Valentino Rossi set a new circuit record on the final lap of the Grand Prix Alice of France to take his third victory from the opening four rounds of the MotoGP World Championship after a thrilling battle with Sete Gibernau. Rossi got a bad start from pole position but made his way through the pack from sixth place as his Yamaha team-mate Colin Edwards led they way.
Rossi caught Edwards by lap nine after passing Loris Capirossi and Nicky Hayden and the pair built a comfortable advantage over the rest of the field. However, a stunning charge from Gibernau in the second half of the race saw the Spaniard surge from seventh place to third, repeatedly setting the fastest lap of the race and swiftly closing in on the front two. Gibernau's charge sparked Rossi into life and, after both passing Edwards in the same corner on the 21st lap, the pair went head-to-head in a breathtaking finale.
"I made a mistake at the start, just like at the last round in China, but I made positions up lap by lap with some good overtaking moves and eventually caught Colin," explained Rossi, who crossed the line with an advantage of 0.382 seconds after clocking a time of 1'33.226. "I stayed behind him for a while because his rhythm was good, but then Gibernau arrived very fast from behind so I decided to try and overtake him and push to the maximum. Every lap I was better and better and I set the fastest time of the race on the final lap. I am very happy."
Whilst second place for Gibernau moves him up to third in the championship behind his team-mate Marco Melandri, who finished fourth today after an intense battle with Max Biaggi, Edwards's first podium for Yamaha in third place moves him up to sixth overall. Hayden and Capirossi eventually dropped to sixth and seventh respectively after their electric starts, with Shinya Nakano taking eighth place ahead of Toni Elías and Troy Bayliss.
Local hero Olivier Jacque missed out on a top ten finish by less than a second as he clinched eleventh place to the delight of the home crowd, with Rubén Xaus, Kenny Roberts, Jurgen Van Den Goorbergh and Roby Rolfo completing the points. Carlos Checa, Shane Byrne, James Ellison and Alex Barros all crashed out but were uninjured.
Dani Pedrosa denied Randy De Puniet home victory with a last lap move just three corners from the end of an exciting 250cc race to recover the World Championship lead by four points over Andrea Dovizioso. Dovizioso led for the opening nine laps before Casey Stoner, De Puniet, Jorge Lorenzo and Pedrosa all took turns at the front, with the Frenchman grasping control on the penultimate lap. The 75,000 crowd were on their feet as De Puniet looked certain to take victory but Pedrosa produced a stunning recovery to take his second win of the season. Dovizioso clinched the final podium spot in third place with Stoner and Lorenzo completing the top five.
Thomas Lüthi took his first ever victory in the 125cc race from pole position after streaking into a lead of over eight seconds from the third lap. The Swiss rider never looked in danger as a packed second group gave chase, with Sergio Gadea and Mika Kallio eventually winning the battle for the remaining two podium positions. The result means Kallio now leads the championship by twelve points from Lüthi, with Marco Simoncelli in third place after taking fifth place today.
Souce: DORNA COMMUNICATIONS
Photo: Yamaha Factory Racing