Under the rain on the Bugatti Le Mans circuit of France, Chris Vermeulen achieved his maiden victory in the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix (MotoGP) onboard his Rilza Suzuki.
Second place belonged to Marco Melandri, with a Honda Gresini, while the last step of the podium had standings leader, Casey Stoner, rider of Marlboro Ducati.
Vermeulen rode an almost faultless race in the wet after heavy rain started to fall over the 4.180km circuit. "I'm absolutely over the moon! I am really happy for myself, my crew and everyone involved
The race on the famous French circuit was an eventful day for many of the riders -- from accidents to early pits stops when the rain came just minutes before the start of the race -- and gave the spectators quite a show as passing to move back up the leaderboard became the main concern for the riders.
At the end the gap between the top five was at least 10 to 15 seconds, with the fifth position off the pace of the race winner by 49.166 seconds. The first race for the 800cc bikes could end up being the most complicated one on the books this year.
"Some guys came past me and then a lap or so later they crashed! It started to rain quite heavy and I decided to come in and change my bike. I came back out and just stuck my head down and tried to get the tyres up to heat up as quick as possible. The bike felt really good in the rain, but as it got heavier it made it hard to hold the bike in top gear down the straight -- there was so much water it was just spinning the rear!", Vermeulen explained.
With yesterday`s victory, the Australian moves up to fifth place in the MotoGP World Championship with Rizla Suzuki MotoGP going up to third in the team's championship.
Melandri, winner of the race here last year, stormed to the second step of the podium taking important points for the championship.
"I'm really happy. It was such a difficult race but good fun at the same time. Over the first few laps I tried to be careful because the track was slippery and not all that wet. It was a risky situation and there were a few crashes. I waited for a while before I came in because the track conditions were changing lap after lap and then when I saw Hopkins come in I decided to follow him", Melandri commented.
Like his rivals, Melandri started the race on slick tyres and rode cautiously over the opening laps, with the track in dangerously damp condition. On the 10th lap, the Italian came in to pit and then returned to give chase to race leader Vermeulen.
"The bike worked really well in the wet from the start even though we'd only done one wet lap in preseason testing. I've got a good feeling with the front, the Bridgestone tyres worked really well and I was able to bring it home in second. I closed the gap to Chris but in the end I didn't want to push too hard and take unnecessary risks", Melandri said.
Third place allowed Stoner to extend his lead at the top of the MotoGP championship standings with a steady performance at the command of his Desmosedici GP7.
"I was surprised to stay upright really! I thought it was going to be difficult to finish because a lot of people were slipping off for what looked like no reason. In the first part of the race it was light rain and there were a lot of
Dani Pedrosa for the Repsol Honda team was fourth with Pramac d'Antin's Alex Hofmann wrapping up the top five on his Ducati. Valentino Rossi was able to finish just sixth with his Fiat Yamaha.
A bad day had Saturday`s poleman, Colin Edwards, taking the chequered flag in 12th, while current world champion, Nicky Hayden, ended his race after he lost control on his Repsol Honda.
Next round of MotoGP will be on June 3rd with the Italian Grand Prix in the circuit of Mugello.