2012 Le Mans MotoGP
Round four of the 2012 MotoGP Championship at Le Mans was especially kind to Valentino Rossi fans.
First, at the pre-race press conference for the French GP, the 32-year-old Italian who holds nine world titles reported VR46 is staying around for the next two years, though not specifying if he will remain with Ducati.
But the kindness kicked into high gear Sunday when Rossi took his best-ever finish aboard the Ducati – second. Following some intense battles with the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha duo of Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso, and then Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner, Rossi was able to get some positive reaction out of the Ducati GP12, a machine he has clearly struggled with considering his best finish up to Le Mans was seventh at Estoril.
Rossi started from seventh at Le Mans, but the Ducati Team found something extra in their wet setup, allowing Rossi to take second in a rain-soaked race behind former Fiat Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing). Finishing in third was Stoner, who announced his retirement at the conclusion of this season at the Le Mans press conference.
Before Sunday’s race at Le Mans, the circuit held Rossi’s previous best finish with Ducati – third last season during his debut year with the Italian manufacturer.
Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team GP12 MotoGP) says: “I’m really, really happy. We knew we had a special opportunity in the wet today, so I tried to ride perfectly and not throw it away. I started well and immediately made up some positions, and then I passed the two Yamahas to get behind Stoner. I was able to match his pace, but then my visor started to fog and I had to slow down for a couple of laps until I was able to clear it by lifting it a little. Once I could see again, I re-passed Cal and then Dovi.
“When I realized that I could really push hard and that it was possible to catch Stoner again, I went for it. It was a great race and a nice, fun battle with Stoner to the last lap. I enjoyed myself and I’m happy for my team and all the guys at Ducati, who are working so hard for me.
“Now we must continue giving our all until we’re also able to be competitive in the dry. We found a good base to work from in Portugal, and it wasn’t bad in the dry here, either, although not as good as in the wet. Now our main goal is to take another step forward and make up some more tenths.”
Although Rossi’s teammate, Nicky Hayden, had a bad start from 11th on the grid, the American fought to a sixth-place finish.
Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team GP12 MotoGP) says: “There must have been something on the inside of the track just after the start, because everybody that went on that side either crashed or almost did. My jump was really good, and then just as I was ready to go to second gear, the tyre completely broke loose and the bike started fishtailing. I got buried in the pack and couldn’t see for the first few laps.
“Once I got through some guys and had a clear track, my rhythm wasn’t too bad. I was bringing Bradl and Pedrosa back a bit, but when I got it down to two seconds, I almost crashed and had to try again. I got to Bradl’s wheel at the end but just couldn’t do anything. It’s frustrating because we’ve got a really good wet bike. I know we had more potential than sixth, but the start hurt me. Congratulations to the team for the podium. They certainly deserve it.”
Ducati Team Manager Vittoriano Guareschi also commented on Rossi’s and Hayden’s performances.
Vittoriano Guareschi says: “We’re very pleased with Valentino’s podium, which is of course down to his beautiful race, although it also reflects the great job done by the team over the weekend. It’s also a thank-you to everyone back home who has worked so hard to solve our problems, which we’re overcoming little by little, although we still need to work on them some more.
“We’ve worked on the chassis well, and now we’ll focus on other important areas of the bike. Today Vale was in a situation where he could ride as he’s capable of doing, and he gave us a great show.
“It’s a shame for Nicky, who could have also fought for a better position if it weren’t for his bad start. Despite riding at a good pace, he wasn’t able to climb higher than sixth place. Anyway, Nicky showed that he, like Vale and everyone at Ducati, never gives up.”
The 2012 MotoGP Championship now breaks for two weeks before resuming for round five of 18 at Catalunya, Spain, June 3.