STONER FIFTH IN SPLIT RACE AT LE MANS, HAYDEN BATTLES TO TWELFTH Not satisfied with interrupting the first two races of the season, the heavens once again opened over the Grand Prix de France GP to create an exciting flag to flag race that ...
STONER FIFTH IN SPLIT RACE AT LE MANS, HAYDEN BATTLES TO TWELFTH
Not satisfied with interrupting the first two races of the season, the heavens once again opened over the Grand Prix de France GP to create an exciting flag to flag race that started out wet before drying out. Casey Stoner emerged from the drama with a fifth place that was certainly creditable but not entirely satisfactory to the Australian, who would surely have fought for the podium if it weren't for a technical problem in the dry part of the race.
Despite making an excellent start Stoner was not totally comfortable with his wet set-up and struggled during the early stages, dropping from second place to seventh in just three laps. After changing to a bike fitted with slick tyres he then encountered a problem with his steering damper, which he managed to fix himself but lost valuable time as a result. Once he got back into his rhythm he was able to pass compatriot Chris Vermeulen for fifth place and pick up eleven crucial points that leave him level in the championship with Valentino Rossi on 65 points -- one behind today's deserved winner Jorge Lorenzo. With Daniel Pedrosa lurking on 57, the championship is wide open after four rounds.
It has also been a positive weekend overall for Nicky Hayden, who wasn't blessed with the ideal conditions to begin working with a new Chief Mechanic but still made progress throughout the weekend and put in an impressive race performance. Lapping in fourth place before changing machines he was battling for eighth in the second, dry half of the race when Mika Kallio crashed, the Finn's Ducati making contact with Hayden's and causing it some light damage, as well as forcing the American off track. A twelfth place finish was scant reward for an otherwise encouraging weekend.
CASEY STONER (Ducati Marlboro Team) 5th
"I'm pretty disappointed because I don't think we realised our potential at all today -- the wet bike we started with had a big problem and I couldn't find any traction from the warm-up lap. I never felt comfortable and I was losing a lot of time but it still wasn't dry enough to come in for slick tyres. Then when I switched over my other bike had a problem with the steering damper and after four laps I had to take my hand off the gas coming down the straight to fix it. After that I felt much better, the bike was more comfortable and I was able to ride to my potential. I think if it wasn't for that we would have been able to battle for the podium today but unfortunately these things happen sometimes and we just have to hope things work out better next time. I now really look forward to Mugello, one of my favourite. I've got some good results there and I feel we have a bit better package this year compared to the last one so hopefully we should be able to fight more at the front".
NICKY HAYDEN -- (Ducati Marlboro Team) 12th
"The conditions were tricky and sometimes you have races that aren't exactly what you've planned. It's actually good fun on the grid making late decisions on set-up and tyres and things, with the track being wet but the sun shining. I got a decent start and even though I've had very little time on this bike in the rain my feeling was pretty good and I was able to move up a few spots. We came in and changed to slick tyre but with the track temperatures being so low it was hard to get any heat into the tyres, especially on the left side now that we don't have dual compound rubber anymore. I was actually as high as eight at one point but I got unlucky again when Kallio crashed and his bike slid into me. I was lucky to save it because the impact was hard -- you can see the rubber on the side of my bike -- and I ran off track. It cost me time and positions and also damaged the front wheel sensor. We have two so the bike was working as well but probably it didn't help things. Overall it's not a great result but it has been a weekend where me and Juan have been able to work a lot together for the first time, we've tried to build an understanding and hopefully we can go forward from here."
LIVIO SUPPO -- Ducati Marlboro Team MotoGP Project Director
"Unfortunately we didn't have any time to set the bikes up for the wet conditions today so it was a bit of a gamble and Casey who we know is unbelievably fast in the rain, was unable to meet his potential. Things were better in the dry and only one rider set better lap times than Casey. It has been a real shame but we have to think positive because last year when we left Le Mans we were forty one points behind in the championship and now the gap is just one. It was a difficult race for Nicky after the contact with Mika Kallio but he rode well and is making constant improvements, so we're looking ahead to the next race with plenty of optimism."