Monday, May 20


REPSOL Honda's Dani Pedrosa has snatched the lead in the World MotoGP Championship after a beautifully ridden race to win a cold, wet French Grand Prix at Le Mans on May 19.

With his young team-mate Marc Marquez, the previous championship leader, finishing third, Pedrosa is back in the lead of the championship after four rounds, with a points tally of 83, six more than Marquez.

Defending champion Jorge Lorenzo is still third in the title chase, but is now 17 points behind Pedrosa after finishing seventh while his Yamaha factory team-mate, veteran Italian Valentino Rossi, finished twelfth after crashing on the 18th of 28 laps.  

Rossi's woes did not end there because fellow Italian Andrea Dovizioso took the factory Ducati Rossi abandoned at the end of last season to a fourth place finish after leading the opening laps.

In fact, Dovizioso had the Ducati in front of Rossi the entire race.  After leading the first four laps, Dovizioso was relegated to second by Pedrosa for three laps, then put the Ducati out front again for three laps. Pedrosa went ahead again, but Dovizioso got in front for another lap before Pedrosa took the lead for good at the halfway point. 

Not long after, Nicky Hayden on the second factory Ducati was putting the pressure on Rossi, who crashed in front of him.  That cost Hayden some precious seconds as he avoided the sliding Italian. 

By then Dovizioso on the lead Ducati was starting to struggle for grip with his wet weather tyres while Pedrosa was recording his fastest laps of the race.  That gave him some breathing room, and then Dovizioso fell into the clutches of the satellite Monster Tech 3 Yamaha of Cal Crutchlow who had moved steadily toward the front as the race progressed.  Dovi held the Englishman off for ten laps but Crutchlow was on a mission and passed the Ducati rider with just over five laps to go.

Meantime, MotoGP rookie and pole position man Marc Marquez stayed out of trouble to push Dovizioso off the rostrum with just over two laps remaining.  He had completed the first lap in eighth place.  He settled in behind Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda) for the first ten laps then steadily worked his way forward, nipping past Dovizioso for third with just over two laps remaining.

Out front though Pedrosa had established a very handy lead and with a handful of laps to go he was almost seven seconds in front.  He eased off in the closing laps and still won by 4.8 seconds from Crutchlow with Marquez another two seconds back.

With Crutchlow putting the satellite Yamaha on the podium while factory riders Lorenzo and Rossi finished down field, there was some soul-searching going on in the Yamaha camp afterward.  Lorenzo had been in the lead group early on, as had Rossi.  Lorenzo dropped off the pace on laps eight and nine and from there to the end was struggling. 

Rossi then took over third position but was relegated to fourth by the impressive Crutchlow at the halfway point and was not too far ahead of eventual fifth place man Nicky Hayden when he crashed before remounting to bring the second Yamaha home twelfth. All four Ducatis finished ahead of him.

So while the Yamaha team was left licking its wounds, Repsol Honda was delighted by once again having both its riders on the rostrum. 

Still, there are still another 14 rounds remaining before the championship is over so expect a strong fight-back from Yamaha.  And if Ducati can get its bike sorted for a dry track, there may be added interest in the second half of the season.