After thrilling race at Le Mans
The French Grand Prix ended in disappointment for Kawasaki rider, Randy de Puniet, when he crashed out on the eighth lap, having taken his first ever lead in a MotoGP race in front of his home crowd.
After a difficult start from eighth
on the grid, de Puniet was pushed down the order but soon fought back, ploughing his way through the field in the early laps to take a confident lead, much to the pleasure of his countrymen, who were cheering him around the Bugatti Circuit at Le Mans.
The race was officially declared wet but de Puniet, like the rest of the riders, began on slick tyres. The weather worsened as the race progressed and, just he was about to pull into his pit garage to change bikes, the 26-year-old Frenchman lost control of his 800cc Ninja ZX-RR and ended up in the gravel. It was hugely disappointing, especially as he'd been dicing with fellow countryman, Sylvain Guintoli, at the front of the pack, delighting their home fans in the process.
Fonsi Nieto, the World Superbike rider who's been standing in for the injured Olivier Jacque this weekend, rode heroically in what was his 100th Grand Prix race. He completed the race despite the horrendous conditions and lack of familiarity with Kawasaki's Ninja ZX-RR. Numerous riders crashed out during the 28-lap race, enabling Nieto to finish in 11th place, with a total time of 51'50.572 and earning him five championship points!
Due to his crash, Randy sustained a minor injury to his shoulder but otherwise came out unscathed. Unable to improve on his 19 championship points, he moves down the leader board to 14th place, overall.
After a testing weekend at Le Mans, the team are looking forward to going to Italy in a fortnight, when MotoGP returns to Mugello for one of the biggest races in the calendar.
"Conditions couldn't really have been worse for my MotoGP debut than they were today; it was possibly the most difficult race of my life, but as an experience it was definitely worth it. Today was also my 100th Grand Prix start; so to finish the race with five championship points was a nice present. The rain started while we were sat on the grid, and it was at this point that I decided to take is steady to make sure I finished the race, and hopefully in the points. This is what the team asked me to do and I did it. The experience of going into the pits to switch bikes was pretty unique, although I was a little bit nervous because I didn't want to make any mistakes. I made sure I kept a safety margin from the start of the race as my first target was to learn as much as I could, by completing as many laps as possible and bringing the bike home. We achieved this objective. The welcome I received from everyone in the team has been amazing, and they have made me feel at home from the start. I would like to thank them for all they have done for me this weekend."
Randy de Puniet
"I am so disappointed and I'm sorry for my crew, the team, Kawasaki and Bridgestone as they have all worked so hard. The race was declared wet from the start, but I think we all opted to start on slick tyres because the rain was not so heavy, just a few spots, and you can never be sure what will happen in these conditions. Once again I had some problems from the start and I lost some places in the run to the first corner, though I was feeling confident on the bike and I was quickly able to fight myself through the field and take the lead. And then the rain started to fall harder and I was about to come in to switch bikes when I crashed. Maybe I was too fast, I don't know, but the result was that the rear came round on me at the Esses Bleus and down I went. It's a shame because running at the front of the field in my home Grand Prix was a fantastic feeling. But, I learnt an important lesson today and I hope that I will have the opportunity to lead a race again this season, when I might handle things differently. We showed today that we're in good shape and now we must look to securing a good result in the next race at Mugello."
“We came to Le Mans with high expectations of Randy, because we knew our Ninja ZX-RR would be competitive here. Early on in the race it looked like Randy was going to fulfil these expectations; he was confident on the bike and very aggressive in carving his way through to the front of the field. Unfortunately he either got a bit too overconfident or misread the worsening conditions, and crashed out of the race on the lap on which he was due to return to the pits to switch to a machine with a wet set-up. But, once again, he has shown his potential and now he has some experience of leading a race, and we hope that the next time he finds himself at the front of the field then he'll be able to better handle the pressure. As for Fonsi, he came here completely cold, never having ridden a MotoGP machine and with no experience on Bridgestone tyres. His approach and attitude have been fantastic all weekend, even in today's extremely difficult race conditions. It was his first time on wet tyres, on a bike that he only rode for the first time on Friday, and yet he showed his maturity as a rider by keeping his head and finishing just outside the top ten. You can't fault his performance this weekend. It is always a pleasure to come to Le Mans, with many fans cheering us on, and it is a shame that we couldn't give them a better result today."