Photography courtesy MotoGP
Dani Pedrosa was brilliant on a wet Le Mans and turned in a flawless run from sixth on the grid to first in the French Grand Prix on his factory Repsol Honda. Pedrosa showed patience and skill on the wet-to-drying track. He bided his time behind early leader Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo then methodically moved his way to the front. Pedrosa and “Dovi” gradually separated from the field and for a few laps starting on lap eight the two leaders traded the point before Pedrosa finally made a pass stick, then steadily pulled away to a 4.863 margin of victory.
It marked the second straight victory for Pedrosa. The Spaniard becomes the first two-time winner in 2013 and takes over the championship lead by six points from Repsol Honda teammate Marc Marquez.
“For me it was a very good race,” said Pedrosa, who scored his 24th-career win in MotoGP. “I’m so happy with this one because I started with some slide and I lost some positions, but I recovered by the first turn. It was a little difficult at the beginning with the tire, especially with the rear. No grip. I tried to stay in front with Dovi and Lorenzo and then I had some good feeling in the wet so I began to push. I made a couple of mistake and I ran wide, almost out, two times. I was able to hold on and bring the bike in.
“I just kept the rhythm that I was doing and I could escape up front and ride a good pace. The bike was working well. At the end the dry line was a little more difficult. I was spinning a lot, but I managed the gap on the last laps and brought home this win, which is so special.”
Cal Crutchlow turned in his best ever MotoGP performance. The Monster Energy Tech 3 rider made the move past Dovizioso with five laps to go to take over the runner-up position. It was a brave ride for the Brit who cracked a bone at the top of his shin in a crash on Saturday. Crutchlow moved past Valentino Rossi for fourth in the championship.
“I’m really, really pleased,” Crutchlow said. “It’s great to be up here with the Monster Energy Tech 3 team at their home race. It was a Monster Energy event, the Grand Prix, as well. Obviously after a big crash yesterday I think it was going to be a difficult race if it was dry. I had confidence that I would have been there in the top five, but maybe a podium would have been difficult. We knew the conditions this morning were tough and it was going to rain. I remember what happened last year when I crashed out of the race. And it was the same guys this year – me Dovi and Vale were all together at one point. So I knew I had to make amends for last year and we finally got a podium. Congratulations to Dani and Marc - they rode a great race. Marc was coming there at the end so I was a little scared. I had to keep pushing on. We definitely deserved this podium. We’ve been fast all year and now we’ve finally reached it.”
The biggest mover late in the race was talented rookie Marc Marquez. The young Spaniard was literally soaking up experience in his first wet MotoGP race and after a sloppy beginning the Honda rider slowly picked his way to the front. With three to go he moved past Dovizioso to third. It looked like he might have a shot at Crutchlow, but he said he thought it was better to bring it home safe and be grateful for a podium, his fourth in four races. The late laps performance minimized the damage to him in the series standings.
“It was so difficult, especially in the beginning,” Marquez explained. “With that water on the track from the beginning I was spinning a lot. First I did a big mistake on the start because on the end the bike was spinning a lot. I picked up a lot of experience about that. From the beginning maybe I tried to push too much. And then I did many, many mistakes and lost many seconds there. But in the end I start to get the feeling again and I come back. I didn’t expect a podium, but I was focused. On the last lap I saw that Cal was there, but I said ‘After that race a podium is enough.’ So these points are important because it’s my first race in these conditions in MotoGP and I finish here and four podiums in a row is quite important.”
Dovizioso gave Ducatisti a lot to cheer about. He led much of the first half of the race, stubbornly gave up positions with a stout fight, and in the end scored a solid fourth-place result, the best for Ducati this season.
Nicky Hayden gave Ducati even more optimism. The Kentucky Kid rode a solid race to fifth. He applied relentless pressure to Valentino Rossi, as the two battled for position, and Rossi surprisingly cracked and crashed. That gave Hayden a fifth, his best result since the storm-riddled Malaysian Grand Prix last year.
Perhaps the story of the day was the sub-par performance by defending world champ Jorge Lorenzo. The factory Yamaha rider went backwards nearly the entire race. After running second in the opening laps, try as he might, Lorenzo just could not hold off the riders behind him and he eventually fell all the way back to seventh. It might have been worse had Rossi and Stefan Bradl not crashed. Both remounted – Bradl getting back to tenth, Rossi 12th.
As a result of his off-race Lorenzo drops to third in the standings, 17 points out of the series lead.
Michele Pirro, subbing for a recovering Ben Spies on the Ignite Pramac Ducati squad, finished a strong eighth. He had to hold off a hard charging Bradley Smith on the final lap. Smith took ninth on the second Monster Energy Tech 3 machine. It marked the best result of the season for both riders.
American Colin Edwards finished his second straight MotoGP race, just missing out on a championship point in 16h on the NGM Mobile Forward Racing FTR Kawasaki.
The series moves Mugello, Italy, in two weeks’ time. American Ben Spies is slated to make his return at that event.
Monster Energy Grand Prix de France Results – May 19, 2013
1. Dani Pedrosa ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 49m 17.707s
2. Cal Crutchlow GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 49m 22.570s
3. Marc Marquez ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 49m 24.656s
4. Andrea Dovizioso ITA Ducati Team (GP13) 49m 27.794s
5. Nicky Hayden USA Ducati Team (GP13) 49m 36.178s
6. Alvaro Bautista ESP Go&Fun Honda Gresini (RC213V) 49m 41.268s
7. Jorge Lorenzo ESP Yamaha Factory Racing (YZR-M1) 49m 45.668s
8. Michele Pirro ITA Energy T.I. Pramac Racing (GP13) 49m 58.482s
9. Bradley Smith GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 49m 59.114s
10. Stefan Bradl GER LCR Honda MotoGP (RC213V) 50m 18.702s
11. Andrea Iannone ITA Energy T.I. Pramac Racing (GP13) 50m 22.817s
12. Valentino Rossi ITA Yamaha Factory Racing (YZR-M1) 50m 34.075s
13. Aleix Espargaro ESP Power Electronics Aspar (ART CRT) 50m 41.907s
14. Danilo Petrucci ITA Came IodaRacing Project (Suter-BMW CRT) 50m 43.433s
15. Karel Abraham CZE Cardion AB Motoracing (ART CRT) 50m 49.818s
16. Colin Edwards USA NGM Forward Racing (FTR-Kawasaki CRT) 50m 58.309s
17. Michael Laverty GBR Paul Bird Motorsport (PBM-ART CRT) +1 lap
18. Hector Barbera ESP Avintia Blusens (FTR-Kawasaki CRT) +1 lap
19. Hiroshi Aoyama JPN Avintia Blusens (FTR-Kawasaki CRT) +1 lap
Yonny Hernandez COL Paul Bird Motorsport (ART CRT)
Randy De Puniet FRA Power Electronics Aspar (ART CRT)
Lukas Pesek CZE Came IodaRacing Project (Suter-BMW CRT)
Claudio Corti ITA NGM Forward Racing (FTR-Kawasaki CRT)
Bryan Staring AUS Go&Fun Honda Gresini (FTR-Honda CRT)