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GP Week : Issue 154
Every rider has his special character. Jorge Lorenzo’s is consistency. Combine that with opportunism, determination and the clearest possible understanding of where the limit lies, and the Yamaha rider becomes hard to beat. Impossible to beat, in fact, at Le Mans. In a race that was obviously going to be difficult, on a wet but gradually drying track, Jorge saw his chance from the first lap, and made the most of it for a second clear win of the season. He had disappointed himself in qualifying, only second-best Yamaha at a twisty 4.185-km circuit that has historically favoured the sweetest-handling of the MotoGP bikes. The second row was no great drawback, however. Pedrosa led away as usual from his first pole of the year, pursued by second qualifier Stoner. But it was Lorenzo third into the first chicane, and in front by the end of the lap. He’d noticed that the Honda riders were hesitant, and needed no written invitation. “I was competitive in morning warm-up, and I knew the track was more slippery and that the other riders would be careful. There was my opportunity to convince,” he said. By lap three he was better than 2.5 seconds clear of the pursuit, now led by Stoner, and the gap grew. Stoner held second while Pedrosa dropped away, both suffering the same problem: the Honda’s reluctance to get heat into the rear tyre. “The rear was letting go into the corner, then when you touched the throttle it would go again,” he said. As they approached the 10-lap mark, the situation improved, and he started to slice away at Lorenzo’s four-second lead. He cut it to 2.7 seconds by lap 15, the Spaniard forcing himself just to concentrate and maintain his pace rather than risking more by responding. It was the right choice. Now the track was drying and Stoner’s tyre took on too much heat. He was spinning and sliding, and his attack was over. But not his troubles. Behind him was Valentino Rossi (Marlboro Ducati), heavily engaged with the pair of Monster Yamahas of Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow. Stoner had gapped them when he speeded up, but now he was losing pace. Rossi had lost touch with him on lap 10, in trouble with his visor misting; two laps later, as he tried to clear it, he dropped behind the battling Yamahas. The trio remained within touching distance, and on lap 18 Rossi got back to the front of it. Crutchlow promptly slid off, saying later: “I was down on straight-line speed and having to make it up in the corners, so sooner or later it was going to happen.” He scrambled back on board, losing only three places; while Rossi reclaimed third from Dovizioso on lap 19. Dovi soon did the same as Crutchlow, getting going just ahead of his team-mate. Now Stoner was losing pace, while Rossi always “knew it was a special chance. I had a good exit from the corner, good traction.” He chased his old rival down and caught him with five laps left. Stoner found him irresistible, but didn’t give in easily. They changed places twice at the chicane on lap 27, then once again next time round, with Rossi making it stick this time. “We had another great battle, and this time I didn’t throw away the chance,” he said. Pedrosa was a distant fourth, never part of the action; a long way back slow starter Nicky Hayden (Marlboro Ducati) had finally caught Stefan Bradl’s LCR Honda in the last two laps ... but the German class rookie just held him at bay for fifth, his best result yet. Dovi and Crutchlow were next, then Hector Barbera (Pramac Ducati) finally won out over Alvaro Bautista (San Carlo Honda). James Ellison (PBR ART) put his gremlins behind him for 11th, best of the CRT bikes. The 2012 nightmare continued for Ben Spies (Yamaha). He all but high-sided off the start line, banging his helmet as he saved it and deranged his visor in the process. “There was water spraying around inside it.” Unsighted and dropping towards the very back he pitted for a shield change, rejoining miles away to finish out of the points and a lap behind. It seemed there was dirt or oil on that side of the start straight, for Hayden also spun up and nearly crashed. It was worse for Randy de Puniet (Power Electronics ART). He hit the same spot and crashed, jumping pit wall to take his spare bike, but out of contention for his home race. The win gave the points lead back to Lorenzo, 90 to Stoner’s 82. Pedrosa had 65, Crutchlow 45, and Dovizioso 44. But Rossi moved to sixth, with 42. I was competitive in morning warm-up, and I knew the track was more slippery and that the other riders would be careful. There was my opportunity to convince ... JORGE LORENZO MOTOGP >>> LE MANS 23 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: