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GP Week : Issue 46
>>Moto GPFRANCE weather threw a major spanner in the works. F Chaotic? Certainly. The afternoon of Lorenzo’s team-mate Valentino Rossi illustrates the point. He was last, after three pit stops, one crash, and a ride- through penalty. The race started wet, all on Bridgestone’s one-size-fits-all wet tyres. But it was drying, and clearly everyone would have to switch to slicks. Lorenzo took the lead on lap one, from Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda), Casey Stoner (Marlboro Ducati) and Rossi. The Japanese GP winner kept on pulling away as Rossi moved up to second on lap three. The growing gap, plus pressure from behind from Pedrosa and his Honda team-mate Andrea Dovizioso, prompted Valentino to be the first into the pits on lap five, to switch to his spare bike on slicks and carbon brakes. Pedrosa followed him – an advantageous position. He was able to watch and then slow as he saw Rossi slip off on Museum Corner. Rossi returned to the pits, his gear lever snapped off and his screen broken, as IAT Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo led from the first lap to the last at Le Mans. But a chaotic race was anything but processional, as the riders called in to switch bikes. For Lorenzo, this was a first-time experience, and he stayed out until the end of lap 11, by when his lead over Dovizioso was still better than ten seconds. Even so, his lap times were dropping off, while slick-shod riders were circulating up to three seconds a lap quicker. Lorenzo came out in front, and after a couple of laps to adjust, he was soon stretching away again, to win by better than 17 seconds. “After I crashed out at Jerez, only black things were in my mind. I was determined to do my best. Most riders changed bikes before me, but I have never done this before. Then my team called me in. They were a little bit clever,”he said. “And I was a little bit lucky, because Valentino crashed.” By the mid-point, Stoner had dropped to fifth, troubled in the wet and then with a steering problems after changing bikes … he had to slow on the straight to slacken off the over-tight steering damper. Pedrosa was fourth, and Dovizioso ahead of him. Second was a major surprise … Marco Melandri, on the Hayate Kawasaki. He had pitted at lap six, and by now was fastest on the track, even closing on Lorenzo. “I think I am dreaming right now,”he said later, having gone through the winter without knowing if he would have a ride. “I stopped early, then the weather gave me good support.” Melandri hung on to a rapturous second to the end. The battle for third was a thriller. Dovizioso seemed safe, with a 7.5-second margin over Pedrosa on lap 16. But he was at the limit, and his more experienced team-mate inspired. He sliced away at the gap and finally caught up on the last lap, scything past at the end of the back straight to lead the despairing Italian over the line by just over half-a-second. Stoner fended off Chris Vermeulen’s Rizla Suzuki for fifth, and was comfortably clear by the end. But Vermeulen might have lost sixth had the race been longer, with Colin Edwards (Tech 3 Yamaha) closing by the finish as his pace increased. Loris Capirossi (Rizla Suzuki) was eighth, James Toseland (Tech 3 Yamaha) ninth, with Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda) winning a monster battle for 10th from team-mate Alex de Angelis and Marlboro Ducati’s Nicky Hayden. Lorenzo took the points lead by just one from Rossi, 66 to 65, with Stoner third on 65, then Pedrosa on 57. 2