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Ducati steamroller comes to a halt in France

Ducati steamroller comes to a halt in France

Ducati steamroller comes to a halt in France

The Marlboro Ducati team suffered their worst weekend of the MotoGP season so far in Le Mans with both riders failing to even reach the end of the first half of the race that was stopped due to rainfall.

Up until the fourth round of the 2003 contest Ducati, in the hands of Loris Capirossi and Troy Bayliss, had been the big surprise and news story of the year. After a two podiums (one each for both riders) in the first three races and a lowest finish of fifth for Bayliss, their arrival in the MotoGP paddock could only have been more sensational with a landmark victory (taking the first two places on the starting grid at Jerez was another worthy headline).

Sadly the pleasing sight of the red machines dicing at the front with the leaders and infiltrating the pack of Hondas was not to occur in France, even though Capirossi made his customary lightning start and headed the race on the opening lap.

The Italian, who had failed to score in the previous two races after his third place in Japan (and who had been in hospital earlier that week with stomach pains), was soon in trouble and quickly faded before withdrawing from the dry race in the first few laps. ´I got a great start,´ he remarked. ´I fought with Valentino who passed me and I started having problems with the quickshifter. It was killing the power for longer than necessary whenever I changed gear, so it was impossible to continue.´

Bayliss, on his first visit to the French track and with precious little experience in the dry, crashed out and recorded his first DNF of the year. ´I've been struggling with the bike all weekend,´ he said. ´We´ve been having a few little problems and it was the same in the race, then I crashed. It was a strange crash and I'm not really sure what happened.´

The Italian team have yet to play their trump card; home advantage. For sure at round five in Mugello the Desmosedici will be more than ready, having completed hundreds of testing miles, and a memorable debut victory is not entirely out of the question.

MotoGP, 2003

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