GAULOISES YAMAHA TAKE PODIUM DOUBLE AS ROSSI WINS AT LE MANS
Gauloises Yamaha Team rider Valentino Rossi extended his lead at the top of the MotoGP World Championship with a victory from pole position at the French Grand Prix this afternoon. The Italian World Champion recorded the fastest ever motorcycle lap of Le Mans in qualifying yesterday and followed it up with a new lap record on the very last lap of the today's 28-lap race. He was joined on the podium by team-mate Colin Edwards who took an excellent third place from the second spot on the grid.
With Rossi making a poor start, Edwards charged to the front and led the way for the first 20 laps. Meanwhile, Rossi made his way through the pack from sixth place and joined the American ahead of the field, making his first attempt to pass on lap 18 as Sete Gibernau (Honda) closed in from third place. The Italian's attempted manoeuvre failed as he ran wide on the exit of the corner, allowing Edwards to recover the lead and Gibernau to steal through for second. However, three laps later the World Champion was back on the charge, passing Gibernau and then Edwards on consecutive laps and this time hanging on to the lead.
With Gibernau passing Edwards in the same corner as Rossi, the pair went head-to-head for the final eight laps and set a scorching pace. The breathtaking battle went all the way to the final lap, when Rossi set a sensational new circuit record to secure victory by 0.382 seconds from the Spaniard. His championship tally now stands at 95 points from a possible 100 giving him a 37 point advantage over Marco Melandri (Honda) whilst Edwards now moves up to sixth overall. The result also extended Yamaha's lead in the constructors' and teams' World Championships. The next round of the season takes place at Mugello in Italy in three weeks' time.
VALENTINO ROSSI -- (1st -- 44'12.223) New lap record 1'33.678 (lap 28)
"At the start of the race we were lucky that it didn't rain and we were able to put on a fantastic show. It was a difficult and long but great race, although I made my life more complicated by messing up the start. But I made positions up lap by lap with some good overtaking moves and eventually caught Colin. I stayed behind him for a while because his rhythm was good and nobody was catching up, but then Gibernau arrived very fast from behind so I decided to try and overtake and push to the maximum. Every lap I was better and better and I set the fastest time of the race on the final lap, so that shows the excellent progress we have made with the setting of the bike. I took pole position, the fastest lap of the race and the victory and Colin was also on the podium, so it has been a perfect weekend for us. The bike was very precise and I was able to get the power down well so this looks good for the coming races. We continue our work here tomorrow. I'm not sure what I have to test but I'm very happy to stay if we can make even more progress. I'm looking forward to Mugello and hope to see lots of Italian fans there."
COLIN EDWARDS (3rd 44'17.934 +5.711)
"I desperately wanted to win that race but the other guys were just too fast today! Basically we took a gamble on the race tyre because with the limited dry track time in practice we only had five laps on it and didn't know if it would work towards the end of the race. I got a good start, got into my rhythm of mid-34s and knew that should be enough to keep me at the front. If you'd have said to me you have to get into the 33s I'd have told you there was no way I could do those times! But then Valentino and Sete came through and their pace was incredible. The tyre got really hot and I had of couple of moments, so I just decided to make sure of third place. It's an overdue reward for the phenomenal job the team have been doing and now we have a firm base to go from for the rest of the season."
DAVIDE BRIVIO -- TEAM DIRECTOR
"It was a fantastic day for us -- almost perfect! Valentino took the victory and extended his lead in the championship, which is good to be able to take to Mugello in the next round. It was a very important podium for Colin -- I have always believed that he was capable of this kind of performance. Today was a result of the hard work put in by the team over the winter and the first three rounds of the season. Now we want to see both riders on the podium as much as possible!"