet I wasn’t too fast,” Pedrosa said. “I was going backwards and then I decided to stop, but this was too early. I stopped the same time as Rossi and then I saw him crash in front of me. I couldn’t really see where it was dry or wet, so in the first lap, I was, with the slick tires, very slow I think. It was 55 (1:55) or something. And there I lost a lot of seconds. But after that I get more confidence and I start to be faster and faster and in the final lap I get a podium in the limit, so I’m very happy.”Stoner, who briefly appeared to have a problem on the 15th lap and lost one spot, regained it to finish fifth.Rizla Suzuki’s Chris Vermeulen finished a distant sixth.After a disastrous start that dropped him to 16th, Monster Energy Yamaha Tech 3’s Colin Edwards rebounded to finish seventh. Edwards also set a fast lap and certainly would have enjoyed passing his teammate James Toseland. Edwards went up the inside of the Englishman in a sixth gear kink on lap 22, the same lap he set the fastest time of the race, to that point.Toseland would lose eighth to Rizla Suzuki’s Loris Capirossi.San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Toni Elias narrowly beat his teammate Alex De Angelis for 10th.Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden had run fifth as late as the ninth lap when he pitted to change tires. For the final part of the race he battled with the Hondas and finished 12th.One position back came Scot Racing Team MotoGP’s Yuki Takahashi, the rider who’d taken Hayden out on the first lap in Japan.Then came the disappointed Randy De Puniet, the LCR Honda-riding Frenchman hoping to do better in front of his fellow countrymen.Pramac Racing’s Niccolo Canepa took the final point two laps in front of Rossi.Rossi was the first to pit, at the end of the fifth lap. But before the sixth lap was out he’d crashed on dry tires in the Museum right-hander. It would get worse. Rossi pitted to change back to his wet tire machine, but was accused of speeding in the pit lane and had to do a ridethrough at the end of the ninth lap. Once the team finished repairing his dry tire machine, Rossi was told to pit, which he did at the end of the 13th lap. By then he was two laps down and riding for a point, which he failed to get.MotoGP:1. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha)2. Marco Melandri (Kawasaki)3. Dani Pedrosa (Honda)4. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda)5. Casey Stoner (Ducati)6. Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki)7. Colin Edwards (Yamaha)8. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki)9. James Toseland (Yamaha)10. Toni Elias (Honda)11. Alex De Angelis (Honda)12. Nicky Hayden (Ducati)13. Yuki Takahashi (Honda)14. Randy De Puniet (Honda)15. Niccolo Canepa (Ducati)16. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)