Results and summary of the incident-packed MotoGP race at Le Mans:
Casey Stoner has rounded out a weekend of domination at Le Mans with a convincing victory, breathing life back into his championship hopes for 2011, but Stoner's runaway win will not be what the Le Mans race will be remembered for. The race saw several high-profile incidents and crashes, ending in a broken collarbone and a ride-through, allowing a surprise podium.
The race did not get off to a great start for Stoner, however: a problem with his clutch before the warmup lap meant the bike would not start, overheating the clutch when it did. That left him slower off the line, though still matching Marco Simoncelli and Andrea Dovizioso. His other Repsol teammate was too fast for everyone, however, the Spaniard deploying another one of his lightning starts to rocket into the lead from the second row before the pack entered the chicane for the first time. Dovizioso looked to have 2nd, until brushed aside by Stoner, while Jorge Lorenzo lined up behind Dovizioso in 5th.
The two leading Repsols started pulling away right from the off, Stoner passing Pedrosa into the final esses on the second lap. But shaking Pedrosa off his tail proved a good deal more difficult than the Australian expected, Pedrosa sticking with Stoner fairly easily for the first ten laps.
Behind the leaders, a fierce battle developed for 3rd. Dovizioso's hold on the position did not last the first lap, Simoncelli getting past early on. Clearly struggling with his bike. Lorenzo's tactics were to latch on to whoever was fastest, and score whatever points he could. Seeing Simoncelli get past Dovizioso, the reigning World Champion decided he needed to be on Simoncelli's tail, and Lorenzo barged past Dovizioso with a very harsh and physical move up the inside of the Repsol Honda on the way into the chicane. But Lorenzo could not quite match the pace of Simoncelli, just as Simoncelli could not match Pedrosa, the San Carlo Gresini rider dropping slowly off the back of the Repsol Honda pairing.
After the one-third mark, Pedrosa's resistance also started to crumble. Lap by lap, Stoner started edging away from his teammate, a little at first, then by larger and larger margins. From the halfway mark, Stoner was beyond the reach of anyone, pulling a huge advantage over the field and going on to win by a huge margin.
That margin was assisted by the action further back. Once Pedrosa had lost touch with his teammate, he started falling back into the clutches of the hard-charging Simoncelli. On lap 18, the two were together, and Simoncelli was looking for a pass. He found it on the way through Garage Vert, leading onto the back straight. But his pass left him on the line with the least drive, and Pedrosa powered out of the corner and back past Simoncelli along the back straight. Pedrosa now had the inside line, but Simoncelli had the better position on the brakes. The Italian braked past the Spaniard on the outside going into the Chemin aux Boeufs esses, the cut across Pedrosa's bows to take over 2nd. Pedrosa, braking at full power and with nowhere left to go, sat the bike up to avoid Simoncelli, but there was too little room. Pedrosa clipped the back of Simoncelli's bike, and was thrown from his Repsol Honda, breaking his collarbone. The only slight relief in the situation was that it was the right collarbone, not the left, where he had had earlier problems, that it was a clean break, and that Pedrosa may be able to race at Barcelona in three weeks' time.
Race Direction reviewed the pass, and came to the conclusion that it was an illegal maneuver, calling Simoncelli in for a ride-through. That put an end to any hopes the Gresini rider may have had of his first MotoGP podium.
With Pedrosa and Simoncelli removed from the equation, the battle for 4th suddenly became the scrap for the final two steps of the podium. The candidates were Jorge Lorenzo, Andrea Dovizioso and Valentino Rossi. Lorenzo was leading the dance, but using up his tires and bike in the effort, the World Champion clearly not having found a competitive setup at Le Mans. First he lost out to Dovizioso, and then with four to go, to Rossi, finally running wide and losing two seconds to the Italian pair in his effort. Lorenzo could do nothing other than limp home for 4th.
The battle for the podium turned pretty intense, all the way to the line. Dovizioso held the advantage, briefly challenged on the penultimate lap by Rossi in the final double right hander before the start and finish straight, only to grab the lead back from on the exit of the corner. Try as Rossi might, he could not get past Dovizioso, the Repsol Honda man going on to snag 2nd, and Rossi securing his first ever podium on the Ducati with 3rd, and an unexpected one at that.
Lorenzo was left to cling on to 4th, while Simoncelli passed Ben Spies on the final lap to grab 5th, demoting Lorenzo's factory Yamaha teammate to 6th, while Nicky Hayden came home in 7th, a long way ahead of Hiroshi Aoyama, who was in turn a long way ahead of the group fighting for 9th, a battle won by Hector Barbera.
The result has opened the championship up again, throwing a spanner in the works of Dani Pedrosa's title aspriations. Lorenzo still leads, though Stoner has closed the gap down to 12 points, Dani Pedrosa slipping to 3rd.
|13||5||Colin EDWARDS||YAMAHA||45'03.007||2 laps|
|65||Loris CAPIROSSI||DUCATI||33'55.169||7 laps|
|26||Dani PEDROSA||HONDA||26'47.714||11 laps|
|35||Cal CRUTCHLOW||YAMAHA||10'27.276||22 laps|
|14||Randy DE PUNIET||DUCATI||1'43.987||27 laps|