MIXED BAG OF LE MANS MO­TOGP IN­SIDE STORY

Rossi crashes out on last lap of race he should have won, sur­ren­der­ing se­ries lead

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - By Si­mon Pat­ter­son MO­TOGP REPORTER

An ut­terly heart­bro­ken Valentino Rossi crashed out of the French Grand Prix, and out of the lead of the 2017 Mo­togp cham­pi­onship, after lock­ing horns with team-mate and main ri­val Mav­er­ick Viñales in the fi­nal stages of Sun­day’s Le Mans race.

Rossi’s chances of ex­tend­ing his ti­tle lead were destroyed, de­spite rid­ing a race that he de­scribed as al­most perfect up un­til the fate­ful fi­nal lap, when a se­ries of er­rors cost him a much-needed vic­tory.

Rossi had made a steady start in the race from third, pick­ing his way past first Jo­hann Zarco and then his team-mate with al­most- clin­i­cal pre­ci­sion and it looked like he had timed his run to the front to per­fec­tion. But, run­ning wide at turn six he gifted Viñales the chance to fight back – and then pushed too hard in his bid to re­claim the lead.

“I re­ally felt the pain of the crash,” ex­plained an emo­tional Rossi. “It was the perfect race un­til that point. I was very strong and I thought I was five cor­ners from vic­tory – un­til I made a mis­take at the cru­cial mo­ment.

“I made a mis­take in turn six and let Mav­er­ick over­take, but I knew I had an­other chance be­cause I was still very close. I tried to re­main there, but I don’t un­der­stand what hap­pened in the crash. But I ac­cept that when you crash it’s be­cause you make a mis­take. It’s a great shame when you go home with no points, and I’m sorry not only to lose the win but also the cham­pi­onship lead.”

It’s the first time Rossi has crashed on the last lap of a Grand Prix since Mugello in 2001 and his Le Mans DNF was made even worse by not fully un­der­stand­ing the cause. But de­spite los­ing the rear, he was quick after the race to put his hands up and ac­cept that the blame lay solely with him­self.

“In turn six, I ar­rived maybe a kilo­me­tre faster, but it was enough and I ran wide. And that was the big mis­take, be­cause the crash was a con­se­quence of that. We looked at all the data, but there’s noth­ing there. Some­thing hap­pened, but for sure it was some­thing that I did wrong.”

How­ever, while the week­end ended in heart­break for the nine-time world cham­pion, Rossi came away with a glim­mer of hope, after his strong­est week­end of the sea­son so far. Run­ning at the front and tak­ing a strong front row po­si­tion in qual­i­fy­ing, he’s hop­ing to build on his strong French per­for­mance for his home race next time out in Mugello.

“I was strong, and now we have to see in the next race track. But I’ve never rid­den like I did this week­end, so we hope to con­tinue with this speed.”

New chas­sis is work­ing

An­other pos­i­tive for Rossi from the week­end was how he fi­nally man­aged to reap the ben­e­fits of the new M1 chas­sis – some­thing he’s been strug­gling with all sea­son.

Built as an im­prove­ment on last year’s chas­sis and de­signed to de­liver bet­ter tyre life in the sec­ond half of races, that’s exactly what it de­liv­ered to Rossi and team-mate Viñales en route to breaking the lap record mul­ti­ple times in the clos­ing stages of the race.

“In the mid­dle part of the race I was in a bit of trou­ble with the front, with quite a lot of move­ment. I tried to re­lax and not make too much trou­ble for my­self, be­cause the more tem­per­a­ture I had the less I felt.

“But in the last few laps some­thing changed and the bal­ance of the bike came much bet­ter. It al­lowed me to be much faster – the first time I made a 32.6 lap I thought ‘wow!’ From there on I rode well and had the po­ten­tial to fight with Mav­er­ick.”

‘I’m sorry not only to lose the win, but also the cham­pi­onship lead’ VALENTINO ROSSI ‘Some­thing hap­pened, but for sure it was some­thing I did’ VALENTINO ROSSI

G O L D A N D G O S E

From ec­stasy to agony, Rossi’s Le Mans goes sour

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