Casey Stoner lost the lead in the MotoGP world championship in Le Mans after temperature issues with his wet weather Bridgestone tyres left him in third position.
The Aussie, who announced he will retire from racing at the end of 2012 on the eve of the French Grand Prix, was unable to hold off a hard charging Valentino Rossi on the final lap of an exciting 28-lap race.
With Yamaha rival Jorge Lorenzo romping to an impressive win in difficult conditions, Stoner now trails the Spaniard by eight points heading to next month’s fifth round at the Catalunya track near Barcelona.
The 26-year-old’s tyre temperature problems were a handicap at the start and end of the race, which took place in front of a crowd of over 80,000 fans.
He told MCN: “At the beginning of the race I was just trying to stay up. I couldn't get temperature in the rear tyre when there was more standing water on the track.
"As I got the tyre warmed up and lost a bit of the pressure from behind I was able to catch Jorge and then unfortunately the rain stopped and the level of water went away and as soon as that happened we got too much temperature.
"As soon as that happened we lost all grip on the rear. We noticed in the warm-up that our rear tyre didn’t really warm-up. I did two sighting laps before the grid to try and get some temperature into it to scrub the tyre but it didn’t seem to work too well.
"At the start myself and Dani (Pedrosa) seemed to be suffering with the same problem. We were struggling to exit the corner with no edge grip on the side. The edge grip was by far the worst, especially on the left side. As soon as I tipped in it wanted to come around.
"Any left corner as soon I cracked the throttle it was a problem but at the end of the race with temperature in the tyre it was the same both sides. As soon as we went into the turn the rear wanted to come round and if you gathered it in and touched the throttle it would go again.
"That was for a long time and by that time Jorge had opened up a huge gap with lap times I couldn’t match.
"I started to have a lot of pressure from behind from Valentino and didn’t really know what to do. Each time I pushed the rear would step out of line and it was too much of a risk.
"We kept going at the pace we had and the tyres seemed to come better with a bit more rain. I decided to try and catch Jorge, even though it was a long shot and we were taking chunks out of him.
"Unfortunately the rain stopped and the track dried out a lot and our tyre temperature just went up way too high. We had no grip and I was going into corners with the rear coming round on me and it was a bit scary.
"To come home third and have a nice battle with Valentino and get some points was a good day for us when it had looked pretty bleak.”
For more coverage of Stoner’s shock retirement in Le Mans, including an exclusive interview with the Aussie, see the May 23 issue of MCN