Casey Stoner put on a superlative display to win the French Grand Prix at Le Mans on Sunday.
The 25 year-old Australian had an early battle with Dani Pedrosa who made a nonsense of his second row start to lead the pack into the first corner ahead of Stoner and Andrea Dovizioso, making it a 1,2,3 for the Red Bull men on the factory Hondas.
Pole man Stoner seized the lead from Pedrosa on lap 2 and, while his team mate hung on, Stoner's pace eventually proved too much and he stretched away. Pedrosa was later caught and passed by Marco Simoncelli and as the pair fought for second, Pedrosa crashed as they touched in a particularly aggressive passing move by the Italian.
Simoncelli was given a drive through penalty for the move but that was no consolation for Pedrosa, who was diagnosed with a broken right collarbone at the medical centre.
With Stoner well clear in the lead, the action lay in the battle for third with Dovizioso in a fierce contest with Jorge Lorenzo and a resurgent Valentino Rossi. It was a superb fight and a tiny mistake from Lorenzo was enough for him to drop behind leaving the two Italians to themselves over the last few laps.
A big move from Rossi just before the start of the last lap briefly gave him the advantage but Dovizioso immediately responded and the final circuit was all his to give him a great second place, a full 14 seconds behind the victorious Stoner.
“It was great to get some points back today,” said Stoner who moves into second place in the table, 12 points behind Lorenzo and 5 ahead of Pedrosa who slips to third. “I didn't have a good start, we've had some trouble all weekend and it was a bit of a drama on the line. I couldn't get neutral so I had to sit there holding the clutch. That overheated it so it was slipping off the line. I had to be a bit aggressive to get second behind Dani going into turn one.”
“Dani was being a bit cautious waiting to get some heat into the left side of the tyre, I felt mine was working better and tried to get past but he was defending well and it took me a while. Then he stayed with me even though I pushed the pace. I kept going quicker but he was there and only eventually I managed to set a consistent pace that he wasn't able to go with, I don't know if he might have had a problem. Once the gap opened up I was able to relax a bit and enjoy it,” concluded Stoner.
Dovizioso was thrilled with his second. “It is not so easy to fight with Vale as he is so good on the brakes but we changed the set up a bit and I was good on the brakes. I knew that he was very strong at the last 2 corners so I tried very hard to make a gap so he couldn't pass me there. I am so happy to be on the podium because it didn't look like it in the middle of the race, the leaders had got away from us.”
The Italian now stands fourth in the points, 28 behind Lorenzo with 14 races remaining and makes the point that it is a long season. “We are still improving the bike and have some ideas to try when we get to Barcelona that we believe will make us more competitive, that is racing, that is the fight for the championship.”
Total class from Marquez in Moto2
Reigning 125cc World Champion Marc Marquez won the first Moto2 race of his career in fabulously emphatic manner. The only imperfection was his start as he regressed off the second row to be 10th at the first corner. He settled quickly though and from there it was all progress for the Red Bull athlete.
The lead pack of six headed by Stefan Bradl seemed to be stretching away but once Marquez was into seventh he soon started to close the gap. Having caught the group he simply picked them off one by one and took the lead on lap 22 of the 26.
His superior pace was obvious and he opened up a comfortable lead to win by almost two seconds. He becomes the youngest winner in Moto2 and it was his 50th Grand Prix. Even though he has had an unlucky and frustrating start to the year his first finish propels him to ninth in the points standings and there are still 14 races remaining.
“My start was not so good,” admitted Marquez. “I really have to improve on that point. I was determined to be relaxed and concentrate after my earlier problems this year. I tried hard to put in the constant lap times and it worked. Now I think we are running at a better level and I am really looking forward to the next race in Montmelo (Barcelona, Spain) which of course is my home.”
Vinales wins 125 battle with Terol
Maverick Vinales won a race long battle with Nicolas Terol with a superb last corner pass that left the more experienced man cursing his lapsed defence. The pair had raced well clear of the struggle for third that included Jonas Folger on the Red Bull Ajo Motorsports Aprilia but unfortunately the 17-year-old German faded slightly in the closing laps to finish sixth.
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