Andrea Dovizioso capitalised on Ducati’s preference for wet conditions to mount a podium challenge until the penultimate lap of a rain-hit French MotoGP race in Le Mans yesterday.
The Italian led for eight out of the opening 13 laps after an intense battle with eventual winner Dani Pedrosa and he only lost second position to hard charging British rider Cal Crutchlow with six laps remaining.
With a slippery surface quickly drying as conditions improved throughout the 28-lap encounter, Dovizioso was denied a first podium on board the Desmosedici when Marc Marquez snatched third on the penultimate lap.
After Valentino Rossi finished second in the wet on board the Ducati at Le Mans 12 months ago, it was no surprise to see fellow Italian Dovizioso mixing it close to the front given his reputation as one of the strongest in the rain on the MotoGP grid.
His confidence had already been boosted after he claimed a first front row start of 2013 on Saturday and the former world 125GP champion said: “I am so happy with the race.
To stay in front of everybody is always a good feeling and to stay first for half the race was really good and like we thought we had one positive point which is really good traction, especially at the beginning where it was difficult to get the feeling. Our level at the beginning was better compared to our competitors and I didn't expect that and when Dani passed me I saw he had a better pace but I could still do a good lap time. I saw many riders push and make a mistake because Le Mans in the wet is really tricky and there is no grip. Unfortunately the water didn't remain for the whole race and I lose too much from the rear tyre and at the end also the front.
Unfortunately I couldn’t get the podium but we have to be happy about our situation in the wet and with more water we could have been more competitive.”
Dovizioso said the advantage Pedrosa and Marquez had over the Ducati was more stability from the front-end.
He added: “Dani had less traction when he passed me but he was able to turn in every corner much faster than me, so he can brake really hard and turn faster.”
Dovizioso also explained the late pass made by rookie Marquez that denied him a morale-boosting podium and he added: “In that braking point I could feel he was so close but I was a little bit long so when I pick up the bike I couldn’t close the corner like him and he was on the dry line and I wasn’t. I couldn’t try and fight with him but I took two risks to go with him and almost crashed but he was faster. I couldn’t brake where he could and unfortunately we couldn’t get the podium but we have to be happy how we worked this weekend.”
For seven pages of coverage from the French MotoGP race, see the May 22 issue of Motor Cycle News.