Lorenzo wins French GP, Melandri second, Rossi last.

Jorge Lorenzo has become the first double winner of the 2009 MotoGP season with victory in the French Grand Prix at Le Mans - a race that began in the wet, finished in the dry and saw Marco Melandri take his Hayate-run Kawasaki to second position! 

    Meanwhile, Lorenzo's team-mate Valentino Rossi fell after a premature swap to slick tyres and also received a ride through penalty. 

    After showers throughout Friday and Saturday, rain began falling just after the Sunday morning warm-up session, but stopped as the MotoGP grid assembled and brighter conditions meant the track was certain to dry at some point in the race. 

    But the race began in fully wet conditions and with pole sitter Dani Pedrosa holding the advantage from Casey Stoner, Lorenzo and Rossi through the fast first turn and into the Dunlop Chicane.

    Lorenzo shot past Stoner and Pedrosa in quick succession and began disappearing up front, while Rossi made more cautious progress - reaching the runner-up spot on lap 3 of 28, by which time Lorenzo was over two seconds clear. 

    Lorenzo pulled a further second on Rossi on the next lap, by which time a dry line was becoming visible, perhaps prompting Rossi to make the brave decision to pit for his dry bike. 

    Rossi, Pedrosa and Loris Capirossi all veered down the pitlane at the end of lap five and rejoined at the back of the field in 15th, 16th and 17th places - but the track was still very slippery in places and Rossi was caught out at the left-hand museum turn, losing the front of his M1 and sliding into the gravel. 

    Hopes of achieving his 99th grand prix victory on Sunday, and therefore battling for his 100th in front of his home fans next time out at Mugello, were effectively over but the reigning six-time world champion was eventually able to restart his M1 and cruise back to the pits with a broken screen. 

    Rossi rejoined on his wet weather bike, but later received a ride-through indicating some kind of pit lane infringement. The Italian served the penalty before pitting yet again, this time for his repaired dry bike, on his way to finishing 16th and last, with not even a point for his efforts. 

    Valentino Rossi explains Le Mans misery.

    Valentino Rossi has explained his disastrous French Grand Prix, which saw the reigning MotoGP champion make four visits to pit lane, crash, receive a ride-through penalty and eventually finish one place outside of the points. 

    To make matters even worse, the Italian's defeat meant that he lost his chance to fight for a 100th grand prix victory next time out in front of his home fans at Mugello and has also lost the 2009 world championship lead. 

    Starting from fourth position on the wet but rapidly drying track, Rossi took three laps to work his way up to second behind Fiat Yamaha team-mate and eventual race winner Jorge Lorenzo. 

    Sensing that he was struggling for pace, and aware that those who pit early for bike swaps unusually benefit the most, Rossi was the first to dive into the pits for his dry weather bike, on lap five of 28. 

    “I had difficulties from the start today and I really could not ride my bike to its best,” he said. “Already by the fourth lap I felt that I was quite slow and that I couldn't ride as I wanted. I decided to change bikes early because usually this strategy - being among the first to change the bike - pays off.” 

    The change went smoothly, but Rossi was soon caught out by the slippery track and lowsided from his M1. 

    “Of course I knew that I had to warm the tyres up a little bit but I crashed anyway in that corner because at that point the track was still wet and I just didn't ride into it in a calm enough manner,” confessed The Doctor. 

    After what seemed like an age, Rossi was able to remount the damaged motorcycle and bring it back to the pits, where he switched back to his wet bike. 

    In order for this to be allowed, Rossi had to keep one wet tyre on the bike, but the pit lane speed limiter wasn't engaged and he was forced to return two laps later to serve a ride-through penalty. 

    “Luckily I was able to make it back to the pits [after the crash] and I changed again, but the rule says that if you change the bike again then you have to use one wet tyre, and so this is what we did,” he confirmed. “When I started that time, the pit-limiter on my bike was not on and so I was given a ride-through for speeding, but by that time it was too late for our race anyway.” 

    The six-time MotoGP world champion's final visit to the garage came on lap 11, when he changed back onto his repaired dry bike, but by then he was some two laps adrift and could only finish 16th and last at the chequered flag. 

    Prior to Sunday's race, Rossi had scored points at every race since Valencia 2007. 

    “We've had problems throughout the entire weekend with the set-up of the bike and today I was just hoping that I could stay with the riders in front and get some important points for the championship,” said the #46. “Now we go to Mugello, my home GP, where I will perhaps be even more motivated than usual!” 

    Rossi has now lost the world championship lead by one point to Lorenzo, with Ducati's Casey Stoner equal second with Valentino after four of the 17 rounds. 

    Team manager Davide Brivio defended Rossi's early pit stop. 

    “I don't think that the decision to stop early was wrong, and it paid off for [second placed] Melandri among others, but unfortunately Valentino crashed and that, coupled with the ride-through penalty, was the end of our challenge today,” he said. 

    “This type of race is always a gamble; sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't and today it really didn't for us! Luckily we're still just one point off the top of the championship and we will restart our challenge again at the next race,” he vowed. 

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