Casey Stoner at Le Mans Red Bull

Jorge Lorenzo stole the championship lead by dominating a soaking wet French Grand and finishing almost 10 seconds ahead of a thrilling late battle between Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner that went in favour of the Italian on the final lap.

It was Dani Pedrosa who leapt into the lead from his first pole position of the year but the Spaniard was never happy in the conditions and immediately came under pressure from fellow Red Bull Athlete Casey Stoner. In an incredibly brave move Lorenzo passed both of them before the end of lap one and just raced off into the distance.

Pedrosa was struggling and slipped back down the order as Stoner secured 2nd and attempted to keep Lorenzo in view. The conditions were just as treacherous as in the earlier Moto2 and Moto3 races with a fresh downpour just before the start of the MotoGP race.

There were plenty of fallers as there had been earlier in the day and they included the two Tech 3 riders Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso who had been battling with Rossi and, along with the ex World Champion, chasing Stoner.

Rossi's pace proved too much for both of them but after their individual crashes they both managed to restart with Dovizioso crossing the line 7th and Crutchlow 8th. Their errors put Pedrosa back in 4th and he had been forced to defend his position from MotoGP newcomer and Red Bull Athlete Stefan Bradl who did an excellent job to finish 5th.

As the rain eased and the standing water thinned on much of the circuit the pace increased. Stoner did manage to cut Lorenzo's lead slightly but once the Yamaha was advised of the situation he extended it once more. Soon Stoner had to be more concerned with what was happening behind and it was Rossi who was closing the gap.

With 7 to go and Rossi was visibly closing on Stoner, the gap cut to under 3 seconds while Lorenzo had over 6 seconds in hand at the front. At 5 to go the gap was down to 1.2 seconds but the reigning World Champion was not going to give up without a fight. Announcing his end-of-season retirement at the start of the weekend had not effected Stoner's competitiveness but thoughts of the long title race made it unwise to risk everything fighting over 3rd with Rossi. The Italian was thinking differently, looking for his best finish after a torrid time on the Ducati.

With 3 laps to go Rossi passed Stoner inside braking for the the 1st chicane, Stoner re-passed immediately. It was all on and going onto the final lap Rossi did the same thing again but this time did a better job of it and Stoner was not able to effect the immediate reply. Stoner kept his competitive spirit in check and accepted 3rd. He is now 8 points behind Lorenzo and 17 ahead of Pedrosa.


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