May 21, 2012  |   By Paul Kelly

MotoGP Race Report: Grand Prix of France

Jorge Lorenzo regained the points lead with a dominant victory Sunday, May 20 in the Grand Prix of France, but the MotoGP World Championship buzzed after the race for another reason.
The Doctor is back on the box.

Seven-time MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi scored his first podium finish in 12 months, placing second in wet conditions on his Ducati Team machine. It was his best finish for Ducati since his high-profile move to the Italian team before the 2011 season. Rossi’s only other podium finish for Ducati was third at this event last year.

“I’m really, really happy,” Rossi said. “We knew we had a special opportunity in the wet today, so I tried to ride perfectly and not throw it away. Now we must continue giving our all until we’re also able to be competitive in the dry.”

Lorenzo led the entire race to win by 9.905 seconds over Rossi on his Yamaha Factory Racing machine. 2010 World Champion Lorenzo took a 90-82 lead over two-time and reigning World Champion Stoner, who finished third on his Repsol Honda just three days after shocking the motorcycle world by announcing his retirement after this season.

    Dani Pedrosa finished fourth on a Repsol Honda, while rookie Stefan Bradl rounded out the top five on an LCR Honda.

    Rossi prevailed in a spirited joust over the last three laps with rival Stoner. The pair swapped second place in treacherous conditions before Rossi passed Stoner at the chicane on the Bugatti Circuit on the final lap and pulled away.

    Nicky Hayden led the American contingent by finishing sixth on a Ducati, tying his season best. Ben Spies finished a disappointing 16th after fishtailing on his Yamaha Factory Racing machine at the start and having problems with vision due to rain seeping into his helmet.
    American Colin Edwards did not race due to a broken collarbone suffered earlier this month at the previous event, the Grand Prix of Portugal. He is expected to return for NGM Mobile Forward Racing at the next event, the Grand Prix of Catalunya on June 3 at Barcelona, Spain.
The Red Bull Indianapolis GP is the 11th of 18 races this season, Sunday, Aug. 19 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

PODIUM FINISHER QUOTES

JORGE LORENZO (Winner, Yamaha Factory Racing): “It was really difficult to hold concentration today. In the dry, it’s complicated. But in the wet, it’s even more. The race feels much longer, and you have to remember where the corners are slippery every lap. If you forget one, you can crash very easily. I started the race determined to be in first position from the beginning and managed to keep my concentration even when Casey was catching me. It would have been easy to push a bit more and make a mistake at that moment, but I waited for a few more laps to see what happened then opened the gap again to win this fantastic race.”

VALENTINO ROSSI (Second, Ducati Team): “I’m really, really happy. We knew we had a special opportunity in the wet today, so I tried to ride perfectly and not throw it away. I started well and immediately made up some positions, and then I passed the two Yamahas to get behind Stoner. I was able to match his pace, but then my visor started to fog, and I had to slow down for a couple of laps until I was able to clear it by lifting it a little. Once I could see again, I re-passed Cal and then Dovi. When I realized that I could really push hard and that it was possible to catch Stoner again, I went for it. It was a great race and a nice, fun battle with Stoner to the last lap. I enjoyed myself and I’m happy for my team and all the guys at Ducati, who are working so hard for me. Now we must continue giving our all until we’re also able to be competitive in the dry.”

CASEY STONER (Third, Repsol Honda Team): “I was pretty happy to hold on for a podium today. In the early stages Cal, Valentino and Dovi were behind me putting on a lot of pressure, but we managed to pull a small gap on them as I was chasing Jorge. Then as soon as the rain stopped and the track was less wet, our tire temperatures got too high, we started spinning and there wasn't anything I could do about it. I enjoyed the battle with Valentino at the end. There was clean overtaking and we swapped positions a few times, but in the end we knew that Valentino had better pace than us. And after he passed, there was no way I could stay with him.”

***
AMERICAN RIDER QUOTES

NICKY HAYDEN (Ducati Team, sixth): “There must have been something on the inside of the track just after the start because everybody that went on that side either crashed or almost did. My jump was really good, and then just as I was ready to go to second gear, the tire completely broke loose and the bike started fishtailing. I got buried in the pack and couldn’t see for the first few laps. Once I got through some guys and had a clear track, my rhythm wasn’t too bad. I was bringing Bradl and Pedrosa back a bit, but when I got it down to two seconds, I almost crashed and had to try again. I got to Bradl’s wheel at the end but just couldn’t do anything.”

BEN SPIES (Yamaha Factory Racing, 16th): “That was a rough race. We actually got off to a good start at the beginning then had a very big moment on the line. Something happened because then I had quite a lot of water coming in through my helmet and couldn’t see much on the first five laps. I hoped it would get better, but I couldn’t see anything and decided to come in because I need to see where I am going. I knew the race was gone by then, so went back out to try and get some data and get better working with the bike in the rain. Circumstances meant it wasn’t a good day.”

POINTS

    Riders: Jorge Lorenzo 90, Casey Stoner 82, Dani Pedrosa 65, Cal Crutchlow 45, Andrea Dovizioso 44, Valentino Rossi 42, Stefan Bradl 35, Alvaro Bautista 35, Nicky Hayden 33, Hector Barbera 26, Ben Spies 18, Aleix Espargaro 12, Mattia Pasini 6, Randy de Puniet 6, James Ellison 5, Colin Edwards 4, Danilo Petrucci 4, Michele Pirro 4, Yonny Hernandez 3, Ivan Silva 1.
    Manufacturers: Yamaha 90, Honda 86, Ducati 47, ART 16, Suter 4, Ioda 4, FTR 4, BQR-FTR 2, BQR 2.

MotoGP SUPPORT CLASS WINNERS

    Moto2: Thomas Luthi, Switzerland, Interwetten-Paddock Suter-Honda.
    Moto3: Louis Rossi, France, Racing Team Germany FTR Honda.