Valentino Rossi grabbed the lead of the MotoGP championship at Le Mans yesterday with a devastating ride that earned him his 90th grand prix victory and broadcast to younger rivals that he remains hungry for an eighth world title.
Rossi, 29, started from the second row of the grid on his Fiat Yamaha, but swept past the pole-sitter, Dani Pedrosa, on the fourth lap. On the eighth lap he stole the lead from the reigning world champion, Casey Stoner. And that was it – game over for MotoGP's young lions. Rossi built a lead of three seconds at half distance, and stretched that to five seconds by the end of the 28 laps.
"I didn't expect to be so fast, but we did some modifications from this morning and the bike worked very well. The tyres had fantastic grip," Rossi said.
Rossi's Fiat-Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo finished second despite two fractured ankles sustained at the previous round in China. The 21-year-old had also crashed heavily on both days of practice at Le Mans. Colin Edwards completed an all-Yamaha podium.
Britain's James Toseland recorded his first non-finish of the year when he crashed on the third lap.