MIXED BAG OF LE MANS MOTOGP INSIDE STORY
Rossi crashes out on last lap of race he should have won, surrendering series lead
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
From ecstasy to agony, Rossi’s Le Mans goes sour