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Page last updated at 10:30 GMT, Tuesday, 19 May 2009 11:30 UK

Matt Roberts' MotoGP column

By Matt Roberts
BBC Sport at Le Mans

Marco Melandri and Jorge Lorenzo
Marco Melandri and Jorge Lorenzo celebrate on the podium

Sunday's race proved that the only predictable thing about Le Mans is the unpredictability of the weather and, consequently, the results.

Nobody could have truly expected Marco Melandri to finish on the podium or, for that matter, Valentino Rossi to finish last.

It is the first time in Rossi's career that he has actually crossed the line in last place and it was down to a rare moment of impetuosity that he came in to pit before anybody else and consequently crashed on the damp track with slick tyres.

It must have been the first time in MotoGP history that a rider has changed bikes three times during a race but the current rules for a wet race state that a rider can do so as many times as he likes, providing he brings one bike back to pit and the alternative features a different combination of tyres.

That is why on his second change, Valentino went out with a wet front tyre and slick rear, before returning to full slicks once his mechanics had frantically fixed the damage to his first bike from the crash.

Just to clear up another couple of questions that were left unanswered as we went off air, what looked like a long glare at the pit wall from Casey Stoner as he was passed by Chris Vermeulen actually turned out to be him performing running repairs on his Ducati, taking his hand off the throttle to adjust a faulty steering damper.

After that he set the third fastest lap of the race, bettered only by Dani Pedrosa.

Casey's team-mate Nicky Hayden is showing no signs of shaking of the Ducati curse that blighted Melandri's season last year.

When Mika Kallio crashed the Finn sent his own Desmosedici flying into the side of Nicky's, leaving the American with tyre rubber all up his leathers and bike and forcing him to run off track.

The bright side for Nicky was an otherwise encouraging weekend with his new crew chief Juan Martinez, who replaced Cristhian Pupulin.

Pupulin has been put in charge of analysing the data collected by all of the Ducati riders and working on an electronics package that will suit more riders than just Stoner.

Troy Bayliss
Bayliss has plenty of speed still, but no desire to race again

There has been lots of activity behind the scenes at Ducati, with Troy Bayliss riding an 800cc MotoGP bike for the first time in GP9 testing at Mugello last week.

The retired, but still reigning, World Superbike Champion spent three days at the track and recorded a best time of only 1.2 seconds off Stoner's circuit record from last year and only a tenth slower than Melandri's best effort in the same race.

"It didn't take long to get back into it but, before anyone gets any ideas, I will also say that I'm happy to be heading back to the airport and towards Australia. I have no intention of returning to racing!," said Bayliss, who will test again in June or July.

It's a shame Troy is ruling himself out of a racing return because I can't think of a better replacement for Sete Gibernau, who will miss the upcoming race at Mugello with a broken collarbone suffered in a practice crash at Le Mans.

It is the same injury that he suffered in a six-rider pile-up at Catalunya in 2006 and repeated at Estoril later that season, which was effectively his final race before retiring.

Preparing for his comeback this year he snapped the bone again when exercising in the gym and it was only this week that he claimed to have returned to full fitness.

Sete went under the knife on Monday afternoon, with famed surgeon Dr Xavier Mir fitting a titanium plate to the bone in the hope that he can ride again in his home race at Catalunya in four weeks' time.

Dr Mir operated on Toni Elias two weeks ago, treating compartmental syndrome (arm-pump) in his right forearm, although the Spaniard did not tell the media about it until arriving in France.

The procedure involves cutting slits in the membrane around the muscle, allowing it to expand without restricting blood flow to the hands.

Toni rode with 30 stitches in his arm this weekend and will be back to see Dr Mir this week to examine a suspected infection before undergoing twice-daily physiotherapy until Mugello.

One possible replacement being touted for Gibernau, if he is ruled out for more than one race, is Gabor Talmacsi, the Hungarian 250cc rider who did not ride at Le Mans following a dispute with his team.

Gabor Talmacsi
Talmacsi could take the pace of the injured Gibernau at Mugello

Talmacsi and team owner Jorge Martinez have fallen out over financial matters, though Martinez will endeavour to speak to the former 125cc World Champion in Budapest this week.

Following the disappointment of his crash at Jerez Jorge Lorenzo proved that he is a much more mature rider this year by bouncing back with a perfectly executed victory at Le Mans.

Jorge is hoping to be celebrating again before we go to Italy for the next round when he stops off in Rome for the Champions League final between Barcelona and Manchester United next Wednesday.

Jorge has been a Barca fan since he was a kid - especially since moving to the Catalan capital from Mallorca aged 13 - and now shares an agent with the players Andres Iniesta, Bojan Krkic and Carles Puyol.

Not generally a man to worry about his own impetuosity, Jorge has already asked Yamaha if he could have his bike painted in Barca colours at Mugello but was told that the contract with Fiat wouldn't allow it, so watch out for some kind of sticker or other detail.

Rossi, incidentally, told us that he also wants Barcelona to win because Manchester United knocked his own team, Inter Milan, out of the competition.

Finally, it is not unusual for young riders to want to emulate Valentino but Ratthapark Wilairot seemingly took it a little far last week.

The Thai 250cc rider needed 12 stitches in his right hand after falling through a glass table at his home - the same accident that befell Valentino in February.

At least he showed he could match Rossi's pain threshold, fighting his way through to finish fifth in Sunday's race.


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see also
Lorenzo wins thriller at Le Mans
17 May 09 |  MotoGP
Matt Roberts' MotoGP column
05 May 09 |  MotoGP
Matt Roberts' MotoGP column
28 Apr 09 |  MotoGP
Matt Roberts' MotoGP column
14 Apr 09 |  MotoGP

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