After two days of dry track conditions the rain finally showed up at Le Mans, soaking the circuit just in time for the MotoGP race. Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa crossed the finish line with the win earning his first career GP victory at Le Mans and second-straight of the current season. Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow put in a stellar performance and netted the best GP finish yet of his career in second while Pedrosa’s teammate, Marc Marquez, provided fans with a remarkable come-from-behind charge to round out the podium.
Starting from the front row for the first time this year, Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso made the most of his position, throttling hard off the start to assume the lead through the opening laps. Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo found his way to second-place and was followed by Pedrosa while Loreno’s teammate, Valentino Rossi, kept close in fourth after passing LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl at the end of Lap 1. The lead pack was extremely tight though, nearly tire-to-tire, and the shuffle that ensued was unlike any seen yet this year.
Pedrosa found his way past Lorenzo after two laps, and then set his sights on Dovi out front. Over the next 14 laps the two swapped positions multiple times, maintaining a back-and-forth battle that saw the two push each other to the limits of control on the slick track. Pedrosa ran wide a few times in the early portion of the race, allowing Dovi to regain the front just when it appeared the Repsol rider was starting to build a gap. Mid-race however, as conditions started to improve slightly, Pedrosa found a steady rhythm and the big mistakes stopped, allowing the Spaniard to put a buffer between himself and the field.
“I've been trying to win at this circuit for many years in MotoGP and it has always been a tough track for me,” said Pedrosa. “Today, the moment finally arrived, when I least expected it, and it is immensely satisfying. Conditions here are usually against me, because it is cold and I don't like riding in these temperatures, but today I got the best out of myself. The bike was also good, above all on the opening laps when the track was very wet. I made a few mistakes but I was able to recover from them, maintain the advantage and win the race."
Behind the two front-runners, Lorenzo, Rossi, Dovi’s teammate Nicky Hayden and Crutchlow became bunched up in a dynamic pack battling for the podium. After eight laps, Rossi made his way past Lorenzo into third followed soon after by Crutchlow, who was one of the fastest riders on track through the first half of the race. Lorenzo struggled the entire day, ultimately losing position to Hayden as well as Bradl, Marquez and Go & Fun Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista.
"I was losing a lot in some areas of the track but recovering in others," said Lorenzo of the early portion of the race. "Then after three or four laps the bike got worse and I got problems everywhere. In the braking because in the middle of the corner I didn't trust the rear tire and in acceleration because the rear was spinning so much I lost nearly half a second compared to the others. Races are like this sometimes; last year I won by 20 seconds with a very good bike and this year was completely the opposite. I couldn't do much more without crashing.”
Rossi maintained in third until mid-race despite heavy pressure from Crutchlow. The British rider eventually found his line and made the pass on Rossi with 15 laps remaining. The Doctor was also posting some of the fastest lap times and would likely have remained in contention for podium position had he not lost traction a few laps later and slid into the gravel. He was able to remount and get back in the race, but settled into 12th-place where he would hold to the checkers.
Cruchlow then focused in on Dovi, pursuing his former teammate through the following laps until, with five remaining in competition, he made the pass for second.
Marquez, meanwhile, was working his way back after a cautious start that left him in eighth through the opening laps. It was the rookie’s first GP race in the wet and in the early laps he had some close calls, running wide and almost going off track a few times. As the young Spaniard grew more comfortable, his lap times dropped and he mounted a charge on the field. Serendipity had it that Marquez’s first pass to move into seventh was made on Lorenzo, who by that time had fallen well off the pace of the leaders. The two went back and forth for a brief period, but Marquez was markedly stronger in this event and he was soon gunning for Bradl in sixth.
Bradl, though, ran into his own trouble when he low-sided his bike and slid off track. Like Rossi, whose accident came just after the Honda pilot’s, he was able to remount and reenter the race, but his accident allowed Marquez to easily slip into fifth and begin pressuring Hayden for fourth.
With seven laps remaining, Marquez nipped Hayden as well. Dovi was still a few seconds ahead, but Marquez made short work of closing the gap and with two laps remaining made his way into podium position past the Ducati rider.
Pedrosa moved ahead of his teammate to take the overall championship lead. Marquez is six points back and Lorenzo remains in third, though he lost some significant ground with his seventh-place finish at Le Man and now sits 17 points off the lead. Crutchlow jumped past Rossi into fourth-place and Dovizioso gained a point on Bautista to move into sixth.
MotoGP Le Mans Results 2013:
1. Dani Pedrosa (Honda)
2. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha)
3. Marc Marquez (Honda)
4. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati)
5. Nicky Hayden (Ducati)
6. Alvaro Bautista (Honda)
7. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha)
8. Michele Pirro (Ducati)
9. Bradley Smith (Yamaha)
10. Stefan Bradl (Honda)
11. Andrea Iannone (Ducati)
12. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)
13. Aleix Espargaro (ART)
14. Danilo Petrucci (Ioda-Suter)
15. Karel Abraham (ART)
16. Colin Edwards (FTR-Kawasaki)
17. Michael Laverty (PBM)
18. Hector Barbera (FTR)
19. Hiroshi Aoyama (FTR)
MotoGP Championship Points 2013:
1. Dani Pedrosa, 83
2. Marc Marquez, 77
3. Jorge Lorenzo, 66
4. Cal Crutchlow, 55
5. Valentino Rossi, 47
6. Andrea Dovizioso, 39
7. Alvaro Bautista, 38
8. Nicky Hayden, 35
9. Aleix Espargaro, 20
10. Andrea Iannone, 18