Lorenzo wins to reclaim MotoGP points lead in France. Plus more news from MotoGP; WSBK; ASBK; AMA SBK; Oz MX; and Oz Off-Road.
Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo’s emphatic victory in the Grand Prix of France at the historic Le Mans circuit on Sunday was clearly a very victorious moment for him, bouncing back from a devastating crash at his home GP a fortnight ago to score victory and take of the points lead once again.
In a thrilling race that saw rain in the lead-up to the race, all riders began the 28-lap duration on wet weather tyres despite the quickly drying conditions as teams prepared the riders’ spare bikes in pit lane as per the ruling that if the conditions were to dry out that riders can enter the pits to switch the their second bikes.
Lorenzo stayed out on track the longest of the front-runners in what were eventually dry conditions, hammering his wet tyres in the process, but building up a lead that would see the Fiat Yamaha rider rejoin the circuit with a 13 second lead even after his stop.
Second place rider Marco Melandri, in exceptional form for the Hayate Racing Team, would narrow that gap down to six seconds as Lorenzo built heat into his tyres for the opening few laps, before Lorenzo sprinted off to a 17.710 second victory.
While Lorenzo’s victory was a popular one, the bigger news of the race was the podium placing of Melandri, taking the ex-factory Kawasaki to second place in the race in an incredible performance that mirrors the success of Brawn GP in Formula One after the team was taken over privately following the factory collapse.
Melandri was the quickest on the circuit for a number laps during the mid-race mark, but eventually settled for second once Lorenzo was up to speed on his slicks, absolutely overjoyed with his first podium since 2007.
Rounding out the podium was pole position winner Dani Pedrosa, the Repsol Honda rider who has been consistently improving after an injury-filled pre-season and now finds himself in the championship hunt just nine points behind Lorenzo.
Former series leader and Fiat Yamaha teammate to Lorenzo, Valentino Rossi, had a disastrous race, being the first rider to enter the pits for slicks and crashing at the Museum corner on his out lap.
Rossi remounted and returned to the pits to switch back to his undamaged bike with wets, had to return to the pits again for a ride through penalty for speeding in pit lane, and then returned to switch back to his bike with slicks once his team had fixed the crash damage.
Finishing fourth in the race was Pedrosa’s teammate Andrea Dovizioso, who almost landed his first factory podium before Pedrosa snuck by one the final lap, stealing the position and bumping Dovi off the podium after a solid race.
Australia’s Casey Stoner finished a respectable fifth on his factory Ducati Marlboro Desmosedici GP9, closing the points gap to sit just one point from the series lead behind Lorenzo and tied with arch rival Rossi.
Stoner struggled when on the wet setup, but improved when he reverted to his dry bike and put in a performance that is sure to assist him later in the season when the title comes down to the final races.
Second of the Aussies was Chris Vermeulen in sixth, the Rizla Suzuki wet weather specialist who scored his only MotoGP victory in the rain at Le Mans finishing behind Stoner in a comfortable race for the Queenslander.
As we said before the weekend, the series is coming down to a four-way title fight that continues to get more intriguing by the round. The on-track action may not be so hot, but I have a feeling that consistency is going to pay dividends this season.
The series will now travel to Rossi’s home race at Mugello in Italy on 29-31 May, but he’ll be devastated because if he were to win on the weekend it would have set him up to take his 100th grand prix victory at Mugello, although that’s not to be.
Can you imagine having 100 first place trophies from GP racing on the mantle? Not to mention the other podium positions he has scored throughout his career.
MotoGP returnee Sete Gibernau was forced out of the Grand Prix of France at Le Mans on the weekend after a massive highside crash in Saturday morning’s free practice session.
The accident broke the Spaniard’s left collarbone upon impact, forcing him to return to his home country immediately in order to undergo surgery on Monday for Doctor Xavier Mir to insert a titanium plate to assist healing of the injury.
All eyes are now on whether or not Gibernau can make it back in time for the Grand Prix at Mugello, with his Grupo Francesco Hernando Ducati team hoping their star rider will be fit to take to the grid in order to please sponsors.
One thing to keep in mind is that the team is managed by Pablo Nieto, brother to Fonsi Nieto who filled in for Max Neukirchner in World Superbikes for Suzuki on the weekend.
As reported Friday, former 125cc Grand Prix World Champion Gabor Talmacsi split with the all-conquering Aspar Aprilia team on the eve of the French Grand Prix, with sources indicating that a lack of a spare bike and a miscommunication with the team caused the separation.
Talmacsi, the Hungarian star sponsored by the Balatonring Circuit, sat out the race at Le Mans on the weekend, abandoning any hopes he has of fighting for the 250cc World Championship in 2009.
But the outlook on Talmacsi’s career remains positive despite the setback, with paddock insiders at Le Mans suggesting that he’ll soon be on a second Scot Honda in MotoGP alongside Yuki Takahashi, essentially riding his spare bike and taking much needed funding to the team for the remainder of the season and that rumour is gaining steam in the European press.
The 250cc Grand Prix race at Le Mans in France was won by defending champion Marco Simoncelli in wet conditions, streaking to his first win of the season to put himself back in the title hunt. Second was Hector Faubel, with Roberto Locatelli in third to round out the podium.
In the 125cc Grand Prix it was a race of attrition in the wet conditions, with riders who finished in the top 10 even crashing in the race before remounting. The race was eventually won by Julian Simon, who took over the world championship lead. Jonas Folger was second and Sergio Gadea third.
Ducati Xerox team riders Noriyuki Haga and Michel Fabrizio made it a dream weekend for the Italian manufacturer at Kyalami in South Africa on Sunday, with Haga taking a glorious double victory and Fabrizio backing him up in both races to finish second.
Haga’s perfection allowed him to stretch his championship lead out to a whopping 85 points, while Fabrizio’s consistency allowed him to sneak past American Ben Spies into second position in the standings.
Yamaha’s Spies finished third in race one before a mechanical problem forced him out of the second, allowing Honda’s Jonathan Rea to move into a podium position for the second outing.
Top Australian for the round was Kawasaki’s Broc Parkes with 15-14 results, while Celani Suzuki’s Karl Muggeridge finished up with an 18-DNF scoring after crashing out of race two.
Steve Martin replaced fellow Aussie Troy Corser at BMW and finished 22-18 results after pitting and rejoining the opening race.
The round was marred by a freak accident by Frenchman Regis Laconi on the opening lap of practice on Friday, crashing and sustaining two broken cervical vertebrae (C3 and C5), a severe concussion and a contusion of the lung.
A CT scan for eventual neurological damage, proved to be negative and for the moment he is in an induced coma and in a stable condition, although it is expected that he’ll have to undergo surgery in a few weeks time after he stabilises.
In World Supersport action at Kyalami it was Eugene Laverty who took his third race victory of the year, winning from fellow rookie Cal Crutchlow and Australian Mark Aitchison, who took his first podium at a world championship level. Andrew Pitt was sixth, Garry McCoy seventh, and Anthony West eighth.
Former Australian Supersport Champion and Superbike runner-up Shannon Johnson has been constantly in the news of late, not only for his association with KTM on the all-new RC8R, but also for his dominance on the Motologic-built Procon Racing Honda at the opening round of the Victorian titles last month.
After winning on debut at Winton on the weekend with KTM and scoring a worldwide first national victory for the RC8R, sources now suggest that Johnson could be on a Honda CBR600RR in the Supersport class at Queensland Raceway.
Johnson remained tight-lipped when contacted by MotoOnline.com.au this morning, refusing to confirm or deny the rumour, which knowledgeable sources say to be all but finalised.
It’s believed that Johnson will ride a Procon-supported Honda in the Motologic team, and could be on the bike as soon as this weekend testing in preparation for the upcoming double-header round on the last weekend of this month.
Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Mat Mladin had his perfect season of victories broken on the weekend when Yamaha’s Josh Hayes won the opening day at Infineon Raceway in the AMA Superbike Championship, before Mladin regrouped to claim the win on Sunday and remain the series leader.
Other Aussies in the race included Aaron Gobert who had engine dramas on Saturday before finishing 12th on Sunday, and David Anthony, who finished the weekend with a solid run of 7-8 results.
Damian Cudlin finished his weekend with 11th on Saturday and 10th on Sunday in teh Daytona SportBike category, which was dominated by points leader Martin Cardenas on his Suzuki both days.
Jay Marmont won the third round of the Pro Open Australian Motocross Championship at Toowoomba in Queensland on Sunday, taking a second and first to clinch the overall ahead of local favourite Andrew McFarlane and Cheyne Boyd in what was a Yamaha sweep of the podium.
The Pro Lites action at Toowoomba was heated with winner Matt Moss and second place finisher Luke George having words after the final moto of the day, while third place went to Moss’s fellow Suzuki rider Lawson Bopping after a closely fought battle with Tye Simmonds.
George reportedly made ground on the field and positions early in the race when he ran off the circuit, rejoining in second behind Moss and then eventually being penalised 20 seconds and being moved back to third.
Meanwhile Moss had a fall of his own and had to work his way back past George, although it’s unclear what the actual argument was about following the race while still on their bikes.
While seeing tempers flaring is never a great sight to see, it must be said that rivalries in any sport are healthy and this battle will be one to watch as the season continues on through the rounds.
Rounds three and four of the Australian Off-Road Championship took place at Blayney in New South Wales over the weekend, with Anthony Roberts scoring his first win of the season on Saturday before A4DE winner Jarrod Bewley fought back to win on Sunday in a close weekend of racing.
The question is whether or not former world champion Stefan Merriman was at his best after being forced to sit out of the A4DE with injury, but his return means that he managed to keep the points lead heading into the next rounds.
It was a massive weekend in racing, and a great one, but that’s all for today’s edition of Racing Insider.