Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rider Valentino Rossi has taken his second consecutive second place finish in the 2014 MotoGP Championship at the Le Mans circuit in France for the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France.
The Doctor enjoyed one of the most exciting races of the season so far having fought from his fifth place grid position start to lead the race in the early laps. Quickly into third position, Rossi was then able to hunt down and out-manoeuvre rivals Stefan Bradl and then race leader Andrea Dovizioso to take the lead with 25 laps remaining. The nine-time world champion rode to the limit and had increased the lead to nearly a second before chasing rider Marc Marquez began to close in. With 16 laps to go Rossi ran wide into the last chicane, allowing Marquez past. He tucked in behind and was able to keep a gap to third place to the line, taking his third podium finish of the year with second place.
Teammate Jorge Lorenzo endured a tough Le Mans race. Starting from sixth on the grid, he was firmly placed in the hectic mid-pack for the opening lap in seventh position. The double premier class world champion was able to make passes on first Alvaro Bautista and then fellow Yamaha rider Bradley Smith to secure fifth position with 24 laps to run. He then spent some laps switching between fifth and sixth as he was first passed by Marquez, then recovered ground by Dovizioso before allowing Bautista back past again. A fifth place looked possible as he passed Bradl with 13 laps remaining but it was not to be as Dani Pedrosa was able to make a move four laps later, relegating him to sixth at the line.
Rossi’s third podium of the year adds 20 points to his score, putting him on 81 points, now just two behind Pedrosa in second. Lorenzo takes ten points, keeping him in fifth on 45 points, eight behind Dovizioso in third.
The reigning Moto2 World Champion qualified on the front row of the grid in 2nd and as the lights turned to green, he took a phenomenal start to cross the line inside the leading pack for the first lap. The 22-year-old Catalan set into a formidable and consistent race pace to match the experienced leading riders before brilliantly surging through to 2nd, joining the battle at the front. He then became embroiled in a fierce fight with Stefan Bradl but saw off the Honda rider to expertly maintain the third position during the latter stages of the 28-lap sprint. Eventually the Spanish rookie who is only in his fifth MotoGP race aboard the Yamaha YZR-M1 crossed the line in a well-deserved 4th. Espargaro’s superb performance was tantalisingly close to Alvaro Bautista in third who was only half a second in front. The competitive result has seen Espargaro elevated to 7th in the world championship standings and improving the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team’s best finish of the season so far.
Bradley Smith hoped to battle for the accolade of the leading satellite bike at the tight and twisting French circuit today yet struggled with some slight grip issues again and met the checkered flag in 10th position. Having qualified at the front of the fourth row, Smith undertook a storming start to impressively climb up to 5th by the second lap. He ran a steady rhythm and attempted to make further advances up the field to the top four riders but unfortunately got shuffled back to 8th. At the latter stages of the race, Smith became involved in a battle with Dovizioso and Espargaro, with the outcome being 10th at the finish line. The 23-year-old Britain’s hard work permitted him to collect six valuable championship points, which aided the Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team to reach 3rd place in the team standings with 72 points.
The French GP saw the Spanish rider of the NGM Forward Racing as first open on the historic track of Le Mans.
Aleix Espargaro, who starting from the 8th spot on the grid, lost some positions and he finally finished 9th. The Spaniard struggled during the whole weekend for some electronics issue and today it was important for him to get as many points as possible. With today’s result Espargaro is now 8th in the Championship.
It was an unlucky race for Colin Edwards, who suffered for the third time in a row because of a fuel issue and was obliged to slow down dramatically and finally finished 17th . The team takes the responsibility for what happened and renews the commitment to develop some new parts that will be available already from the next race at Mugello.
MotoGP now moves to Italy for Rossi’s home race in Mugello in two weeks time.
2nd | +1.486 | 28 Laps
“For sure I’m very happy about the race and the result. I made a very good start and when I saw Dovi and Bradl in front I knew I could go faster than them so I overtook. I got in front and tried as hard as possible but it was more difficult with the front today, maybe because the asphalt was hot. Anyway I tried the maximum and my pace was not so bad. I was waiting for Marc or Jorge and Dani to arrive, when Marc arrived I tried to push a lot to stay on the 1’34.0 to make the work difficult for him but in the crucial moment of the race I made a mistake in braking. I braked a little bit too deep and went wide. It's a great pity as it was too easy for Marc. If not we could have fought a little bit because today I was not so bad, difficult to beat but for sure more fun. I hoped he would wait for me but... he didn't! We’ll have to try again next week in Mugello, I want to do a good weekend and try to fight with him another time. I’m happy because my target is to be competitive, to stay with the front and fight with them. At this moment I’m not able to win a race but I am always there and I’m enjoying it very much.”
6th | +7.088 | 28 Laps
“Well, I expected much more of both qualifying and the race because the pace I had shown throughout the different sessions was good. The start was not so bad but I could not overtake any rider in the early laps and it left me riding with not such a good pace, I tried but no luck. I am convinced that our opportunity will arrive soon because we are working well and more and more times we are ahead during the grand prix. Now I’m just thinking about preparing the next race in Mugello.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director
“That was a really impressive race for Vale even though Marquez won. He made a really good start, worked hard for the lead and just made a little mistake when Marquez was on him. This podium is the result of good work all weekend; the mechanics, engineers and of course Vale put together a good package to achieve it. It is unfortunate that Jorge was unable to finish higher than he did, he also worked hard with his team in all practices and the package looked good for the race following the final warm up this morning. Now we look to Mugello, our first "home" race of the year. It’s a big race for Vale in front of his home crowd and also a big race for Jorge as he has won there for the last few years.”
“This weekend has actually been like a small dream. I was sure we improved after the test in Jerez but I would have never expected to be that competitive. Already after the qualifying I thought things couldn’t get better but luckily I was also able to perform well over the whole race distance. Nevertheless it was hard to believe that I found myself in third position halfway through the race, but at this stage I started to be more confident about a top5 finish and when I heard the noise of Dani’s engine as he was catching up during the last laps, I just kept my head down aiming to take the fourth position over the line. I want to say a big thank you to the team because they did an amazing job guiding me without pressure to adapt as quickly as possible to this incredible category, but of course we have still so many things to learn and I’m already excited to get back on the bike in Mugello. However, this result is a huge boost for our confidence and I’m happy and proud to give the team’s French fans something to cheer for.”
"I made a great start and managed to go around the outside of the first corner and recover several positions. But already by turn three I knew that my lack of side grip would probably affect my race. I have been struggling all weekend with grip issues so we decided to take a gamble for the setup of the rear tyre. Unfortunately, we still weren’t able to completely get rid of it. Also having modified the bike massively it took me quite a while to adjust myself to the changes. However, I still gave it my all during qualifying and the race, but all weekend we have not been as strong as we hoped to be. I am still pleased that I finished the race, collecting valuable points and look forward to Mugello, which is one of my favourite tracks where I hope to get higher up the field.”
“I’m quite satisfied but I expected to a better result on this track. We struggled a lot during the whole weekend and today the priority was to get as many points as possible. We will keep on working for the next two races that are very important for us: Mugello and Catalunya, where we want to be competitive and get a good result”.
“It was a difficult weekend: I’m still struggling to make this bike turn. Today I had reduced the gap and caught Aoyama and Hernandez when I start having problems with the electronics. In the last laps I realized that I had problems with the fuel and at the last lap I was almost obliged to stop due to a fuel issue and let the riders behind me pass. We need to keep on working and I look forward to the Italian GP where we will test new parts."