MELANDRI WINS, PEDROSA THIRD AS HONDA DOMINATES THE FRENCH GRAND PRIX

Honda riders won all three classes here in France today with Marco Melandri (Fortuna Honda RC211V) winning his second MotoGP race of the season from Loris Capirossi (Ducati) with Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC211V) third. Four Honda riders finished in the top five. Yukio Takahashi (Humangest Racing Honda RS250RW) won a spectacular 250cc GP from team-mate Andrea Dovizioso while in the 125cc race reigning 125cc World Champion Thomas Luthi (Elit Honda) won his first race of the season.

The race was declared wet as clouds loomed giving riders the option to enter the pits and change machines if conditions worsened. But it was only as the flag fell after 28-laps that any drops began to fall.

John Hopkins (Suzuki) led the field on lap one with pole-setter Dani and Melandri hard on his tail as lap one was completed. Loris Capirossi was in the running and Rossi too was in fifth as Hopkins set an early fastest lap on lap two.

Shinya Nakano (Kawasaki), later hampered by a ride-through penalty for a jump start, was in the mix, although his team-mate Randy de Puniet, so keen to do well in front of his home fans, was involved in a first turn fracas that brought his race to an early close.

On lap three Rossi made his way to third, then second and closed on leader Hopkins. Pedrosa consolidated third while Melandri and Capirossi disputed fourth. Nakano, Hayden and Stoner battled for fifth before the Japanese Kawasaki man was brought in for his ride-through punishment.

On lap five Rossi relieved Hopkins of the lead and three laps later the American Suzuki rider fell while trying to stay in touch. He remounted to finish 15th. Dani was now in second place and right up with Rossi while Melandri was 2.37 seconds behind the leaders in third.

 

Rossi began to work his lead over Pedrosa harder and by mid-race distance he held 3.2 second advantage over the Spanish rookie. Dani could not make an impression on Rossi, until Rossi slowed with a broken down Yamaha on lap 21.

 

Pedrosa led with eight laps to go, but Melandri was gaining on him lap by lap and Capirossi in third was closing too. This now turned into a lap time against laps remaining equation that would not run in Pedrosa’s favour.

Melandri had the speed and took Pedrosa at the turn one chicane on lap 24. Capirossi was 2.5 seconds behind Dani and gaining by 0.44 seconds a lap. Sure enough he took second place off Dani at the Musée turn on the final lap and the young Spaniard decided to collect the points for third rather than risk a fall retaliating.

Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V) and Casey Stoner (LCR Honda RC211V) had a tough fight for fourth with the verdict going to Stoner as the pair crossed the line. Makoto Tamada (Konica Minolta Honda RC211V) was seventh, Toni Elias (Fortuna Honda RC211V) ninth, while Kenny Roberts (Roberts KR211V) retired early with so far undiagnosed problems.

Melandri was delighted with another victory in his 50th MotoGP start. He said, “I’m happy and I want to thank Michelin because it was the perfect tyre choice. I got away well and that allowed me to lead on the first lap. Hopkins then overtook me as my bike was suffering a bit in the first laps, but after a few laps when the tyre temperature increased, the bike began to work better and better and I was able to lap near the front. As the laps went by I started to think about winning and I overtook Loris and then, when the time was right, Pedrosa as well.”

Third-placed Pedrosa said, “When I took the lead I knew they were catching me and I knew I would only lead for two or three laps. On one lap I made two mistakes and I realised I was going slowly whilst on the limit. So I decided I didn’t want to crash like in the race in Turkey and I closed the throttle and focused on finishing the race. But the result is good and we must stay consistent and learn from this.”

“Fourth place feels pretty damn good,” said Stoner in fourth. “And again I’ve answered the people who said I couldn’t race on worn tyres. The battle with Nicky was great, it was a clean fight, but unfortunately I nearly took him out at the start of race – I’m sorry for that, I just missed my braking a little. By mid-race the bike started to feel more comfortable so I pushed and started to catch the leaders.”

Hayden, fifth, said, “It’s been a tough weekend, all weekend! Since we got off the plane from China it hasn’t come real smooth – it’s been bad with the weather, bad with the flu we’ve had a few things go against us today. Yesterday we went backwards with the set-up so me and the team put our heads together after the wet warm-up this morning and made some changes. The Repsol Honda boys did a good job giving me a lot better bike that I felt good on so we just fought as hard as we could today and ended up fifth.”

Tamada in seventh place said. “I am only partially satisfied of today’s result as after the second free practice session of Friday the feeling with my Honda RC211V had reached a definitely better level than the one of today. I had to struggle all race long with a strong under steering problem, which did not allow me to be sufficiently fast when riding the first corners of the track. Anyway, the condition is absolutely better in comparison to the beginning of the season and this makes me hope for the best for the coming GPs.”

 

Elias had to settle for ninth and said, “It was a very difficult day. We still had the same problems in the warm-up and could not find a solution. I got a good start but could not then keep up the pace I wanted. Tomorrow we will stay at the circuit to test and I hope to find some solutions.”

 

A resolute Roberts, forced to retire after the warm-up lap, said, “I really don’t know what it was. The bike started misfiring on the warm-up and then the engine started cutting out completely. Until we take it all down we don’t know what the problem is.”

The World Championship points table now shows Hayden still in command with 83 points, Melandri on 79 tied with Capirossi, followed by Dani with 73 points and Stoner with 65. Rossi lies eighth with 40 points.

Honda riders dominated the 250cc race as rookie Yuki Takahashi (Humangest Racing Honda RS250RW) won a tight tussle from his team-mate and series points leader Andrea Dovizioso (Humangest Racing Honda RS250RW) with another Honda rookie, Shuhei Aoyama (Repsol Honda RS250RW), completing the rostrum in third.

Takahashi and Dovi scorched into turn one from second and pole on the grid and set about ratcheting up an unassailable advantage over the field. They held a 3.2 second advantage over Roberto Locatelli (Aprilia) who was running third by lap four of this 26-lap race.

As Takahashi and Dovi settled down to wait for what was always going to be last lap battle, the chasing field spread out with Aoyama and his brother Hiro (KTM) left to dispute third place between themselves on the final lap.

Dovi led the last lap until the final turn where Takahashi slid up the inside on the brakes. The Italian knew the Japanese man would run wider mid-corner and he took the inside but his momentum carried him wide and Taka could get the power on earlier on the inside to broach the line first.

“I’m so happy with this result,” said a delighted Takahashi. “My bike set-up was really good and even though we were all sliding from mid-race distance my bike was very controllable and I knew I would do well at the end.”

Dovi, who is still searching for that elusive first win in the 250cc class, said, “Yuki was faster than me and it was difficult. I tried to keep him out on the last lap because I knew he’d have a go at me. I tried to get him back at the last turn but it wasn’t possible. But I’m happy to take the points.”

Aoyama was happy with his maiden podium. He said, “It was difficult to up the pace but I got faster from the middle of the race. I kept my brother at bay by really attacking the final lap and I’m really happy to be on the podium. Now I want to continue this success.”

The World Championship standings now show Dovi leading on 92 points from Hector Barbera (Aprilia), who finished 7th today, on 78 points with Hiro Aoyama on 75 in fourth. Yuki Takahashi is now fourth on 67.

Reigning 125cc World Champion Thomas Luthi (Elit Grand Prix Honda RS125R) won his first 125cc Grand Prix of the 2006 season with a somewhat fortunate victory over Aprilia rider Alvaro Bautista, who slowed with machine trouble on the last lap while leading. He eventually finished fourth behind Mika Kallio (KTM) second and Fabrizio Lai (Seedorf Racing Honda RS125R) third.

In tricky damp conditions after morning rain, pole man Mattia Pasini (Aprilia) crashed out at the end of the first lap at the final turn followed closely by front row starter Lukas Pesek (Derbi) who crashed out on lap three. This left a four-man group at the front comprising Kallio, Luthi, Lai and Bautista – the race was theirs to dispute.

Luthi led for much of this 24-lap encounter setting a fastest lap on his 14th tour of the track and this was also the lap when Lai ran wide at the Garage Vert turn to drop back by four seconds from the leading trio. Lai had opted for cut slicks in the damp conditions and as the race worn on, these proved not to be the best option.

Kallio had also fitted cut slicks and dropped back in the closing stages to leave Bautista and Luthi to slug it out on the last lap. But when Bautista’s machine slowed the race was Luthi’s.

“I’m very happy to be back on the podium with a win,” said Luthi. “The track was wet in places and that was hard because we chose slicks and it took a while for me to catch the front group as the track dried. I had a plan for the last lap but when Alvaro’s bike stopped I didn’t have to use it.”

Lai said, “My start to the season hasn’t been as good as last year and it’s taken me five races to get on the podium. Conditions were hard and my tyre choice wasn’t the best as the track dried. I’d like to dedicate this win to my team because they’ve worked really hard to get me back on the podium.”

The World Championship points table shows Bautista ahead with 99 points, Kallio second on 76 and Hector Faubel (Aprilia) third overall with 56.

Results

MotoGP
Race Classification MotoGP : (28 laps = 117.04 km)

Pos/ Rider / Nat / Team / Motorcycle / Time/ KM/H / Gap
1 / Marco MELANDRI / ITA / Fortuna Honda / HONDA / 44’57.369 / 156.205 /
2 / Loris CAPIROSSI / ITA / Ducati Marlboro Team / DUCATI / 44’59.298 / 156.093 / 1.929
3 / Dani PEDROSA / SPA / Repsol Honda Team / HONDA / 44’59.638 / 156.074 / 2.269
4 / Casey STONER / AUS / Honda LCR / HONDA / 45’02.863 / 155.888 / 5.494
5 / Nicky HAYDEN / USA / Repsol Honda Team / HONDA / 45’03.078 / 155.875 / 5.709
6 / Colin EDWARDS / USA / Camel Yamaha Team / YAMAHA / 45’08.888 / 155.541 / 11.519
7 / Makoto TAMADA / JPN / Konica Minolta Honda / HONDA / 45’14.061 / 155.244 / 16.692
8 / Sete GIBERNAU / SPA / Ducati Marlboro Team / DUCATI / 45’15.511 / 155.161 / 18.142
9 / Toni ELIAS / SPA / Fortuna Honda / HONDA / 45’21.014 / 154.848 / 23.645
10 / Chris VERMEULEN / AUS / Rizla Suzuki MotoGP / SUZUKI / 45’36.731 / 153.958 / 39.362
11 / Carlos CHECA / SPA / Tech 3 Yamaha / YAMAHA / 45’45.099 / 153.489 / 47.73
12 / Shinya NAKANO / JPN / Kawasaki Racing Team / KAWASAKI / 45’45.151 / 153.486 / 47.782
13 / Alex HOFMANN / GER / Pramac d’Antín MotoGP / DUCATI / 46’06.461 / 152.304 / 1’09.092
14 / James ELLISON / GBR / Tech 3 Yamaha / YAMAHA / 46’13.541 / 151.915 / 1’16.172
15 / John HOPKINS / USA / Rizla Suzuki MotoGP / SUZUKI / 45’17.059 / 143.996 / 2 laps

Pole Position: Dani PEDROSA 1’33.990 160.102 Km/h
Fastest Lap (New Record):Lap 5 Valentino ROSSI 1’35.087 158.255 Km/h
Circuit Record Lap:
Circuit Best Lap: 2006 – Dani PEDROSA 1’33.990 160.102 Km/h

World Championship Positions:
1 HAYDEN 83,
2 MELANDRI 79,
3 CAPIROSSI 79,
4 PEDROSA 73,
5 STONER 65,
6 EDWARDS 45,
7 ELIAS 44,
8 ROSSI 40,
9 GIBERNAU 33,
10 TAMADA 33,
11 NAKANO 32,
12 HOPKINS 21,
13 ROBERTS 20,
14 VERMEULEN 19,
15 CHECA 15.
250cc
Race Classification 250cc: (26 laps = 108.68 km)
Pos / Rider / Nat / Team / Motorcycle / Time / KM/H / Gap

1 / Yuki TAKAHASHI / JPN / Humangest Racing Team / HONDA / 43’42.773 / 149.173 /
2 / Andrea DOVIZIOSO / ITA / Humangest Racing Team / HONDA / 43’42.871 / 149.167 / 0.098
3 / Shuhei AOYAMA / JPN / Repsol Honda / HONDA / 43’44.988 / 149.047 / 2.215
4 / Hiroshi AOYAMA / JPN / Red Bull KTM GP 250 / KTM / 43’45.257 / 149.032 / 2.484
5 / Alex DE ANGELIS / RSM / Master – MVA Aspar Team / APRILIA / 43’54.043 / 148.535 / 11.27
6 / Roberto LOCATELLI / ITA / Team Toth / APRILIA / 43’57.370 / 148.347 / 14.597
7 / Hector BARBERA / SPA / Fortuna Aprilia / APRILIA / 43’59.602 / 148.222 / 16.829
8 / Marco SIMONCELLI / ITA / Squadra Corse Metis Gilera / GILERA / 43’59.814 / 148.21 / 17.041
9 / Sylvain GUINTOLI / FRA / Equipe GP De France – Scrab / APRILIA / 44’00.362 / 148.179 / 17.589
10 / Jakub SMRZ / CZE / Cardion AB Motoracing / APRILIA / 44’00.578 / 148.167 / 17.805
11 / Anthony WEST / AUS / Kiefer – Bos – Racing / APRILIA / 44’21.805 / 146.985 / 39.032
12 / Andrea BALLERINI / ITA / Campetella Racing / APRILIA / 44’24.501 / 146.837 / 41.728
13 / Martin CARDENAS / COL / Wurth Honda BQR / HONDA / 44’27.923 / 146.648 / 45.15
14 / Sebastian PORTO / ARG / Repsol Honda / HONDA / 44’29.318 / 146.572 / 46.545
15 / Arnaud VINCENT / FRA / Arie Molenaar Racing / HONDA / 44’38.520 / 146.068 / 55.747

Pole Position: Andrea DOVIZIOSO 1’39.733 150.882 Km/h
Fastest Lap (New record): Lap 19 Hiroshi AOYAMA 1’39.964 150.534 Km/h
Circuit Record Lap:
Circuit Best Lap: 2006 Andrea DOVIZIOSO 1’39.733 150.882 Km/h

World Championship Positions:
1 DOVIZIOSO 92,
2 BARBERA 78,
3 AOYAMA 75,
4 TAKAHASHI 67,
5 LORENZO 63,
6 LOCATELLI 57,
7 GUINTOLI 38,
8 DE ANGELIS 35,
9 SIMONCELLI 31,
10 AOYAMA 27,
11 SMRZ 27,
12 CARDENAS 22,
13 WEST 19,
14 PORTO 17,
15 POGGIALI 13.
125cc:
Race Classification 125cc (24 laps = 100.32 km)
Pos / Rider / Nat / Team / Motorcycle / Time / KM/H / Gap

1 / Thomas LUTHI / SWI / Elit – Caffe Latte / HONDA / 42’54.555 / 140.277 /
2 / Mika KALLIO / FIN / Red Bull KTM GP 125 / KTM / 42’57.935 / 140.093 / 3.38
3 / Fabrizio LAI / ITA / Valsir Seedorf Racing / HONDA / 43’04.362 / 139.745 / 9.807
4 / Alvaro BAUTISTA / SPA / Master – MVA Aspar Team / APRILIA / 43’05.344 / 139.692 / 10.789
5 / Pablo NIETO / SPA / Multimedia Racing / APRILIA / 43’09.405 / 139.472 / 14.85
6 / Raffaele DE ROSA / ITA / Multimedia Racing / APRILIA / 43’11.781 / 139.345 / 17.226
7 / Joan OLIVE / SPA / SSM Racing / APRILIA / 43’15.132 / 139.165 / 20.577
8 / Sergio GADEA / SPA / Master – MVA Aspar Team / APRILIA / 43’16.373 / 139.098 / 21.8189 /
9 / Andrea IANNONE / ITA / Campetella Racing Junior / APRILIA / 43’21.593 / 138.819 / 27.038
10 / Simone CORSI / ITA / Squadra Corse Metis Gilera / GILERA / 43’24.726 / 138.652 / 30.171
11 / Angel RODRIGUEZ / SPA / 3C Racing / APRILIA / 43’25.110 / 138.632 / 30.555
12 / Julian SIMON / SPA / Red Bull KTM GP 125 / KTM / 43’25.370 / 138.618 / 30.815
13 / Tomoyoshi KOYAMA / JPN / Malaguti Ajo Corse / MALAGUTI / 43’25.445 / 138.614 / 30.89
14 / Hector FAUBEL / SPA / Master – MVA Aspar Team / APRILIA / 43’26.005 / 138.584 / 31.45
15 / Sandro CORTESE / GER / Elit – Caffe Latte / HONDA / 43’26.427 / 138.562 / 31.872

Pole Position: Mika Mattia PASINI 1’44.515 143.979 Km/h
Fastest Lap (New record): Lap 24 Sergio GADEA 1’44.637 143.811 Km/h
Circuit Record Lap:
Circuit Best Lap:2006 Mattia PASINI 1’44.515 143.979 Km/h

World Championship Positions:
1 BAUTISTA 99,
2 KALLIO 78,
3 FAUBEL 56,
4 GADEA 54,
5 PASINI 49,
6 PESEK 39,
7 LUTHI 37,
8 CORSI 37,
9 SIMON 37,
10 TALMACSI 36,
11 NIETO 30,
12 LAI 29,
13 OLIVE 29,
14 KOYAMA 22,
15 RODRIGUEZ 20.

 

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