The fifth round of the 2007 MotoGP world championship, at the Le Mans circuit in France, was packed with action. Though it was declared a wet race before the start, most riders opted to start on slicks, but had to come back into the pits after a few laps, once it started raining harder.
Two Frenchmen – Kawasaki rider Randy de Puniet, and Dunlop Yamaha Tech3 rider Sylvain Guintoli – led the race at the front for some time, but both fell prey to the tricky weather conditions at Le Mans, and crashed.
The way things finally worked out was that Rizla Suzuki rider, Aussie Chris Vermeulen led the race most of the time and finished in first place, followed by Honda Gresini rider Marco Melandri, who came in second. Vermeulen’s win at Le Mans is not only his first win in MotoGP, but also the first time a Suzuki has taken first place in the premier class after the year 2000, when Kenny Roberts Jr won the 500cc world championship on his Suzuki.
Says Vermeulen, 'I'm absolutely over the moon! The bike felt really good in the rain, but as it got heavier it made it hard to hold the bike in top gear down the straight - there was so much water it was just spinning the rear! Tom O'Kane - my Crew Chief - and the rest of the guys gave me a really good wet bike today as we hadn't done much wet testing with the new 800. The tyre choice was spot-on and the bike was certainly good enough to win on!'
Casey Stoner again rode a smooth, fast and confident race, making no mistakes anywhere – he finished in third place. Valentino Rossi finished sixth, and we don’t know if that was because of bike problems, or because of Stoner, who seems to have gained a significant psychological advantage over Rossi! Stoner now seems to be able to play with Rossi, and then dismiss him at will. Says Rossi, 'Of course I'm very upset about this result. We had hoped that this would be a track at which we could gain some ground on Stoner, and it's going to be a very hard battle from here because he is very fast, not just on the straights but everywhere!'
We doubt if Vermeulen or Melandri will be significant contenders for the 2007 MotoGP world title, but Stoner is certainly making steady progress towards that crown. He seems to have the measure of Rossi, and the much touted Honda/Pedrosa combo isn’t really turning out to be all that great after all…Also see:
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