French GP: Honda race report

Pedrosa Scores Third Podium In A Row, Faubel Second In 250s Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) rode his heart out to score a brilliant podium finish at Le Mans today, grabbing third place from team-mate Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V) on...

Pedrosa Scores Third Podium In A Row, Faubel Second In 250s

Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) rode his heart out to score a brilliant podium finish at Le Mans today, grabbing third place from team-mate Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V) on the very last lap.

The fourth race of 2009 was a fascinating encounter, with changing weather conditions forcing riders to change from rain tyres to slicks as the track dried following rainfall during the 125 and 250 races. Watched by 75,900 fans, the French Grand Prix was won by Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) whose second victory of the year puts him back in the World Championship lead.

The race started on a wet track with all riders using rain tyres, but it was obvious after the first few laps that the surface was drying and that riders would need to enter the pits and swap to their slick-equipped bikes if they wanted to be fast all the way to the finish. Pedrosa had started strong, completing the first lap in second, but then he started slipping backwards.

Reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) was the first man to change to slick tyres, at the end of lap five while lying second behind Lorenzo, but his decision proved precipitous and he crashed during his out lap, the track still damp in places. Pedrosa had pitted the same lap and was following Rossi when he fell, the crash telling the Spaniard to take things steady until the track had dried out some more.

Down in 12th after seven laps, Pedrosa steadily got up to speed on his slicks and then started clawing his way back to the front. He made it into fourth place on lap 14, finally passing Dovizioso as they braked for the Chemin aux Boeufs chicane for the 28th and final time. The result puts Pedrosa fourth overall in the World Championship, just nine points behind Lorenzo.

Dovizioso was disappointed at losing out on his first podium finish for Repsol Honda but nonetheless the result was his best so far this year. The Italian was riding superbly, moving up to second place during the early stages of the race. He slipped to fourth after changing tyres but soon moved back into third place, holding that position until the final few corners.

Team-mates Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) and Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) had a great duel for the final place in the top ten, Elias beating De Angelis by just three tenths of a second. Elias had been the last rider to change to his slick-equipped bike, the Spaniard coming into the pits just before half-distance. It was a heroic ride from Elias who has 30 stitches in his right arm, the legacy of a recent operation to fix 'arm pump' problems.

Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda RC212V) didn't have the home race he deserved, the Frenchman finishing 14th, just two weeks after his brilliant ride to fourth place at Jerez.

Rookie Yuki Takahashi (Scot Honda RC212V) spent much of the race dicing with former MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden (Ducati), with De Angelis and Elias also in the group until the final few laps. At the finish Japanese crossed the line less than a tenth of a second behind Hayden.

The 250 and 125 races were both run in treacherous wet conditions, so much so that there were 13 crashes in the 250 race and 30 crashes in the 125 race. Only one rider, Cameron Beaubier (KTM 125) sustained an injury, the American teenager breaking his left wrist.

Honda men figured strongly in the 250 race, proving the rider-friendly characteristics of the RS250RW. Hector Faubel (Valencia CF -- Honda SAG) had a brilliant ride to second place to score his first podium in the category. The former 125 GP winner kept his head while many around lost theirs, Faubel moving into second place in the final third of the race when Alex Debon (Aprilia) and Thomas Luthi (Aprilia) crashed out together. The race was won by reigning World Champion Marco Simoncelli (Gilera).

Honda SAG team-mate Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda PTT-SAG) scored his best-ever World Championship result in fifth place after a heroic ride with a right-hand injury sustained in a recent domestic accident. Wilairot rode with his throttle/brake hand heavily bandaged and had to learn a new riding technique, braking only with his middle finger.

Class rookie Raffaele De Rosa (Scot Honda) had another strong ride to sixth place, the Italian coming through from 15th place to score his third top ten result from his first four 250 races. His team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Honda) had an altogether tougher time at Le Mans, the Japanese coming home eighth. The result lost him the World Championship lead, though Aoyama still holds a strong second place overall, just one point behind leader Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia).

Two Honda wild card riders -- Frenchman Valentin Debise (Team CIP Honda) and Briton Toby Markham (C&L Honda) -- also scored points in 13th and 14th. Shoya Tomizawa (Team CIP Honda) and Bastien Chesaux (Racing Team Germany Honda) were less lucky, both falling on the first lap.

MotoGP rider quotes

Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda), third-place finisher, said: "Again, this is a fantastic podium for me because the conditions were very difficult today and in the end we came through it with a good result. At the start of the race it really wasn't clear what the best thing to do was. In the first few laps in the wet my pace wasn't very fast and I was going backwards and losing positions. So I decided to stop quite early and change to the machine with dry tyres -- at the same time as Rossi. On the first lap out of the pits on slick tyres he crashed in front of me and this made me even more nervous about the conditions. I really couldn't see where it was wet and where it was dry so my lap times at this stage were not good -- something like 1m 55s. I lost a lot of time at this stage. But then towards the end of the race when I had sufficient temperature in my tyres I was able to get into a rhythm and go faster and faster -- eventually closing the gap on Andrea. In the end I caught and passed him on the last lap -- really close to the finish. He was riding very well and made it hard to pass, but I was able to get the place, so I'm happy with the podium today."

Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda), fourth-place finisher, said: "I'm disappointed because we had a good race, the podium was very near and then I lost it at the very last lap. So I'm sorry for the team because they've done a very good job throughout the weekend and a podium finish would have been a fitting ending. At the beginning of the race it was a really tricky situation. We had a fast pace in the wet even though we hadn't tested in these conditions. I was in second place when I came into the pits to change the bike because the track was drying quickly. It was the first time that I've done this bike-change procedure and I think it works well. Our timing was okay -- though maybe we could have come in two laps earlier. Anyway, I rejoined in third position, I was racing for the podium and I had a good rhythm, but it was not enough and Dani came alongside on the straight on the last lap. I tried to close the door, braking hard, but he had the inside line and that means you're in control of the corner. I ran a little bit wide on the exit so I couldn't try to catch him. It was disappointing for me but Dani was fast, especially in the last four laps when his pace was in the low 1m 35s, so my compliments to him."

Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda Gresini), tenth-place finisher, said: "I'm sure that was a fun race for the fans to watch with the pit stops and bike changes but it was a tough one for us! I got a good start in the wet but I didn't feel too comfortable in those conditions so I was lucky that it dried out. We did a good job changing bikes and I think I was one of the fastest, if not the fastest, to change. It took us a while to get the slick tyre up to temperature and the first four or five laps were really tricky but then I got into my rhythm, even though I was struggling a lot with the lack of power in my arm. I had to fight really hard to hold off the challenge of De Angelis and Hayden. I thought they might get the better of me but in the end they didn't! In my current physical state I couldn't have hoped for a much better result than this but we have to kick on and improve from here. In Mugello I'll be much better and in the right shape for what we hope will be a turning point for us."

Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini), 11th-place finisher, said: "After struggling to find a set-up here all weekend we went for something radically different in the race and overall it was pretty good. I struggled a little bit when it was wet at the beginning of the race and then when we changed to slicks I had a few big moments and almost crashed. I was taking a lot of risks to keep my pace up and then when we got more heat into the tyre I was able to set a good pace. Basically the race ended up to be better than I was expecting but we can still do much better than this so that is the target for the next race at Mugello."

Yuki Takahashi (Scot Honda), 13th-place finisher, said: "This was my first time competing in a race like that, with bike changes. The conditions were tricky, so it was a difficult GP. My start in the wet conditions wasn't great but once I got into a rhythm I was able to overtake a few rivals. In the second part of the race, after I had changed to my other bike with slick tyres, my feeling with the bike was worse. That made it quite difficult to stay concentrated."

Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda), 14th-place finisher, said: "I am very disappointed for the team and for the fans because I had a very bad race today. At the beginning, on rain tyres, I was not comfortable with the front end. Then I switched to my other bike on slick tyres but I made a mistake on Turn Four, which lost me a few seconds. After that I struggled I lot and could not ride the way I would normally expect to ride. We started the weekend with the right package and I was aiming at getting a better result. However, I did score two points and I am tenth in the overall standings. Now I'm looking forward to racing at Mugello in hopefully better weather conditions."

250 rider quotes

Hector Faubel (Valencia CF -- Honda SAG), second-place finisher, said: "I'm very happy, I've missed being on the podium. The team has worked hard to get here and I have been trying hard but we've had some bad luck and a few problems. The conditions were really difficult today with the track changing throughout the race, so it was important to be sensible. During the second half Locatelli put a lot of pressure on me. Even before the race I knew that in these conditions the big thing would be staying on. There is no point being very fast in these conditions if you fall off, and it's so easy to fall off."

Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda PTT-SAG), fifth-place finisher, said: "This is my best finish in a Grand Prix race, so I'm very happy. It was an incredible race because we hadn't practiced in the rain, so to get this result is really nice. My right hand is okay, but I could only brake with one finger, the middle finger, but despite that I felt very comfortable on the bike. My thanks go to all the team and to all the people who believe in me."

Raffaele De Rosa (Scot Honda), sixth-place finisher, said: "Track conditions were very difficult, which made it very easy to make a mistake. I think if I had got a better start I would have been able to stay with the guys in front, but instead I got a bad start. I quickly understood that this was one of those races in which it didn't make sense to take too many risks. I didn't want to waste everything, so I did my best to collect some points and gain some experience of racing a 250 in such tricky conditions."

Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Honda), eighth-place finisher, said: "The bike was good and the tyres were good. But for some reason I was not getting a good feeling, probably because the track conditions were so bad. I came close to crashing on two occasions, so I decided not to risk going over the limit. I tried to make it to the finish and get as many points as possible."

Bastien Chesaux (Racing Team Germany Honda), DNF, said: "For just one little moment I was too early on the gas, the rear wheel stepped out and my race was over. But the bike has been really good here -- I just should have waited a bit longer before I started to attack. This whole weekend has been a weekend to forget. Now I just want to look forward to the next race at Mugello."

Shoya Tomizawa (Team CIP Honda), DNF, said: "The track was so slippery and I think I was just a little too early on the gas exiting the chicane for the first time. It's been a tricky weekend with the weather changing constantly, which isn't what you want when you visit a track for the first time. But the team has been great and I'm really looking forward to Mugello."

-credit: honda

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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Nicky Hayden , Valentino Rossi , Randy de Puniet , Andrea Dovizioso , Jorge Lorenzo , Marco Simoncelli , Toni Elias , Alex Debon , Thomas Luthi , Cameron Beaubier , Hiroshi Aoyama , Shoya Tomizawa , Dani Pedrosa , Valentin Debise , Yuki Takahashi
Teams CIP