Stoner roars to second victory of the season at Le Mans
Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner secured victory for the first time in his career at the Le Mans circuit in Sunday’s Monster Energy Grand Prix de France. It was a close battle until the very end between two Italians for second place but it was the second Repsol Honda of Andrea Dovizioso who clinched the 20 points, ahead of Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) who achieved his first rostrum riding the Desmosedici.
Stoner took his 25th premier class career win after a dominant ride to pull away at the front and win by a margin of over 14 seconds. With his second win of the season, the Australian has now jumped up to second place in the standings, 12 points behind Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing).
It was a record-breaking attendance for the French GP with 88,400 fans attending the Le Mans circuit on Sunday. The rain managed to stay away and an eventful race was enjoyed by the large and enthusiastic crowd. There was action throughout the field but at the end all eyes were on the dice between Dovizioso and Rossi. As in the previous race in Portugal, the Honda rider managed to deny the advances of the nine-time World Champion and record his best finish of this year’s campaign so far, whilst Rossi scored his best result of the season four rounds in.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda), who had made one his trademark rocket starts, led Stoner for the first lap until his team-mate came through on the next lap to take control of the race. The Spaniard stayed with the race leader for the first half of the 28-lap race, until he fell into the clutches of Simoncelli. The Italian passed the Repsol Honda rider on lap 17 but then a controversial incident occurred between the two when Pedrosa attempted to reclaim his second position and the two touched, sending Pedrosa crashing out.
It was later confirmed that Pedrosa had broken his right collarbone, whilst Race Direction declared during the course of the race that Simoncelli had made an illegal manoeuvre, and served him with a ride through penalty. The 24 year-old eventually finished in fifth position and lost his opportunity of scoring his first ever podium in MotoGP.
Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing), making his 150th Grand Prix start and becoming the youngest rider ever to do so, had a bad start to his preparations on Sunday after a crash in warm up which wrecked his bike and left the Spaniard with an injured finger. After barging through on Dovizioso early on in the race for a top four place, the 2010 MotoGP World Champion slipped down the order after being re-passed by the Repsol Honda rider and by his fierce rivals, Simoncelli and Rossi, but eventually placed fourth.
Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing) equalled his best result of 2011 with sixth place, the American lost out to Simoncelli after the Italian got the better of him despite his ride through penalty. Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) was seventh, ahead of Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini) who had a lonely race in eighth.
Héctor Barberá (Mapfre Aspar) won the race-long battle to finish in ninth. The Spaniard had been involved in a very exciting tussle with Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing) who finished tenth, Toni Elías (LCR Honda), 11th and Álvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki) 12th. After a difficult start to the season upon his return to MotoGP, Elías was showing signs of the ability which took him to the 2010 Moto2 World Championship and was up to 11th place in a five-rider battle in the early part of the race, but had a massive moment and was lucky to keep hold of his Honda as he dropped to the back of the group. The 28 year-old did manage to pick his way through a number of the riders after a difficult four rounds of the season.
Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) who had qualified an impressive sixth on his first visit to the Le Mans circuit, suffered a lowside when in ninth place on lap five and had to return his machine back to the pits for his first non finish in his rookie campaign. It was not a good day for Monster Yamaha Tech 3 in their home race in France after Colin Edwards also crashed mid way through the race but managed to get back out to pick up three points in 13th place.
It was not a happy day for the French fans who had hoped to see Randy de Puniet (Pramac Racing) pick up his best result of the season. The French rider crashed into the gravel on lap two and walked back to the pits dejectedly. Loris Capirossi (Pramac Racing) suffered a similar fate as he crashed out towards the end of the race.
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