French GP: Honda race report

Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V) won a thrilling last-lap battle for third place with team-mate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) at sun-soaked Le Mans this afternoon. Dovizioso's attack won him his second podium finish of the year while ...

Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V) won a thrilling last-lap battle for third place with team-mate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) at sun-soaked Le Mans this afternoon. Dovizioso's attack won him his second podium finish of the year while Pedrosa crossed the line in fifth behind Nicky Hayden (Ducati) after running wide four corners from the chequered flag. The race was won by points leader Jorge Lorenzo ahead of Yamaha team-mate Valentino Rossi.

Pedrosa had had the best of qualifying, taking the last spot on the front row of the grid, while Dovizioso had to be happy with seventh place, just one tenth off the second row.

In the race Pedrosa held third place from the first lap to the penultimate lap, Dovizioso diving past him as they funnelled into Le Mans' first chicane for the 28th and final time.

Pedrosa did everything he could to counter attack, but ran wide at Le Musee and again at Les Esses Bleu, which allowed Hayden to sneak through. Dovizioso's late-race pace was super impressive, gradually closing the advantage that Pedrosa had held in the earlier stages of the race. Last year the opposite happened between the team-mates at Le Mans -- Pedrosa overtaking Dovizioso on the final lap!

Marco Melandri (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) scored his best result of the year so far with an impressive if lonely ride to sixth place, seven seconds ahead of Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda RC212V) who ran off the track in the late stages.

Melandri made a crucial set-up change during morning warm-up which improved his race pace.

Rookies Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) and Hiroshi Aoyama (Interwetten Honda MotoGP RC212V) played their part in an enthralling five-way skirmish for eighth place which lasted for much of the race. Positions changed regularly, Simoncelli at the front of the group for much of the time until he lost two places in the last two laps to finish tenth. The former 250 World Champion wasn't happy with that, but nevertheless it was his best MotoGP result thus far.

Aoyama had his work cut out after he decided to change his front tyre following the warm-up lap because the tyre he had fitted for the race didn't feel right. That meant he had to take it easy during the first few laps while he scrubbed in the new tyre. In the thick of the battle for eighth place, Aoyama made a mistake braking for the Chemin aux Boeufs chicane with five laps remaining, which forced him to take to the slip-road, dropping him to the back of the group. Of course, the Japanese never gave up and he managed to pass Colin Edwards (Yamaha) with two laps remaining to secure 11th place.

Next stop on the MotoGP calendar is Mugello for the Italian GP on June 4/5/6; then the World Championship hits top gear with three races on consecutive weekends: the British GP (June 20), the Dutch TT (June 26) and Catalunya (July 4).


Toni Elias (Gresini Racing Moto2, Moriwaki) won an incident-packed Moto2 race to move into the lead of the new Honda-powered World Championship. Two weeks after winning a battle royal at Jerez, the Spaniard had a mostly untroubled run to victory at Le Mans, chased all the way by reigning 125 World Champion Julian Simon (Mapfre Aspar Team, Suter) who never quite got close enough to mount an attack on his compatriot.

Elias crossed the finish line 1.336 seconds ahead of Simon, who was having his first race aboard a Suter-framed bike. Simone Corsi (Jir Moto2, Motobi) won a race-long duel for third place with Andrea Iannone (Fimmco Speed Up, Speed Up). Iannone's team-mate and former 125 World Champion Gabor Talmacsi (Fimmco Speed Up, Speed Up) held onto fifth place, with three riders right behind him in the final laps: Sergio Gadea (Pons Racing, Kalex), Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda PTT Singa SAG, Bimota) and Fonsi Nieto (Holiday Gym G22, Moriwaki).

Stefan Bradl (Viessmann Kiefer Racing, Suter) won a similarly hectic five-man contest for ninth place. Front-row qualifier Alex Debon (Aeroport de Castello-Ajo, FTR) led the early stages but received a ride-through penalty for jumping the start and could only finish 16th, one place outside the points.

There were plenty of incidents during the 26 laps, with 13 riders falling. Local hero Jules Cluzel (Forward Racing, Suter) crashed at the high-speed first turn just moments after snatching the lead from Elias on lap six. Other significant non-finishers were Qatar winner and former points leader Shoya Tomizawa (Technomag-CIP, Suter), Le Mans pole-sitter Kenny Noyes (Jack & Jones by A.Banderas, PromoHarris) and second fastest qualifier Yuki Takahashi (Tech 3 Racing, Tech 3).


Andrea Dovizioso, Repsol Honda: 3rd

"I'm so happy to have made the podium here. It was very important because I wanted to confirm that the result in Qatar was not a one-off. We have improved a lot during the winter, so this is another important step forward. I wanted a good result for the team, to thank them and also because of last year when Dani came from 10 seconds behind to overtake me on the very last lap. Also, I'm very pleased to be going to Mugello third in the championship. It was a tough race. At the beginning I took a lot of risks to recover from starting on the third row. I made up some places and then I was able to match the leaders' pace in the early stages. Once I caught Dani it was hard to get past and I knew Nicky was very close behind so I had to find a way by. Dani has really good acceleration so it was difficult to make the overtake. I waited for four laps, worked out my strategy and I made my move on the last lap at the corner I'd planned. This is a good start to the season, we worked a lot during the winter and Honda keeps working hard. We are close to the leaders -- though still not close enough because our target is to fight for wins. We'll go to Mugello with a lot of confidence as this a special race for me."

Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 5th.

"Well, of course I'm not satisfied to have finished in this way because we were able to stay near the leaders for the first part of the race and then dropped back. Losing two places on the final lap is not a good feeling. My start was okay and I could stay near the front in the first laps but later in the race I was making a lot of mistakes trying to maintain my pace. I had a bit of a rear brake issue which meant I couldn't get the bike into the turns as I wanted and I was fighting the bike a bit. Andrea rode well and pushed very hard at the end, so congratulations to him on the podium finish. It's an important part of the season coming up with many races in a short time, so we must work hard and do better in Mugello."

Marco Melandri, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 6th.

"I was pretty sure we'd have a better pace today than we did in practice and that proved to be the case. We made a small change in the warm-up based on an idea that the team came up with and it worked well. Unfortunately it was quite windy today and I struggled in a few corners where we didn't have a perfect setting for the engine braking. I'm happy though because we were able to match the speed of the front guys at the start until I made a small mistake when Hayden stepped up the pace. I tried to catch him again but I couldn't do it and decided that was a good time to 'pull the oars in' and bring home an important result after such a tough start to the year. It was a good race for us and I'm happy for myself and the team."

Randy de Puniet, LCR Honda: 7th. "It was a special and tough GP for me because I wanted to get a good result especially for my fans. This is my best result on this track in the premier class but I am a bit disappointed. I got a bad start and dropped from the second row to the back of the group but after that I set good lap times catching the 8th place. After Stoner's crash I was 7th but could not close any further because my front tyre started to slip and almost crashed 10 times. So I had to slow down but seventh is not so bad. I am still 6th in the world standing and we are the best private team at the moment."

Marco Simoncelli, San Carlo Honda Gresini:10th. "I gave my maximum and wasn't too far off today but it was a tough race because I was struggling more with the bike than yesterday. I'm a little disappointed that I allowed Barbera and Espargaro to pass me in the last couple of laps because it would have been nice to finish eighth but it didn't happen. It is important at this stage for me to finish races and I managed that today even though I wasn't as fast as I'd hoped so that's a positive thing. Now we'll assess things and try to do better at Mugello. "

Hiroshi Aoyama, Interwetten Honda MotoGP: 11th. "We found a much better set-up today and I was able to stay with the other riders. We were competitive today and I think we grew up. I think we can take a lot with us after this race and I hope we can keep improving. Of course I am not really happy with the result as I lost two positions because of a small mistake I did. I could have been further in front. I was able to attack the eighth position, but I think that this target was too big and I had to step back again not to risk anything. I think we gave our best here and I will try that again in the next race."


Toni Elias, Gresini Racing Moto2, Moriwaki: 1st. "This is the first weekend that I've felt more or less okay with the injuries I sustained during preseason testing. I'm still not 100 per cent, but on the bike I could ride 100 per cent, so the injuries weren't a problem in the race. The problem was my crash during yesterday's qualifying session, so I have to say a big thank you to my team for fixing the bike very quickly so I could get back on track for the last 15 minutes. I was able to qualify seventh and that was okay, good enough for the start. The beginning was very difficult, but as the fuel load dropped a little I could improve my rhythm. The only other guy going really fast was Julian. He made me suffer a bit but I was able to ride 100 per cent the last few laps and finally it was an easy win."

Julian Simon, Mapfre Aspar Team, Suter: 2nd. "There was nothing I could about Toni today -- his rhythm was too fast for me to be able to attack him. But I am happy because this is my first podium in Moto2, so it's a great day for me. I was able to be very aggressive in the early stages, which got me into a good position. Overall, it's been a complicated weekend with a lot of work to do in practice because this was our first race with the Suter chassis. We had some trouble, so this morning we made some new settings for warm-up, and the bike felt a lot better. I would like to thank my team and sponsors for allowing us to change chassis and do it well."

Simone Corsi, Jir Moto2 Motobi: 3rd. "It's good to score my first podium in Moto2. The beginning of the race wasn't easy for us, but as the race went on, I felt stronger and stronger on the bike, which allowed me to beat Iannone. Now we are growing with every race, and that's the most important thing."

-source: honda

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Nicky Hayden , Colin Edwards , Randy de Puniet , Fonsi Nieto , Marco Melandri , Gabor Talmacsi , Andrea Dovizioso , Jorge Lorenzo , Marco Simoncelli , Toni Elias , Alex Debon , Julian Simon , Stefan Bradl , Hiroshi Aoyama , Shoya Tomizawa , Jules Cluzel , Dani Pedrosa , Andrea Iannone , Simone Corsi
Teams Forward Racing , CIP