Rossi grabs his chance for best Ducati result

Monday, May 21, 2012
Valentino Rossi's 176th grand prix podium was surely one of the most rewarding, or perhaps relieving.

The seven time MotoGP champion ended his longest podium drought in grand prix racing with his best result so far as a Ducati rider on Sunday, when he finished second to Jorge Lorenzo at a soaking wet Le Mans.

And he did it by passing old rival (and soon to be ex-rival) Casey Stoner on the very final lap.

Rossi's only previous Ducati podium came with third place at the same track one year ago, with the 16 races between filled with disappointments and false dawns.

The Doctor began the 2012 weekend with a best finish of just seventh place with the new GP12 Ducati, but the 1000cc machine and its aluminum frame mystifyingly retains the effective wet weather form of the previous 800cc carbon-fibre bike.

No-one is exactly sure why the Desmosedici is so much more competitive in the wet, but Rossi's priority was simply to grab the rare podium opportunity it presents with both hands.

“I want to race in places where it rains a lot!” joked Rossi, who set the fastest race lap. “No, I know in these conditions I have a special chance to try for the podium, so it is very important that I concentrate and ride to the maximum.”

Starting seventh on the grid, Rossi was into a rostrum place as early as lap 3 of 28, and right behind reigning world champion Stoner, but then had a problem with his visor.

“At the beginning everything was ok, I was behind Casey in a perfect position, but then I had fog in my visor. I lost two or three seconds and also Dovizioso and Crutchlow came back,” said Rossi.

“I opened the visor and when I started to see again I had a very good pace. I overtook the two Yamahas, but after Dovi and Cal came with me so I had to push to the maximum.”

Rossi eventually broke free from the Tech 3 riders - both of whom would fall - then began closing rapidly on Stoner during the final ten laps.

The last time the pair fought in the wet, at Jerez 2011, Rossi brought them both down - prompting the famous 'did you ambition outweigh your talent?' quip from Stoner.

That was just the latest in a serious of on and off-track clashes between the world champions, but the Le Mans battle was free from controversy.

If anything, Rossi gave Stoner a little too much room - his first two passing attempts were thwarted when Stoner sliced back past him on the exit - but Rossi finally made it stick into the first chicane on the final lap.

“At the end I also caught Casey. It was a great battle as always and I'm so happy to be here in second place, especially for Ducati, the team and all my guys. It is an important result,” said Rossi.

The 33-year-old confirmed at Le Mans that he intends to race for a further two seasons, while Stoner (26) made the shock announcement that he will retire at the end of this year.

Rossi and Stoner gave each other a 'thumbs up' on the cooling down lap. They have 14 more races together before going their separate ways.

Rossi has now almost doubled his 2012 points, from 22 to 42, and moves from eighth to sixth in the world championship.

"Today Vale was in a situation where he could ride as he's capable of doing, and he gave us a great show," said team manager Vittoriano Guareschi.

The first in a series of private Ducati tests at Mugello, to evaluate development parts, is due to begin before the next round in Catalunya.

"Now we must continue giving our all until we're also able to be competitive in the dry," declared Rossi. "We found a good base to work from in Portugal, and it wasn't bad in the dry here, either, although not as good as in the wet. Now our main goal is to take another step forward and make up some more tenths."

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