Vermeulen reigns supreme in soaking French thriller

2007-05-20 02:22
Chris Vermeulen was the winner of a breathtakingly unpredictable Alice Grand Prix de Prance at the historic Le Mans circuit, with the heavy rainfall ironically ending a six year drought for Suzuki in MotoGP.

The Australian had previously benefited on home soil in the first ever flag-to-flag race, and did even better on the 800cc to take his maiden victory in the premier class. His triumph also means that five of the last six Grand Prix winners have hailed from the Antipodean island.

The race was an incredible display of the competitive nature of MotoGP, and provided fans with the sight of a number of first time leaders as the riders negotiated the changeable weather conditions and bike change choices. The opening laps saw proud moments for Randy de Puniet and Sylvain Guintoli, who led their home race with amazing rides. The French duo showed no fear amongst former winners and World Champions, and the sight of Guintoli at the head of the field on his own merit was a memorable one for his countrymen and Yamaha satellite team. Unfortunately the two both crashed as their gamble on staying out ahead of the majority of the field just failed to pay off.

By lap 10 the track was completely wet, meaning that the riders were effectively obliged to change bikes in order to remain competitive. Carlos Checa and Toni Elias hit the deck before there was a chance for them to make the switch, and a chaotic pair of laps followed as the pack rearranged themselves. Some semblance of order was established when all the riders had moved to their wet bikes, with Vermeulen making the best of the situation to lead all the way to the end after a battle with previous flag-to-flag racewinner Marco Melandri.

The Gresini Honda rider himself had an outstanding race, for his best result of the season onboard the Honda RC212V. He maintained a comfortable lead over third placed rider and World Championship leader Casey Stoner, who kept his nerve and saved himself from crashes in a tremendous display of his mastery of the Desmosedici GP7.

The all-Bridgestone podium all had comfortable gaps between each other, and also from fourth placed rider Dani Pedrosa. Although not a fan of wet weather racing, the Spaniard certainly had a good ride from low down on the grid to add more points to his championship tally.

A clearly delighted Alex Hofmann took fifth at Le Mans, his best result in MotoGP. Overtaking five time MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi will have been a moment to savour for the German, who pumped his fist in the air upon crossing the finish line.

Rossi lost ground in the overall classification courtesy of a sixth place finish, having strayed wide in the difficult conditions on a pair of occasions. The Italian was passed by Pedrosa, Hofmann and Nicky Hayden as he struggled on the right hand corners of the Bugatti circuit, although the American's crash with two laps to go effectively bumped up his rival to a top six place.

One of the early beneficiaries of the bike change, John Hopkins ran wide whilst battling with Melandri and could not get higher than seventh, ahead of Loris Capirossi on the second factory Ducati.

Makoto Tamada took ninth in his best result for Dunlop Tech 3 Yamaha, ahead of his outstanding team-mate Guintoli who also achieved the same.

250cc

Reigning 250cc World Champion Jorge Lorenzo made it four wins from five in his title defence with victory from pole at Le Mans, extending his lead in the standings to 32 points. He broke free from the pack early on, but was reined in by a number of his quarter litre rivals as they tried to have a pop at the Mallorcan.

On the opening laps he had to contend with 125cc World Champions Alvaro Bautista and Thomas Luthi, the latter having tasted victory in France in 2005 and 2006 when riding in the lower cylinder category. Neither were quite up to the task of following in the Spain's No1 Aprilia rider's footsteps, with both running off-track when challenging Lorenzo.

One man who has proven that he can hang with the champion is Andrea Dovizioso, the only other rider to have won a 250cc race this season. The Italian led the way during a tense battle that also involved Alex de Angelis, although eventually Lorenzo played his trump card on the fast first section to power away from the duo, who completed the podium spots.

Hector Barberá finished fourth after losing a few tenths due to tyre problems, ahead of countryman Julian Simon on the Repsol Honda. Marco Simoncelli, Mika Kallio and Alvaro Bautista completed the top eight, with the latter coming back from 19th after his off-track excursion to overtake Shuhei Aoyama and Anthony West.

125cc

In a day of firsts in MotoGP, Sergio Gadea took his opening victory in the 125cc class onboard the Aspar Aprilia. The 22 year old has been something of the forgotten man in the team so far this season, having struggled early on whilst team-mates Gabor Talmacsi and Hector Faubel were winning races, but showed great poise as he kept his cool at the head of the field.

Gadea had only really been troubled by poleman Mattia Pasini at the front, and the almost inevitable sight of the Italian pulling his bike off to the side of the track to with mechanical problems - as had happened on three previous occasions- gifted the Spaniard a slight cushion on his rivals.

Almost immediately after Pasini's retirement World Championship leader Lukas Pesek kicked into gear and moved up into second for the first time. The Czech rider held onto the position to extend his championship lead over Gabor Talmacsi to nine points.

In a delightful result for British fans, Bradley Smith took his first World Championship podium from second on the grid. The 16 year old did an excellent job to hold of Pesek until the final stages, and never once buckled under the pressure of having a title contender on his tail. The 2006 Rookie of the Year will now have sky-high confidence as he looks for a repeat of today's performance at future races.

Talmacsi finished fourth on the second Aspar bike, ahead of Joan Olive and Pablo Nieto who had slugged it out over the preceding laps after working their way up through the crowded 125cc pack.


The next round of the MotoGP World Championship takes place on June 3rd at Mugello.

Source: Dorna Communications

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