MotoGP > MotoGP 2007 Round 05: France GP > Race Results
MotoGPFranceMay 20, 2007
MotoGP World Championship Grand Prix Round 05
France Grand Prix at Le Mans

Melandri Collects Useful Points Haul In Deluge

Qualifying >>

Le Mans hosted a rain-sodden MotoGP showdown that put nerve and skill at a premium, with Marco Melandri finishing a close second.



Marco Melandri


Dani Pedrosa


With rain threatening, the lights on the grid went out and a crowd of 74,000 watched with some trepidation as the field barreled into turn one with specks of moisture dotting the competitors’ visors and screens. Stoner got the jump into the turn followed by American John Hopkins (Suzuki), but it took only four more corners before Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) took the lead.

This would be a difficult race over 28-laps of this 4.180km track in conditions that worsened as the laps clicked down. The first half of this race was frenzied affair with riders pitting to change machines (and with them tyres) and pole-man Colin Edwards (Yamaha) was the earliest visitor to pit lane on lap four.

As Rossi led across the start/finish straight (a scant 450m of it) conditions were plainly difficult. And it was the riders with the least to lose and the most to gain who put the power down early and gambled their way to the front. Alex Barros (Ducati) lay third with Sylvain Guintoli (Yamaha) and Randy de Puniet (Kawasaki) both, as dutiful Frenchmen, giving it everything in the treacherous conditions.

With Edwards swapping bikes Rossi held a 1.8 second advantage over Barros, who was giving it everything in second. The Brazilian was followed by Stoner, de Puniet and Guintoli. But the native riders were restless and by lap six Guintoli led from de Puniet with Rossi losing momentum and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) moving up the order to fifth.

On lap seven Carlos Checa (LCR Honda RC212V), who was holding seventh from a front row start, crashed and this unleashed a torrent of activity at the front with Guintoli going down on the next lap, Toni Elias (Gresini Honda RC212V) on the eighth, and de Puniet shortly after the Spaniard.

By this time the red and yellow striped flags were out to signal a significant deterioration in adhesion as John Hopkins led the pack. Those who had not pitted earlier now did so, including Hopkins and Pedrosa and this second tier of tyre swappers tended to do better (in the final analysis) than the first wave.

By lap 12 it was Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki) who held second place before overhauling Hopkins for the lead. Melandri then blasted past the American to take second with Rossi now third. Guintoli had nursed his machine back to pitlane to exchange his battered bike for a straighter version and he rejoined the fray in 13th spot, while Vermeulen led Marco by 1.6 seconds.

Things were very wet now. Melandri was giving his all to reduce Vermeulen’s advantage and by lap 14 he had shaved the Aussie’s lead to 1.1 seconds. It was Vermeulen and the Italian first and second with Rossi and Stoner some ways behind in third and fourth, with Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC212V) fifth, Alex Hofmann (Ducati) sixth and Dani seventh.

If the early laps were a maelstrom of activity, the second half of this contest was enlivened only by Melandri’s enthusiasm to catch Vermeulen. By lap 18 the tenacious Italian had carved the gap down to 0.5 seconds. Stoner in third was a considerable 15 seconds adrift of the protagonists, having taken advantage of Rossi’s difficulties in maintaining an economical line out of the turns in the deluge.

Shinya Nakano (Konica Minolta Honda RC212V) crashed and splashed down at the Flip-Flop on lap 21 as his predecessor in the Konica Minolta seat, Makoto Tamada, now riding for Yamaha, was lapped. There was standing water on track now and Hayden was a man who made the most of the slippery tarmac taking Rossi, who ran wide again, for fourth on lap 22.

Vermeulen though was clearly in charge. It took him a mere five laps to re-establish his authority on the event by giving Marco a 2.3 second hole to fill. Barring disasters he was going to take the flag. The disaster fell to Nicky. On lap 26 he crashed heavily while holding fourth.

The Aussie Suzuki man took his first MotoGP win in style, wheelying over the line with Marco having settled for second. Championship points leader Stoner rode to a neat third place here at Le Mans, only the fifth round of an eighteen race series. Dani (who many believe finds racing in the rain a bother) took an eager fourth.

Marco said, “It was an amazing race. From the start it was very difficult on slick tyres and many riders who are not normally in the top were really pushing. I didn’t push then. When it started raining hard I didn’t know when best to come into the pit and change to wet tyres because half the track was wet and half not so bad. When I caught Chris (Vermeulen) I didn’t want to pass him and decided to wait. But I have short legs and could not get my knee down onto the track to control the front and had a couple of big slides, one in sixth gear. So I decided to let Chris go.”

Fourth-placed Dani said, “Well I’m really happy with the result because this was a very hard race and we came through strongly. We learned a lot from the previous wet race in Australia last year and this time the change of bikes was very quick which meant I could keep ahead of the riders who were behind me as I came into the pits. My team did a great job so thank you to them. Although it’s only fourth place I’m very happy today because I needed a good result like this in the wet and it gives me a lot of confidence.”

The fallen, but comparatively unhurt, Nicky said, “That’s a shame for sure. We had a pretty solid fourth place there with just a couple of laps to go and the bike was feeling pretty good in the wet. But then as soon as I touched the brake at the end of the back straight it folded on me. I hadn’t even started back-shifting yet and before I knew it I was just picking up speed as I hit the ground – it was a rough ride. It sucks, but it seems like no bones are broken and that’s a good thing, though I’ve damaged some cartilage in my ribcage.”

Tumbler Checa said, “It was a difficult day in these conditions. I was comfortable early in the race and going into the chicane with a group of riders I saw Valentino (Rossi) on the outside and then Barros cut the gas early. I tried to avoid them by going inside but I arrived a little bit too fast and was not able to stop the bike and turn and lost the front. It is a shame, we had a very competitive package today.”

Shinya Nakano, who slid off, said, “In the early part of the race it was difficult as the rain was starting to fall making it difficult to ride fast with the slick tyre, then I was hoping for more rain! When the rain really came down the team did a great job of getting me into the pits at the right time. Our pace was pretty good and I was overtaking a few riders, and then I was trying to catch the guys in front of me. I could see them, so maybe that meant I pushed too much. Eventually I lost the front going into one of the chicanes and I went down.”

“The track was a little wet before the start,” said non-finisher Kenny Roberts (Roberts KR212V). “So we took a gamble and opted to run rain tyres hoping to get an advantage when the rain got harder. But the ran didn’t come soon enough and any advantage we would have got from the other riders going into the pits for wet tyres disappeared lap by lap.
When the rain came I was in no position to benefit. Then on the last lap we had an engine problem and had to stop, so we scored no points.”

Unlucky Elias said, “Within the first lap of the race conditions were difficult. When the rain started to get heavier I was trying to work out when best to go to the pit box for wet tyres. Then, suddenly, without any warning the bike went down. It was quite a heavy fall and my back is very painful. I went to the doctor for an x-ray and luckily nothing is broken. I am very disappointed because I haven’t scored points in the last two races.”

The World Championship points table shows Stoner with 102 to Rossi’s 81 with Dani scoring well enough to stay in touch on 62 and Marco right back in the mix with 61 as the European rounds take in Mugello in Italy in two weeks time.

The 250cc race was once again the property of Jorge Lorenzo (Aprilia), although not without a stiff fight from his main rival. The Spaniard clashed with the typically remorseless Andrea Dovizioso (Scot Honda RS250RW) who set a fastest lap of the race on his final lap to achieve second place. Alex de Angelis (Aprilia) was third.

Dovi said, “We are fast so I’m happy. But I’m not so happy when Lorenzo touched me in the middle of the race and broke my rear brake – that made things difficult. Even so I pushed to the maximum on each lap and the last lap. So second it is – not so good.”

Julian Simon (Repsol Honda RS250RW) finished fifth and said, “It’s been a hard race and the truth is that I already expected something like this. We’ve done a good job, the team has been really great and they have given their all. It could have been better than fifth, but we’ll try to improve in the next race.”

Sergio Gadea (Aprilia) won the 125cc race from series points leader Lukas Pesek (Derbi) with the increasingly involved Bradley Smith (Repsol Honda RS125R) third. Smith, incidentally, is the first British rider to make a 125cc podium since Robin Milton in 1989.

Smith said, “The race was hard but the bike was brilliant. Things have been leading up to this podium finish and that’s all to do with the team who have been brilliant so a big thanks to them.”

Mike di Meglio (Scot Honda RS125R) was ninth. He said, “I’m quite satisfied, this is one of my better results, but I think I could have made more of it because we had a good pace. Unfortunately De Rosa fell in front of me and to avoid him I had to slow down a lot and many riders passed me.”



Andrea Dovizioso


Bradley Smith


MotoGP:
Marco Melandri, Gresini Honda: 2nd.
“It was an amazing race. From the start it was very difficult on slick tyres and many riders who are not normally in the top were really pushing. I didn’t push then. When it started raining hard I didn’t know when best to come into the pit and change to wet tyres because half the track was wet and half not so bad. When Chris (Vermeulen) went into the pits I thought OK now I have to go in. We have never tested Bridgestone tyres here and only had one wet test in the winter. The team had a good set up on my spare bike and it felt good from the beginning. When I caught Chris I didn’t want to pass him and decided to wait. But I have short legs and could not get my knee down onto the track to control the front when I had a couple of big slides, one in sixth gear! So I decided to let Chris go.”


Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 4th.
"Well I'm really happy with the result because this was a very hard race and we came through strongly. We learned a lot from the previous wet race in Australia last year and this time the change of bikes was very quick which meant I could keep ahead of the riders who were behind me as I came into the pits. My team did a great job so thank you to them. At the start of the race I think many of the riders in front of me had hard tyres on because I was able to move forward in the first laps. Once the rain came it just got heavier and heavier, yet I was still able to improve on every lap. It was a case of just trying to get used to the situation because when I swapped to the other bike with the wet set-up, the gears, suspension and obviously the tyres were all different. Although it's only fourth place I'm very happy today because I needed a good result like this in the wet and it gives me a lot of confidence."

Toni Elias, Gresini Honda: dnf – crash.
“Within the first lap of the race conditions were difficult. When the rain started to get heavier I was trying to work out when best to go to the pit box for wet tyres. Then, suddenly, without any warning the bike went down. It was quite a heavy fall and my back is very painful. I went to the Doctor for an Xray and luckily nothing is broken. I am very disappointed because I have not scored points in the last two races. ”

Nicky Hayden, Repsol Honda: dnf – crash.
"That's a shame for sure. We had a pretty solid fourth place there with just a couple of laps to go and the bike was feeling pretty good in the wet. But then as soon as I touched the brake at the end of the back straight it folded on me. I hadn't even started back-shifting yet and before I knew it I was just picking up speed as I hit the ground - it was a rough ride. It sucks, but it seems like no bones are broken and that's a good thing, though I've damaged some cartilage in my ribcage. It's just hugely disappointing for me and the team but I can't blame it on anybody but myself today. The bike was not bad in the wet - for sure it was moving around a little bit and some of the other riders took off but we definitely didn't deserve that today. I guess that's how it goes sometimes so we'll just keep working at it and come back hard at the next race in Italy."

Shinya Nakano, Konica Minolta Honda: dnf - crash.
“In the early part of the race it was difficult as the rain was starting to fall making it difficult to ride fast with the slick tyre, then I was hoping for more rain! When the rain really came down the team did a great job of getting me into the pits at the right time. Our pace was pretty good and I was overtaking a few riders, and then I was trying to catch the guys in front of me. I could see them, so maybe that meant I pushed too much. Eventually I lost the front going into one of the chicanes and I went down. I’m so unhappy for the team as they did everything correctly, but it was a good experience to be going fast on the Michelin rain tyres and I had a good feeling with the bike. At the end of the day this sort of race is always a bit of a gamble. We shall give 110% for the next race at Mugello.”

Kenny Roberts Jnr, KR212V: dnf – technical problem.
"The track was a little wet before the start so we took a gamble and opted to run rain tyres hoping to get an advantage when the rain got harder. But the ran didn't come soon enough and any advantage we would have got from the other riders going into the pits for wet tyres disappeared lap by lap. When the rain came I was in no position to benefit. Then on the last lap we had an engine problem and had to stop, so we scored no points."

Carlos Checa, LCR Honda: dnf - crash.
"It was a difficult day in these conditions. I was comfortable early in the race and going into the chicane with a group of riders I saw Valentino (Rossi) on the outside and then Barros cut the gas early. I tried to avoid them by going inside but I arrived a little bit too fast and was not able to stop the bike and turn and lost the front. It is a shame, we had a very competitive package today."


250cc.
Andrea Dovizioso, Scot Honda: 2nd.
“What’s pity for that contact with Lorenzo! If that happened I had great possibilities to be leading, considering that I made the fastest lap time and the lap record for the track on my last lap when I went faster to try to get the win. Without a back brake and a bent footrest it was difficult because my leg hurt at the end of the race and because I need a lot the back brake in fast turns. In our situation, and the difference in points between Lorenzo and us, this crash is a bad thing but this is also part of racing… I’m not satisfied. I would have won because we had a good pace and the team has worked well. Now we go to Mugello for the next race, it will not be easy for us, but we’ll try.”

Julian Simon, Repsol Honda: 5th.
“It’s been a hard race and the truth is that I already expected something like this. I made a good start although I was passed by several riders before even reaching the first corner and I was last in the group. I passed Barbera to catch the leading group because they had a better pace. But then he passed me back in the back straight and I wasn’t able to reach the others. That is when the fight with Barbera started and I’ve been behind him until the end of the race. It was difficult to try to pass him in the last lap because I was lacking some top speed. But well, we’ve done a good job, the team has been really great and they have given it all. It could have been better than fifth, but we’ll try to improve in the next race.”

Shuhei Aoyama, Repsol Honda: 9th.
“The start wasn’t bad today and I tried to pass the riders in front of me in the third lap. However, just like in the practices, the right knee was hurting a lot, even more than in the beginning so I had trouble getting a pace that would allow me to pass them. Five laps later the pain was much less and I was able to keep a good pace. Bautista passed me in the last lap and I tried to pass him back but I had no more strength left to do it.”

Ratthapark Wilairot, Thai Honda PTT-SAG: 11th.
"I'm pleased with the way things went. My start was far from perfect but I tried to stay focused and to regain some ground as quickly as possible. As the laps went by, I was improving my lap times gradually and was able to chase the riders in front me. When I caught up with Lai, I knew it wouldn't be possible to open a gap over him. In the last three laps I gave my all and I was able to get my best result of the season. I have to thank my team because, once more, they did a great job."

Eugene Laverty, LCR Honda: 19th.
“I scored one point but I am disappointed with my performance, I thought I could have challenged Fabrizio Lai for 12th place. The track was much colder today and I didn’t have the same feeling from the front end that I had yesterday. Plus the bikes in my group were faster on the straights.”

Yuki Takahashi, Scot Honda:
Takahashi will not contest the French GP due to injuries sustained at the GP of Turkey.


125cc:
Bradley Smith, Repsol Honda: 3rd.
“This has obviously been a mega-race for me. My start wasn’t great but I managed to get a good place in the first corner and I stayed behind Di Meglio. Then, he and some other riders went wide in a corner and I passed them. Pasini had opened a little gap, but then I was behind Gadea and I pushed hard until I got closer, though always a bit far behind. I only managed to get really close towards the end of the race and I know that I could have been fighting with them. The bike went perfect today, so I’ve been able to keep Pesek behind me. When Pesek passed me, I had to go a little wide in the corner. I don’t know whether his tyres were in better shape than mine or he was just faster than me, because he managed to escape. Then I thought that a place on the podium was enough for me and that we’ll have the chance to make it better some other day.”

Mike Di Meglio, Kopron Scot Honda: 9th.
“I’m quite satisfied, this is my best result this season until now but I think I could taken more from the race because we had a good pace. Unfortunately De Rosa fall down ahead me and in order to avoid him I had slow down a lot and many riders passed me. I tried to recover the positions but the rear end of the bike was sliding and I had to modify my riding style for this but I couldn’t go faster. Anyway we have improved a lot and I’m sure we will continue to improve.”

Alexis Masbou, FFM Honda: 12th.
“At the beginning of the race I was confident because I had a good start and, after qualifying eleventh in practice, I was able to make my way amongst the other riders and quickly gain several positions. Eighth after lap one, I thought I could keep up the pace I had in mind and stay with the leading riders. But I encountered a slight problem with my bike. It didn’t have enough acceleration in first gear and I was losing ground. The other riders started passing me while I was closing on the leading group, together with Spaniard Joan Olive. I lost some ground and was no longer able to benefit from the slipstream from other machines. One should say that the weather conditions were very peculiar during the race, sunny at first and then cloudy with a high humidity level, and that was a nightmare for the mechanics. I'm disappointed with my position because I gave it everything I had, the team and I did our maximum for a result with which I’m not totally satisfied.”

Dino Lombardi, Kopron Scot Honda: 21st.
“I made a good start, I was in the group of the row ahead me when Zanetti crashed and I lost positions trying to avoid him. I fought a lot with Aegerter and we touched each other many times, it was a hard fought race in which I tried to pass a lot of other riders. I’m quite satisfied, I hope to continue on this way.”

Joey Litjens, Molenaar Honda: 25th.
“That was a very frustrating race for me I just could not get out of the group I was riding with. The problem was that riders passed me in unexpected places but that slowed us. I worked really hard during the race to make progress but if you pulled out of the slipstream to pass it was difficult to get passed some of the group and you had to get back in line. The bike was really good today, and the tyres. I got a good start but just couldn’t get away from the riders I was racing with.”

Danny Webb, Molenaar Honda: 27th.
“Up until now I have made progress in very race but this weekend I have just not adapted to this rack. It’s me, not the bike. I got a good start and a decent first lap but after that everything went downhill. I am really disappointed with my race.”

Tito Rabat, Repsol Honda:

Rabat did not start due to a broken bone in his left hand. The injury is the legacy of a high-speed tumble in Friday’s practice when he was hit by another rider.

MotoGP World Championship Grand Prix Round 05
France Grand Prix at Le Mans


line
MotoGP
1 Chris VERMEULEN (Rizla Suzuki MotoGP)
2 Marco MELANDRI (Honda Gresini )
3 Casey STONER (Ducati Marlboro Team)
4 Dani PEDROSA (Repsol Honda Team)
5 Alex HOFMANN (Pramac d'Antin)
6 Valentino ROSSI (Fiat Yamaha Team)
7 John HOPKINS (Rizla Suzuki MotoGP)
8 Loris CAPIROSSI (Ducati Marlboro Team)
9 Makoto TAMADA (Dunlop Yamaha Tech 3)
10 Sylvain GUINTOLI (Dunlop Yamaha Tech 3)
11 Fonsi NIETO (Kawasaki Racing Team)
12 Colin EDWARDS (Fiat Yamaha Team)



Marco Melandri
250cc
1 Jorge LORENZO (Fortuna Aprilia)
2 Andrea DOVIZIOSO (Kopron Team Scot)
3 Alex DE ANGELIS (Master - Mapfre Aspar)
4 Hector BARBERA (Team Toth Aprilia)
5 Julian SIMON (Repsol Honda 250cc)
6 Marco SIMONCELLI (Metis Gilera)
7 Mika KALLIO (Red Bull KTM 250)
8 Alvaro BAUTISTA (Master - Mapfre Aspar)
9 Shuhei AOYAMA (Repsol Honda 250cc)
10 Anthony WEST (Team Sicilia)
11 Ratthapark WILAIROT (Thai Honda PTT-SAG)
12 Fabrizio LAI (Campetella Racing)
13 Alex BALDOLINI (Kiefer - Bos - Sotin Racing)
14 Taro SEKIGUCHI (Campetella Racing)
15 Eugene LAVERTY (Honda LCR)
 
125cc
1 Sergio GADEA (Bancaja Aspar)
2 Lukas PESEK (Valsir Seedorf Derbi)
3 Bradley SMITH (Repsol Honda 125cc)
4 Gabor TALMACSI (Bancaja Aspar)
5 Joan OLIVE (Polaris World)
6 Hector FAUBEL (Bancaja Aspar)
7 Sandro CORTESE (Emmi - Caffe Latte Aprilia)
8 Simone CORSI (Skilled Racing Team)
9 Mike DI MEGLIO (Kopron Team Scot)
10 Tomoyoshi KOYAMA (Red Bull KTM 125)
11 Pol ESPARGARO (Belson Campetella Aprilia)
12 Alexis MASBOU (FFM Honda GP 125)
13 Randy KRUMMENACHE (Red Bull KTM 125)
14 Michael RANSEDER (Ajo Motorsport)
15 Pablo NIETO (Blusens Aprilia)
 


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