French GP: Repsol Honda race report

An exciting race was seen this afternoon in France today, and one that ended with an emotional duel for third position betwen the two Repsol Honda Team riders, Dani Pedrosa & Andrea Dovizioso. The battle was won by the Spaniard after the race was...

An exciting race was seen this afternoon in France today, and one that ended with an emotional duel for third position betwen the two Repsol Honda Team riders, Dani Pedrosa & Andrea Dovizioso. The battle was won by the Spaniard after the race was declared in the wet and where each rider's race strategy became important as the track dried out. With this result Pedrosa has cut the gap that the rider at the top of the World Championship had over him to nine. Dovizioso drops down to sixth in the overall due to Melandri's second place.

The changeable weather at Le Mans sought its fifteen minutes of fame in the World MotoGP Championship once again this season, in this the fourth round, and although the race did not begin in the rain the track was wet after rainfall in the morning. All the riders started with wet tyres but with a clearing sky and a few rays of sunshine forcing their way between the clouds the circuit of Bugatti track slowly dried out, the short lap of the legendary Le Mans where the 24 Hour race is held.

At the start Pedrosa, not too pleased with the damp conditions, was fastest off from pole but lost a couple of positions on the first few laps. Seeing that the track was drying out the Repsol rider decided to change onto the bike that had been prepared for him and waiting in the pits on lap 5, just behind Valentino Rossi, with slicks and a set up for the dry. It was a risky strategy as they were the first two to do so as there were still quite a few wet patches around. In fact just a couple of laps later Rossi fell on the slicks just in front of Pedrosa, and he had to lower his pace so that the same did not happen to him. Then there were a few laps of uncertainty as the drying track made it possible for a fightback and a podium finish, but the Italian's fall and the state of the track, with wet zones and other drier ones, meant that caution was ever present.

Meanwhile his teammate, Andrea Dovizioso, had stayed out on the track in wet tyres and had climbed to second position. The two Repsol Honda Team riders took two diffrent paths in their race strategies in these very difficult conditions. Dovizioso squeezed the last kilometre out of his wet tyres as he rode alone in second position. Lorenzo led with a cushion of over 7 seconds and fourth behind the Italian was Casey Stoner, at a similar distance as the Italian. Behind them in 15th - after his change of bike - Pedrosa began to fightback which at the beginning was very gradual, climbing as the other riders changed their machines as the race progressed.

Halfway through the race, lap 12, Dovizioso went to the pits to change his bike, and with the advantage he had got on his wet tyres came back out in 3rd place behind Lorenzo & Melandri, who surprisingly was in a solid second position, with a cushion of 6 seconds over the Repsol Honda Team rider. There were 16 laps left and Dovizioso was riding alone, Melandri away in front of him and the fourth placed rider, his teammate Pedrosa more than 11 seconds behind him. It seemed that everything was settled, the podium destined for Lorenzo, Melandri & Dovizioso, but Pedrosa had overtaken many riders and had the bit between his teeth as he rode alone in 4th position. The Spanish rider then set several fastest laps and he got the gap down by five or six tenths every lap until he was on the Italian's back wheel on the home straight as the final lap began.

The last lap by the two Repsol Honda Team riders was spectacular, with Dovizioso defending his position with slides that seemed impossible, and Pedrosa taking the corners at the limit but with perfect mathematical precision. In the end when the two were braking hard just entering the second chicane Pedrosa got past Dovizioso and quickly headed directly towards his third consecutive podium finish of this season, a result that has allowed him to greatly improve his position in the overall because although he is still fourth after the French GP he is only nine points behind the new leader, his compatriot Lorenzo.

In a fortnight the World MotoGP Championship is back, this time at Mugello; without a doubt an important date for the Italian in the Repsol Honda Team, as he will be racing on home soil and will want to put in a good performance in front of his own fans; and a race for the Spaniard, who now that his injuries that plagued him the start of his season are better, is in surprisingly good form at the start of the 2009 championship.

Quotes

Dani PEDROSA >> 3rd at 19.893 secs.

"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 the 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 podium today."

Andrea DOVIZIOSO >> 4th at 20.455 secs.

"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 was ok - 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 try 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."

-credit: repsol

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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Valentino Rossi , Andrea Dovizioso , Casey Stoner , Dani Pedrosa
Teams Repsol Honda Team