Repsol Honda rider, Dani Pedrosa was just riding along, minding his own business when all of a sudden with just three corners to go, he inherited a podium finish at the HJC Helmets Grand Prix de France at the Le Mans Bugati Circuit.
Preparations for the race were tough for Pedrosa
The build up to the race had been tough for the Honda rider as mixed conditions completely stirred things up; for everyone. After Free Practice 1 he was 13th on the timesheets, dropped to 21st during Free Practice 2 but on combined times at the end of the day finished 14th as rain meant that not many improved.
Dry conditions for the important Free Practice 3 saw him finish 22nd meaning he had his work cut out during Qualifying. Not much had changed by the end of Free Practice 4 as he still found himself down in 21st.
Come the first Qualifying session, as his FP3 result meant he had to battle it out for the top two spots to be in with a chance of progressing through to Qualifying 2 for a potential position on the front four rows of the grid, although he improved significantly, he was beaten to the top two spots by 0.048 seconds and so had to settle for 13th on the grid as Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and French rookie, Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech3) finished ahead of him.
There is no doubting the Spaniard’s capabilities
Starting from the front of the fifth row meant that Pedrosa certainly had his work cut out for him. However, the Spaniard, who won the previous round in Jerez, proved why he is a factory Honda rider as he cool and calmly progressed through the ranks after a great start as he gained six places, and worked towards gaining further.
When things settled down after the opening laps he was in seventh behind Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) who were in sixth and fifth respectively. The two battled on track ahead of him allowing him to stay in touch. Then, aggressively within one lap, Pedrosa first bypassed Dovizioso and then stuck his factory Honda up the inside of Crutchlow on a right hand turn, budged the Brit out the way and continued in in fourth bringing Dovizioso through with him.
Crashes ahead meant Pedrosa finished third in Le Mans
Pedrosa focused on what was ahead of him rather than what was left behind him, and the clear track meant he continued with his strong momentum and was able to focus on catching rookie Zarco who lay ahead as his teammate, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) crashed out ahead of him.
Ahead of Zarco, Movistar Yamaha teammates Maverick Vinales and Valentino Rossi were battling it out for the lead as both had the potential to claim Yamaha’s 500th Grand Prix victory, and 25 points with the victory in Le Mans. Both made mistakes and ran wide, and then with three corners of the race to go, Rossi crashed out.
Pedrosa witnessed this and rode straight passed. Rossi’s result meant that he was on the podium; he finished the HJC Helmets Grand Prix de France in third after starting from 13th on the grid…. Amazing!
Collecting 16 points in Le Mans means that Pedrosa is now second in the championship. Vinales won, and his 25 points leaves him on top with 85 points. Pedrosa is 17 points behind, and not only was he able to close the eight point gap between he and Rossi, he gained himself a six point cushion as well. Pedrosa is second with 68 points while Rossi is now down in third with 62 points.
Pedrosa super happy with the outcome in Le Mans
The Spaniard was left feeling “super happy about this podium” as he headed into the race aware “it would be quite tough to manage the race well, starting from the fifth row on the grid”. He admitted that the “thought of getting through that first chicane at the back of the pack meant a lot of pressure”.
He also revealed that he found it a “demanding mental exercise to try and be fast but not crash” and his plan was to remain “aggressive but calm”. However, in the end he “got a good start” and found that he “entered the first corner quite well” and that he “quickly settled into a good rhythm”.
The Spaniard discusses the incident with Crutchlow
He then discussed how he “recovered some positions” and also how he “touched Cal along the way”. The great sportsman as he has more than proved to be in the past said he was “sorry for that but really it wasn’t intentional”.
Explaining the incident he said how he “had just moved past Dovi and wasn’t going to pass Cal in that corner” but then he found that Crutchlow “made a little mistake and opened the line slightly” and so he went and “got through on the inside” which is when they touched. He said, “I’m happy nothing really happened there.”
Pedrosa chose points over places
Pedrosa explained that “after Marc crashed” that he “kept pushing” but knew he was “two seconds behind the Yamahas”. This is when he revealed he was “starting to feel some chattering” and so he “decided to stay calm” as he “didn’t want to make a mistake”.
He felt that they had both “a good race and a very good result for the championship”. He still thought that it was “a shame that this weekend [they] couldn’t do well in qualifying” however he thinks that they “working with the team very well” and that the “feeling with the bike is improving little by little”. He now hopes to “continue on this path for the next races.”