Capirossi out of luck
Ducati Marlboro Team rider Casey Stoner extended his lead at the top of the MotoGP World Championship with a superbly judged ride to third place in atrocious conditions at Le Mans this afternoon.
Team-mate Loris Capirossi had a much more difficult
ride to eighth in the soaking wet conditions because of a bike problem.
The race started with light drizzle falling at some parts of the tricky French circuit, Stoner keeping out of trouble in the midst of the leading pack while some of his rivals were riding like it was the last lap, several of them crashing out.
When heavier rain started falling at one-third distance riders came into the pits to swap to bikes fitted with rain tyres. Stoner maintained his composure despite the treacherous conditions, slipping to seventh at one point but then moving forward, getting the best out of his second GP7 and its Bridgestone rain tyres to take third place on lap 17.
Capirossi had his work cut out starting from the fifth row of the grid but the Italian charged through the pack to move into fifth place before the heavier rain came. However, when he swapped bikes his number-two GP7 didn't have exactly the right engine mapping for the rain and he was unable to keep improving.
CASEY STONER, 3rd place, World Championship leader on 102 points
"I was surprised to stay upright really! I thought it was going to be difficult to finish because a lot of people were slipping off for what looked like no reason. In the first part of the race it was light rain and there were a lot of people going fast but a couple of corners later they'd be on the ground, so you weren't too sure how hard to push. We got through that part, got on the wet-weather tyres at the right time and from there just tried to play it smart.
I felt like we did that today, we did everything right I went back to eighth or ninth or something - I couldn't really see my pit board with all the rain - then at the end we managed to pull back up to a podium position and bring it home. The Ducati and the Bridgestones seemed to work really good in the wet, considering we haven't had time to get used to them in the rain. I did have a few issues with rear grip, so I hope it's wet tomorrow so can do some more wet testing."
LORIS CAPIROSSI, 8th place, 7th overall on 38 points
"I'm very sad because I had the chance of a good result in the rain. I changed bikes at the best moment, swapping over a lap before the others and I found myself up front with Chris [Vermeulen, the race winner] but I soon realised something was wrong because the bike was very difficult to ride. The engine mapping wasn't right, the team had made a mistake. It's a real shame and even if I understand that this kind of thing happens I'm obviously not happy. I had to defend myself as best as I could and it wasn't easy because I risked falling every time I braked. Now we just have to look forward to the next race".
LIVIO SUPPO, Ducati MotoGP project manager
"That was another superb race from Casey, it's great to get a podium in such tricky conditions. He was very smart to come in to change bikes at the right moment and he didn't take risks when he didn't need to, he showed so much maturity. The bike worked well and the Bridgestones were very good, that's why they had all three guys on the podium. We have to apologise to Loris because we made a mistake - the engine mapping on his second bike wasn't exactly right for the conditions. We are very sorry that he wasn't able to get a better result because of this but sometimes these things can happen."