In treachery conditions
The Le Mans circuit continues to be a talisman venue for Marco Melandri. Having won the race here last year, he today stormed to the second step of the podium in a dramatic race which was interrupted by rain.
Like in Australia last season
the MotoGP riders were forced to contest a ‘flag-to-flag' race, the increasing intensity of what started as light rainfall on the grid obliged them to enter the pits and change to their second bikes, fitted with rain tyres.
Marco and his team-mate Toni Elias started out on slick tyres and rode cautiously over the opening laps, with the track in dangerously damp condition. On the 10th lap Melandri came in to pit and then returned to give chase to race leader Chris Vermeulen, with the Italian hunting him down in second place but unable to repeat his effort from Phillip Island, when he passed the Australian to win the race.
Marco now lies fourth in the championship on 61 points, a single point behind Dani Pedrosa in third.
Toni Elias was one of the only riders who didn't change tyres after suffering the misfortune of a crash on the seventh lap, just before the rest of the field came in to switch bikes.
MARCO MELANDRI (2nd in the race, 4th in the championship on 61 points):
“I'm really happy. It was such a difficult race but good fun at the same time. Over the first few laps I tried to be careful because the track was slippery and not all that wet. It was a risky situation and there were a few crashes. I waited for a while before I came in because the track conditions were changing lap after lap and then when I saw Hopkins come in I decided to follow him. The bike worked really well in the wet from the start even though we'd only done one wet lap in preseason testing.
I've got a good feeling with the front, the Bridgestone tyres worked really well and I was able to bring it home in second. I closed the gap to Chris but in the end I didn't want to push too hard and take unneccessary risks. In Australia last year I was able to beat Chris but today it was his turn and I'm satisfied because it's been a while since we've been on the podium. This is a really important result.”
TONI ELIAS (crashed, 8th in the championship on 35 points):
“The situation was difficult from the first lap – the rain was falling and I was thinking about when was the right time to come into boxes when I crashed. It's a real shame. I took a hard blow to my back but more than that it hurts to have missed out on the points again and I'm sorry for the team. We'll stay here to test and work more on the tyres and the bike.”
Team Honda Gresini will stay on at Le Mans for two days of tests.