Lorenzo the Rain Master at Le Mans

Jorge Lorenzo who retook the championship lead with his performance in the rain

On a day that saw all three classes of the MotoGP World Championship come up against the worst weather condition seen so far this season at the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France in Le Mans, it was Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo who retook the championship lead as he dominated in tricky conditions. He finished ahead of Ducati Team’s Valentino Rossi, who recorded his and the Italian outfit’s best result since joining them last season.

At the start of the race it was however Repsol Honda Team’s Dani Pedrosa who got off to one of his trademark starts followed closely by teammate Casey Stoner. Their lead was short lived, as Lorenzo charged past the pair and instantly pulled out a gap. Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow also made a good start in fourth, followed by a surging Rossi in fifth.

It was heartache for the French fans from the beginning as Power Electronics Aspar’s local rider Randy de Puniet dropped his bike on the grid, and had to head out on his spare one. Near the front, Rossi soon moved past Crutchlow to take fourth, with Dovizioso following suit almost instantly. Avintia Blusens’ Iván Silva’s race was ended early as he fell foul of the wet conditions, crashing out of the race in the opening stages.

With Lorenzo building a three second lead, Stoner pushed past Pedrosa to chase down his championship rival. Pedrosa seemed to struggling on the wet surface, with Rossi capitalising on this to take third with 21 laps left. The Tech3 pair passed Pedrosa even further down the order as they looked to hunt down Rossi.

Towards the back, Lorenzo’s teammate Ben Spies was struggling and had a wobble at the end of turn two, shortly after which he entered the pits. Cardion AB Racing’s Karel Abraham retired with 17 laps to go, with NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s replacement rider Chris Vermeulen also having to come in for a helmet change.

As Lorenzo was maintaining his lead around the three-second mark ahead of Stoner, it was the ensuing tussle for third between Crutchlow, Dovizioso and Rossi that was providing some breath-taking overtaking in horrific conditions. Ten laps before the end it was misery for Crutchlow as he lost the front in the first chicane, leaving the two Italians to fight it out for the final podium spot, with Rossi taking third just two corners later. The Brit managed to restart his bike and re-join in eighth. Meanwhile, Lorenzo had extended his lead to six seconds at the front with Stoner a further four seconds ahead of Rossi.

With five laps to go Stoner was held up slightly by Avintia’s Yonny Hernandez, who was being lapped, allowing Rossi to get to within half a second of the Australian world champion. Two laps later, Dovizioso crashed out of fourth tying to stick with the pair, while down the field Came IodaRacing Project’s Danilo Petrucci crashed out of 11th.

Rossi had his best ever Ducati race

The last three laps gave MotoGP fans a racing delight, as old adversaries Stoner and Rossi swapped positions throughout. It was however Rossi who looked back to his old self as he passed Stoner in the first chicane on the last lap, after which he pulled out a lead big enough to secure second. “I’m really, really happy,” Rossi said. “We knew we had a special opportunity in the wet today, so I tried to ride perfectly and not throw it away. Now we must continue giving our all until we’re also able to be competitive in the dry. I started well and immediately made up some positions, and then I passed the two Yamahas to get behind Stoner. I was able to match his pace, but then my visor started to fog, and I had to slow down for a couple of laps until I was able to clear it by lifting it a little. Once I could see again, I re-passed Cal and then Dovi. When I realized that I could really push hard and that it was possible to catch Stoner again, I went for it. It was a great race and a nice, fun battle with Stoner to the last lap. I enjoyed myself and I’m happy for my team and all the guys at Ducati, who are working so hard for me. Now we must continue giving our all until we’re also able to be competitive in the dry.”

“I was pretty happy to hold on for a podium today,” said Stoner. “In the early stages Cal, Valentino and Dovi were behind me putting on a lot of pressure, but we managed to pull a small gap on them as I was chasing Jorge. Then as soon as the rain stopped and the track was less wet, our tire temperatures got too high, we started spinning and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I enjoyed the battle with Valentino at the end. There was clean overtaking and we swapped positions a few times, but in the end we knew that Valentino had better pace than us. And after he passed, there was no way I could stay with him.”

At the end it was Lorenzo who took the chequered flag to take an eight-point lead at the top of the championship ahead of Stoner, who came home in third. “It was really difficult to hold concentration today.” said Lorenzo. “In the dry, it’s complicated. But in the wet, it’s even more. The race feels much longer, and you have to remember where the corners are slippery every lap. If you forget one, you can crash very easily. I started the race determined to be in first position from the beginning and managed to keep my concentration even when Casey was catching me. It would have been easy to push a bit more and make a mistake at that moment, but I waited for a few more laps to see what happened then opened the gap again to win this fantastic race.”

Pedrosa managed fourth, while LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl recorded his best ever result in fifth, ahead or Rossi’s teammate Nicky Hayden. “There must have been something on the inside of the track just after the start because everybody that went on that side either crashed or almost did,” said the Kentuckian. “My jump was really good, and then just as I was ready to go to second gear, the tire completely broke loose and the bike started fishtailing. I got buried in the pack and couldn’t see for the first few laps. Once I got through some guys and had a clear track, my rhythm wasn’t too bad. I was bringing Bradl and Pedrosa back a bit, but when I got it down to two seconds, I almost crashed and had to try again. I got to Bradl’s wheel at the end but just couldn’t do anything.”

Dovizioso, who managed to re-join after crashing, finished seventh ahead of his teammate Crutchlow, while Pramac Racing’s Héctor Barberá and San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista completed the top ten. Texan Ben Spies finished waaaay back in 16th. “That was a rough race,” said Spies. “We actually got off to a good start at the beginning then had a very big moment on the line. Something happened because then I had quite a lot of water coming in through my helmet and couldn’t see much on the first five laps. I hoped it would get better, but I couldn’t see anything and decided to come in because I need to see where I am going. I knew the race was gone by then, so went back out to try and get some data and get better working with the bike in the rain. Circumstances meant it wasn’t a good day.”

77 James Ellison finished as top CRT bike

Paul Bird Motorsport’s James Ellison put in a great performance to finish as top CRT in 11th.

Tom Lüthi took Moto2

Interwetten-Paddock’s Tom Lüthi put in a tremendous ride to take his season-first victory at the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France in Le Mans amid difficult conditions in a dramatic Moto2 race.

Pons 40 HP Tuenti’s Pol Espargaró got the best start as he stormed into the lead along with Marc VDS Racing Team’s Scott Redding. The first chicane proved difficult as Came IodaRacing Project’s Simone Corsi was bucked off his bike, with the trio of NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Yuki Takahashi, GP Team Switzerland’s Randy Krummenacher and S/Master Speed Up’s Mike Di Meglio taking each other out a few corners later.

Espargaró was trying to pull away at the front, but Lüthi and Redding were closely on his heels, with Tech 3 Racing’s Bradley Smith and Federal Oil Gresini Moto2’s Gino Rea in tow. Takahashi’s teammate Alex de Angelis survived a scare as he slid back onto the track after coming off his bike, with the Moto2 pack doing tremendously well to avoid the rider.

Just as Rea looked to making headway, JiR Moto2’s Johann Zarco went up the inside, clipping the Brit’s front wheel, and sending him into the gravel, putting an end to his first race on the new Suter chassis. Meanwhile, Italtrans Racing Team’s Claudio Corti joined the front five, with Speed Master compatriot Andrea Iannone surging up the field as well.

With 17 laps to go, Espargaró ran wide, handing the lead to Lüthi and dropping into ninth in the process. Smith also had a run off track, but managed to re-join in 14th. Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol’s Marc Márquez, who did not have a terrific start, was fighting his way up to the front five, as he tussled with rain-specialist Zarco.

Drama followed shortly after as the Spanish championship leader went down after loosing control of his bike, and being unable to re-join. This left Zarco to challenge for a podium, and the Frenchman soon pushed past Redding into second, followed by Corti, who put in a bold move on the Brit. With 13 laps to go, Lüthi had pulled out a lead of just over three seconds.

Arguiñano Racing Team’s Ricard Cardús suffered a heavy high-side half way through the race, yet fortunately walked away unscathed. Further down the field, Espargaró was struggling to make up positions, as he was overtaken in eighth place by QMMF Racing Team’s Anthony West, who was showing his usual prowess in the rain.

Di Meglio, who had re-joined the race after his early crash, lost control of his bike once again with nine laps to go, putting an end to his race. He was followed shortly by Corti’s teammate Takaaki Nakagami who had a high-speed crash heading into the back chicane. With six laps left, Zarco had cut the lead to Lüthi to under a second, whilst West went past Blusens Avintia’s Julián Simón into sixth. West’s teammate Elena Rosell was not faring as well as the Australian, as she crashed out of the race.

French heartache soon followed, as Zarco lost the back-end of his bike as he continued to push hard in the wet, handing second place to Corti and third to Redding. The main tussle in the pack was for sixth place with Redding’s teammate Kallio, West, Espargaró, Simón and Smith swapping positions in the final few laps. The unpredictability of the race was to continue until the final corner as Smith dropped his bike in the last turn, and Simón having to push his bike across the finish line due to an electrical fault.

It was however Lüthi who put in a stunning ride to take the chequered flag ahead of Corti, who recorded his first ever podium, and Redding in third, recording his first podium for 22 races. Rounding out the top ten were Iannone, Kallio, Espargaró, West, Kiefer Racing’s Max Neukirchner, Thai Honda Gresini’s Ratthapark Wilairot as well as Smith, who managed to salvage a few points.

Frenchman Louis Rossi took his first ever win in front of his home crowd

In the Moto3 race of the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France in Le Mans, it was Frenchman Louis Rossi who kept his nerve to take his first ever win in treacherous conditions in front of his home crowd.

In a race that started in extremely wet conditions, it was Blusens Avintia’s Maverick Viñales who got away best, with AirAsia-SIC-Ajo’s Zulfahmi Khairuddin also making a tremendous start from 10th into second. JHK T-Shirt Laglisse’s Efrén Vázquez, who was second on the grid, suffered mechanical issues on the out-lap and was unable to start the race.

There were crashes early on as RW Racing GP’s Brad Binder took out TT Motion Events Racing’s Niklas Ajo, which was followed up shortly after with IodaRacing Project’s Jonas Folger and local rider, Caretta Technology’s Alexis Masbou, sliding off into the gravel.

Back at the front it was Bankia Aspar Team’s Héctor Faubel and RW Racing GP’s Luis Salom that went into the lead, as Viñales dropped off the pace slightly. However the conditions continued to take their toll, as Team Italia FMI’s Romano Fenati suffered a similar fate to last race as he also lost control of his bike, putting an end to his first French race. Technomag-CIP-TSR’s Kenta Fujii repeated his morning warm-up crash, rounding out a less than ideal day for the Japanese rider.

With 18 laps to go, a five-some of Faubel, Salom, Redox-Ongetta-Centro Seta’s Jakub Kornfeil, Estrella Galicia 0,0’s Miguel Oliveira and Viñales were involved in an entertaining battle for podium positions. In the following laps, further casualties of the weather were Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Danny Kent, Mahindra Racing’s Danny Webb, Ambrogio Next Racing’s Simone Grotzkyj and Caretta Technology’s Jack Miller, while Fenati’s teammate Alessandro Tonucci had to retire to the pits with a mechanical problem.

With 11 laps to go there was drama at the front as Faubel crashed out of first position, with Kornfeil crashing out of third a few seconds later, handing the first three places to Oliveira, Viñales and Rossi. Half a lap later, Salom followed suit as he slid off into the gravel in ever worsening conditions.

As a thrilling fight for fourth ensued between Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Sandro Cortese and Khairuddin, there was further turmoil at the front, as the surging Oliveira crashed out of the lead, handing the reigns to Viñales, who was being hunted down by Rossi.

This lasted for a lap only, as Viñales threw himself of his bike in the final corner, followed shortly by Khairuddin. The Malaysian managed to keep his bike going, while the race was over for the Spaniard. This left Frenchman Rossi in the lead by over 20 seconds, much to the delight of the home crowd, with Cortese and Bankia Aspar’s Alberto Moncayo in podium positions. Three laps before the end Cortese lost the front going into the first chicane, yet managed to keep the bike going to re-join in sixth, with Oliveira’s teammate Alex Rins slipping into third with San Carlo Gresini Moto3’s Niccolo Antonelli on his tail.

In the end it was Rossi who made the Le Mans grandstands cheer with delight as he took his first ever victory by a margin of 28 seconds in front of Moncayo and Rins. Antonelli could not quite challenge for the podium finishing fourth, in front of Red Bull KTM Ajo duo of Arthur Sissis and Cortese and Moto FGR’s Jasper Iwema.


Pedrosa on Pole at Le Mans

Dani Pedrosa hikes the wheel at Le Sarthe

The Monster Energy Grand Prix de France in Le Mans provided spectators with three gripping qualifying session where riders once again battled each other, as well as the elements. In the MotoGP class, it was Repsol Honda Team’s Dani Pedrosa who took his first pole position of the season ahead of teammate Casey Stoner.

Lame duck champ Stoner is second

Having started in the wet, the session dried out with 30 minutes to go, leaving Pedrosa to post a time of 1.33’638 to snatch pole, and record his fourth ever MotoGP Le Mans pole position. Stoner, who had been the pace setter until the final session had his first crash of the season in the day’s morning practice, yet walked away unscathed.

Andrea Dovizioso

Completing the front row is Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Andrea Dovizioso, who also achieved his best grid position of the season so far in third. Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo heads the second row in fourth after being held up in traffic on his final hot lap. Behind him in fifth is Dovizioso’s teammate Cal Crutchlow, who had been the early pace setter in the session, yet couldn’t quite match the Italian’s speed. Sixth place is occupied by Lorenzo’s teammate Ben Spies, who will be looking to take this form into tomorrow’s race and fight for a podium.

The third row is headed by Valentino Rossi in seventh, his best grid position so far this year, who qualified as top Ducati after lapping consistently quick ahead of San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista. Bautista, who had been in the top five for most of the practice sessions, crashed out in the last minute of qualifying on his final attempt. Pramac Racing Team’s Héctor Barberá sits in ninth, ahead of other satellite Ducati rider Karel Abraham on-board his Cardion AB Racing machine.

Power Electronics Aspar’s French rider Randy de Puniet finished top CRT in 12th, much to the delight of the home fans.

LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl crashed half way through the session, after being one of the first riders to head out on slicks on the drying track. Iván Silva saved a near low-side early on, before taking an excursion into the gravel towards the end, while De Puniet’s teammate Aleix Espargaró’s misery continued this weekend as he had to return to the pits with bike issues.

Marky Marc Márquez

Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol’s championship leader Marc Márquez claimed Moto2 pole position at the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France despite a crash early in the session.

The Spaniard recorded his third consecutive pole position with a best lap of 1.37’710, overcoming an early scare, as he lost the front end with 25 minutes to go. He was able to return to the pits and head back out on track shortly after.

The Moto2 grid was lucky with the weather and riders were able to run in dry conditions almost right up to the chequered flag, where Interwetten-Paddock’s Tom Lüthi managed to sneak into second place ahead of Pons 40 HP Tuenti’s Pol Espargaró.

Marc VDS Racing Team’s Scott Redding heads the second row, after failing to improve on his time due to a crash on the final quick lap. He starts ahead of Speed Master’s Andrea Iannone, who was pushing hard until the very end, despite some spots of rain appearing on his last run. Sixth place went to Redding’s teammate Mika Kallio, who was just over two-tenths off the Brit.

NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Alex de Angelis starts from seventh, ahead of JiR Moto2’s local favourite Johann Zarco, who put in a strong performance in front of his home crowd. Italtrans Racing Team’s Claudio Corti continued his good form from this morning as he finished ninth, with Mapfre Aspar Team’s Toni Elías rounding out the top ten.

Apart from Márquez and Redding, there were further crashes for S/Master Speed Up’s Mike Di Meglio and Tech 3 Racing’s Xavier Simeon. Simeon sustained multiple fractures in his left hand, a fracture in his left foot, and has been taken to hospital to check on potential pelvis trauma.

Maverick Viñales

In wet conditions at the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France in Le Mans it was Blusens Avintia’s Maverick Viñales who held his nerve to take Moto3 pole position ahead of Efrén Vázquez.

After having had nothing but dry time at the French circuit, the Moto3 contingent struggled with the changed conditions, as many riders fell chasing grid positions.

It was however Viñales who put in a rain master-class as he took his first pole position of the season with a time of 1.55’865, ahead of Efrén Vázquez, who also achieved his first front row start of the year, even though he was almost a second behind his compatriot. The front row is completed by Estrella Galicia 0,0’s Miguel Oliveira, who set his time half way through the session, before crashing, and being unable to challenge at the end.

It was a great outing for Redox-Ongetta-Centro Seta’s Jakub Kornfeil, who heads up the front row, just in front of Caretta Technology’s local favourite Alexis Masbou. Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Sandro Cortese rounds out the second row on the grid, after the current championship leader crashed early on, and only had the last 10 minutes to post a competitive time.

Seventh and eighth spot are occupied by Bankia Aspar Team pair Alberto Moncayo and Héctor Faubel, with RW Racing GP’s Luis Salom in ninth. AirAsia-SIC-Ajo’s Zulfahmi Khairuddin rounds out the top ten.

Riders that fell throughout the session included JHK T-Shirt Laglisse’s Adrian Martín, who fell on two occasions, Mahindra Racing’s Danny Webb, Andalucia JHK Laglisse’s Ivan Moreno, RW Racing GP’s Brad Binder, Oliveira’s teammate Alex Rins, Thomas Sabo GP Team’s Kevin Hanus, Caretta Technology’s Jack Miller, Cresto Guide MZ Racing’s Toni Finsterbusch, Mahindra’s Marcel Schrotter, and San Carlo Gresini Moto3’s Niccolo Antonelli.

Rins sustained a fractured finger in his right hand, while Finsterbusch has fractured his right collarbone. Rins’ ability to race tomorrow is being assessed, while the German has been declared unfit.

Criticism Intolerant Stoner leads practice

Following a two week break, the MotoGP world championship was back once again at the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France at the historic track of Le Mans, where Repsol Honda Team’s Casey Stoner laid down the marker for this weekend after setting the fastest time of the day in the second MotoGP practice session.

Set in dry conditions, a lap of 1.33’740 placed him just over two tenths ahead of his teammate Dani Pedrosa in second, who has performed solidly all weekend. Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo completed the top three as he continued to hunt down the Hondas, which have dominated all day.

Jorge Lorenzo

In fourth, San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista was having a tremendous outing, as he continues to improve on-board his satellite machine, just under seven-tenths off Stoner at the front. Lorenzo’s teammate Ben Spies set the fifth quickest time of the day, as he looks to get his championship back on track after some difficult first rounds.

Sixth place was occupied by Monster Yamaha Tech3’s Andrea Dovizioso, who continued where he left off at Estoril, by beating his teammate Cal Crutchlow, who finished seventh. Both riders will be looking for strong performances this weekend at the team’s home Grand Prix, especially after both have made very promising starts to the season.

In eighth, Pramac Racing Team’s Héctor Barberá was in impressive form as he finished top Ducati, ahead of Ducati Team duo Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden. Rossi, who announced yesterday that he will continue racing for at least another two years, finished just under 1.5s off the top.

Randy de Puniet

Top CRT honour went to local favourite Randy de Puniet, who put in a good performance in 13th, despite still suffering back-pain from his crash at Estoril. NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s replacement for Colin Edwards, 2007 Le Mans race-winner Chris Vermeulen, finished in last place, as he was getting used to the Suter-BMW machine.

Came IodaRacing Project’s Danilo Petrucci had a day to forget, as he suffered a serious engine failure early in the second session. It was misery as well for Speed Master’s Mattia Pasini as he dropped his bike in the gravel after running wide, while in the final few minutes of the afternoon, Aspar’s Aleix Espargaró had his second crash of the day as lost the front of his ART machine. San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Michele Pirro was the only other rider to crash in the morning session, after coming off in Museum corner.

Scott Redding is fast in Moto2

Marc VDS Racing Team’s Scott Redding topped the Moto2 timesheets on the first day at the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France in Le Mans ahead of Interwetten-Paddock’s Tom Lüthi.

Redding set the tone for this weekend’s racing at the historic French track by positing the fastest time of 1.37’869, just under one tenths ahead of Lüthi. Third place went to Came IodaRacing Project’s Simone Corsi, who has been resurgent all day after being somewhat under the radar for the first part of the season.

Redding’s teammate Mika Kallio took fourth spot just half a second down, while fifth place went to Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol’s championship leader Marc Marquez, who could not quite match the afternoon pace. Behind him, Pons 40 HP Tuenti’s Pol Espargaró was close on his heels, no doubt preparing for yet another close battle between the pair.

Speed Master’s Andrea Iannone was seventh fastest, in front of Blusens Avintia’s Julián Simón, who is slowly improving on his Suter chassis. Completing the top ten were Technomag-CIP’s Dominique Aegerter, who had a solid day, as well as GP Team Switzerland’s Randy Krummenacher.

There were incidents early-on in the afternoon, as JiR Moto2´s local favourite Johann Zarco and Kiefer Racing’s Max Neukirchner pushed each other into the gravel. Both managed to re-join the session later on, yet Neukirchner suffered another fall with just a few minutes left in the session. There were also crashes for both of Espargaró’s teammates Axel Pons and Esteve Rabat, while Tech 3 Racing’s Bradley Smith crashed out of the morning session. None of the riders were injured in the incidents.

Blusens Avintia’s Maverick Viñales ended the first day of the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France at the top of the combined Moto3 timesheets in front of compatriot Luis Salom.

Viñales was the pace setter all day, and posted the fastest time of 1.44’141 in the afternoon session, with RW Racing GP’s Salom a full six tenths behind in second. Third spot was occupied by Racing Team Germany’s local rider Louis Rossi, who gave his home crowd something to cheer about.

The fourth fastest time was set by Estrella Galicia 0,0’s Miguel Oliveira, who could not match his second position from the morning practice, ahead of Team Italia FMI’s Romano Fenati, who is doing well at his first ever outing at the French track. In Sixth, Oliveira’s teammate Alex Rins had a good day, finishing just over a second off the front.

JHK T-Shirt Laglisse’s Efrén Vazquez was seventh after a solid performance, ousting AirAsia-SIC-Ajo’s Zulfahmi Khairuddin into eighth. The top ten was completed by Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Sandro Cortese and Redox-Ongetta-Centro Seta’s Jakub Kornfeil. Championship leading Cortese had a difficult second session after suffering a mechanical failure 17 minutes before the end, with his best time coming from the morning practice. JHK’s Adrian Martín fared even worse as he crashed out of the second session with three minutes remaining, yet walked away unhurt.

WTF? 26 year old Stoner retires

What goes on in the mind of Casey Stoner?

At Thursday’s pre-event press conference at the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France in Le Mans, drama queen Casey Stoner surprised the racing world by announcing his retirement at the end of the 2012 MotoGP season. At the same time, Valentino Rossi confirmed he will be continuing in the sport for at least another two years.

“After a long time thinking, a lot of time talking with my family and my wife, this has been coming for a couple of years now but at the end of this 2012 season I will be not racing in the 2013 Championship,” said the 26 year-old, multi-time champion Stoner, who apparently began contemplating retirement shortly after his first day on the job…maybe during that mystery illness a while back. “I will be finishing my career at the end of this season in MotoGP, and go forward in different things in my life. After so many years of doing this sport which I love, and which myself and my family made so many sacrifices for, after so many years of trying to get to where we have gotten to at this point, this sport has changed a lot and it has changed to the point where I am not enjoying it.”

WTF is he talking about? “There are a lot of things that have disappointed me, and also a lot of things I have loved about this sport, but unfortunately the balance has gone in the wrong direction. And so, basically, we won’t be continuing any more. It would be nice if I could say I would stay one more year, but then where does it stop? So we decided to finish everything as we are now.”

Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo, who lies just one point behind the reigning world champion and seems to enjoy his chosen line of work, was shocked by the Australian’s announcement. “It’s a surprise for me, for everyone,” said 2010 champ Lorenzo. “I didn’t expect it. I heard the rumors and I thought there was a possibility, but I thought he would continue next year. Now he has told us, it’s not good news for MotoGP I think, but his decision is to live quietly with his family and we must respect his decision.”

Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow saw the lighter side of Stoner’s bombshell. “With Casey making that announcement, maybe he can slow down and let me have a place in the top three. They don’t make many mistakes. Maybe they need to change what they have for dinner the night before or something.”

Valentino Rossi

Valentino Rossi, who obviously loves his job even in challenging circumstances, announced he would continue racing a further two years past 2012, yet not before commenting on Stoner. “Yes, it’s a big surprise. I think it’s bad news for all the MotoGP world because at the end of the season maybe we’re losing one of the great riders and a great rival. Is negative, but it’s his own decision. For me it’s very difficult to understand where my retirement news started from, as I never spoke about my retirement. I want to race in MotoGP for the next two years for sure.”

Le Mans was Rossi’s only podium with Ducati last year, which he is taking confidence from. “I have had some bad results in Le Mans, but also good memories from the past. We had a not so bad weekend in Portugal and we’ll try and continue on that way and try to improve our performance to try and get closer to the guys in front of us. Last year was the best result with the Ducati, so we are optimistic.”

And following a race to forget at Le Mans last year for the Monster Yamaha team, Crutchlow is looking to carry his good form this season into this round. “I’m looking forward to it, yet it can always throw a few things with the weather. I think we’ve had some not so bad performances this year, although Estoril was disappointing. We really struggled a little bit with the set-up, and maybe a little bit with myself. But hopefully we can get on with it this weekend at Le Mans.”

Lorenzo will be looking to snatch back the lead from lame duck Stoner in the championship this Sunday at a track (and job) he really enjoys. “Le Mans is one of my favorite tracks. Since my first ever-front row in 2003 I have always had good results, so I’m happy to be here.” And in racing.

As for his race in Le Mans, Stoner hopes to resolve the chatter issues (with the Honda, not in the internet forums…) which have plagued him throughout the season so far. “The last two races we’ve struggled a little bit with chatter, especially the last two, and it’s something we want to really reduce so we have to work hard here.” Stoner won the 2011 Red Bull Indianapolis GP at IMS en route to the championship. He leads the 2012 World Championship by one point over 2010 World Champion Lorenzo, 66-65, entering the Grand Prix of France this weekend at Le Mans.

“Le Mans is a very important race for me, even if this year I don’t have the bike to be at the top,” said local hero Randy de Puniet. “But top CRT. I think for the CRTs it will be a difficult track because you have two or three big accelerations, like on the back straight, but you never know what happens with the weather conditions. I hope to be 100% on the bike after my crash at Estoril, because I still have a lot of pain in my ribs. I really hope to be the first CRT this weekend in front of my home crowd.”

courtesy of MotoGP

2012 Jerez test

2012 Sepang test