Thomas Luthi took a strong victory in the 125 race that saw the then 18-year-old became the first Swiss rider to win a motorcycle Grand Prix for 18 years.
There were three different manufacturers on the podium with Luthi on top for Honda while alongside him were Sergio Gadea (Aprilia) and a then 22-year-old Mika Kallio (KTM). Mike DiMeglio was fourth ahead of Marco Simoncelli and Gabor Talmacsi.
Some other names in the 125 race that year included a 15-year-old Aleix Espargaro who finished 12th, while Andrea Iannone, also 15, finished 23rd, just behind Nico Terol and Karel Abraham. Full results at bottom of page.
Daniel Pedrosa had not been shining quite so brightly as he had in 2004 over the opening few rounds of the 2005 championship. The diminutive Spaniard headed into round four in France five-points adrift of Andrea Dovizioso and two-points behind Casey Stoner. All three riders were 19-years-old at this stage of their careers.
Le Mans was Pedrosa’a second pole position of the season and he had won at Le Mans in both of the previous years, on a 125 in 2003 and 250 in 2004.
Casey Stoner had been on fire at the beginning of the season on his factory Aprilia and worked his way up to third place following a poor start in the opening round only to fall, but then made up for that with brilliant victories in the next two rounds and started on the front row alongside Pedrosa at Le Mans.
Pedrosa capitalised on his pole position to sweep through the first turns heading the pack but it wasn’t long before Andrea Dovizioso was past him to take the lead while Casey Stoner watched on from third place with Randy De Puniet right on his tail.
Casey Stoner slotted up the inside of Pedrosa to steal second position as they started the second lap. A nasty tumble had unfolded further back in the pack which put a couple of riders out of the race and on a stretcher. Steve Jenkner and Dirk Heidolf the fallers.
Stoner managed to pull away from Pedrosa and was soon right on the tail of Dovizioso on the next lap but the world champion pulled some ground back under brakes at the end of the main straight the next time around. A leading group of five had been established with Dovizioso, Stoner, Pedrosa, De Puniet and Porto the protagonists.
Jorge Lorenzo had been in a gaggle of riders battling over sixth place before he managed to break away from that pack and put in some fastest laps in order to start closing to the front group of five.
Lorenzo then put together yet more fastest laps to join the leading group by lap eight and then as they started lap nine things started to hot up further at the front with Casey Stoner taking the lead from Dovizioso and Randy De Puniet then followed him through, pushing Dovizioso back to third place before Lorenzo relegated him a step further back to fourth half a lap later.
Lorenzo had been showing serious pace and it looked like only a matter of time before he made his way to the lead unless Stoner and De Puniet could step the pace up another level in response.
Only a lap later Dovizioso had been shuffled to the rear of the six-way battle but still only a second covered those six riders.
De Puniet took the lead from Stoner with 14 laps to run which proved very popular with the French crowd, while Pedrosa took up the fight for third place with Lorenzo. It was only a few corners later when Lorenzo managed to push past Stoner to relegate the Australian to third place, just ahead of Pedrosa.
A lap later Sebastien Porto had a mechanical failure and dropped out of the race which reduced the battle to five riders once again but it looked likely the battle was down to four as championship leader Andrea Dovizioso had started to lose touch with the leaders. Stoner had been pushed back to fourth by Pedrosa after the Spaniard put in the fastest lap of the race on lap 14.
Andrea Dovizioso woke up again a couple of laps later and started pushing his way forward while Pedrosa had got the better of Lorenzo and then also Porto to take the lead. Stoner was running in fourth place and the five-way battle was showing no signs of abating.
Pedrosa broke his own lap record with the first ever 1-minute-37-second lap by a 250cc machine at Le Mans as he put his head down to try and break away. Pedrosa repeated that feat again over the next two laps to eke out a small advantage over De Puniet, Dovizioso and Stoner with 5 laps to run.
Randy De Puniet responded with a couple of laps to run and took his turn at breaking the lap record to close back to within striking distance of Pedrosa. Dovizioso was looking safe in third place while Stoner looked to have settled for a fairly safe fourth, perhaps out of tyres.
De Puniet then put in an amazing 1m37.59 lap to again break the lap record on his home soil with only two laps to run but Pedrosa was still right on his pipe.
Last lap board and Pedrosa was right on De Puniet’s pipe all the way down the straight but didn’t stick it up the inside into turn 1, the World Champion waiting to make his move, down the back straight and still Pedrosa right on his tail, De Puniet then ran a little wide but held it down on exit to maintain the advantage, through the flip-flop left-right, Pedrosa right still on his pipe and then the change of direction three corners before the end De Puniet has a little slide and that was all the invitation Pedrosa needed, the Spaniard was up the inside like a shot to take the lead and went on to take a brilliant win.
Andrea Dovizioso took third place ahead of Stoner while Lorenzo was fifth.
Dani Pedrosa, MoviStar Honda 250: 1st
“Second was not enough for me today, I wanted to get back to winning and I concentrated and worked very hard with the team to achieve that. It was a fantastic race and very exciting at the end when the tyres were crucial. I knew that right from the start and wanted to save them, I rode a controlled race and at the end increased my pace and gave everything I had. It was fantastic, maybe one of my best 250 races.”
Andrea Dovizioso, Team Scot, Honda: 3rd
“I’m happy because now I know I have the ability to fight with Pedrosa for the victory. It has been a funny and beautiful race. I made a good start, I was in the first group. Then I lost some time due to Porto’s breaking, but I wanted to catch Pedrosa. I had a good pace but also problems with the soft front tyre and it was impossible to stay closer in order to overtake him, he run with a hard tyre. Pedrosa is a good and fast rider instead I have to improve my feeling with the bike. He is my point of reference. I know that I can ride very close to him and, of course, I will do my best to beat him. I like Mugello’s circuit and I’m always fast there, but it is also a track where Aprilias are very fast. It will be very hard don’t loose the contact with Stoner and De Puniet. My Honda is ok but I have to improve my performances a little bit: I’m not able to make a race alone yet.”
Jorge Lorenzo, Fortuna Honda: 5th
“I have a lot of things to improve and a lot of things to learn. Among them practicing my starts and to learn to ride to save the tyres. But what we see today is that we can be at the front and keep the rhythm, the rhythm I have during the closing laps.”
Anthony West was 18th on an Aprilia Germany entry.
Anthony West – P18
“It was good to get back to racing after being off the bike such a long time. You never want to finish 18th, but I made some riding mistakes and it was a privateer bike and down on power. I got more confident as the race went on, and that’s why my lap times came down and were more consistent. In the first half of the race I was braking too early for some corners, and not setting myself up right for others. There were plenty of little mistakes, but after a while I was able to keep my cornering speed up. The track temperature was cool and there wasn’t a lot of grip. There was also some water on the exit of the first chicane so you had to watch out for that. The main reason I took this ride was to put some race laps together, and it should help me for when the new KTM 250 is ready to go. The new bike should be a really good thing – I can’t wait.”
Factory Yamaha riders were starting from positions one and two on the grid at Le Mans for the first time since the Dutch TT the previous year when Rossi and Checa took the top spots on the grid at Assen. Rossi on pole at Le Mans just ahead of his Texan team-mate Colin Edwards. This was Rossi’s 27th pole position across the 500cc/MotoGP categories while it was Colin Edwards’ first ever front row start in Grand Prix.
Qualifying had been amazingly close across the board with the top 12 riders all less than a second, 0.765 of a second to be exact, from the polesitter. Making those qualifying times even more amazing was that all of those 12 riders were under the lap record set by Max Biaggi the previous year.
Marco Melandri had once again put his Honda on the front row to make it three front row appearances for the Italian over the first four rounds of the year.
Sete Gibernau just missed the front row but had been strong at Le Mans before with victories in both 2003 and 2004 at the French circuit.
Both Melandri and Edwards got away well with the front wheel in the air but Edwards had the best launch to shoot through to the lead while Capirossi was third. Not even making the first lap was Rolfo and Checa who both ended up in the gravel. John Hopkins returned to the pits with a broken bike and picked up his other machine, which he was allowed to do as the race had been declared wet. Shane Byrne also went down and was carried away on a stretcher but conscious and moving around okay.
As they started lap two it was still Edwards out in front with Hayden in second place and Capirossi third. Then there was a small gap back to Melandri who was being stalked closely by Valentino Rossi, the #46 then slipped through to take that fourth position.
Loris Capirossi was looking dangerous after recording the fastest lap next time around while Rossi had broken away from Melandri and was starting to catch the leading trio. Ellison also went out of the race to end the English involvement in the Grand Prix.
Rossi was down to 1m34.2 on the next lap around to underline his progress forward.
Edwards had started to build some ground on Hayden to make his lead more pronounced as Rossi started to challenge Loris Capirossi for third place. Rossi took that third spot on the next lap and the next target in his sights was then the Repsol Honda of his ex team-mate Nicky Hayden, leading the race was his new team-mate Colin Edwards.
Edwards, Hayden, Rossi, Capirossi, Melandri, Gibernau, Biaggi, Nakano and Barros were the top nine riders with 20 laps to run. Rossi had closed right onto the pipe of Hayden while a little further back Sete Gibernau was having major dramas in trying to put a pass on his team-mate Marco Melandri.
Hayden then ran a little wide which left the door open for Rossi who then also ran a little wide a couple of corners later but Hayden was too slow to capitalise on an opportunity that was there to be had.
Gibernau had managed to finally get past Melandri for fifth place and was running the fastest pace on the track but it looked as though his poor earlier laps could prevent him from being able to battle for the lead. There were still 18 laps to run…
Up front it was Yamaha 1-2 with their 1-2 grid positions in reverse, on the track it was still Edwards ahead of Rossi.
Gibernau the first man down into the 1-minute-33-second bracket with a 1m33.937 to set a new lap record and the Spaniard was now starting to challenge Loris Capirossi for fourth. Gibernau then made his move into that third place but the gap to Rossi in second place was still a full three-seconds, surely too big a gap to bridge at this level…?
Barros skidded off into the kitty litter and while conscious the Camel Honda rider looked perhaps injured. This was another blow to Honda’s hopes for the championship as the Brazilian was running third in the standings. Gibernau had to prove himself by getting up to the Yamaha and taking the battle to them, or Honda could just about write off their hopes of the 2005 title already.
Gibernau did exactly that as he blasted past Hayden and then started reeling in Rossi hand over fist. The Yamaha pits prepared Valentino’s pit board to tell him Sete was on the way.
With 12 laps to run Gibernau had just broke the new lap record yet again with a 1m33.907 to close to within 1.5 seconds of the Yamaha men. Rossi might have previously been content to run behind his team-mate for much of this race but with the news that Gibernau was on the way it seemed obvious that Rossi would soon force his way past his team-mate and try to break away.
Gibernau closing more and more at every turn, pulling tenths out of the Yamaha men left, right and centre. Rossi tried a hard move on his team-mate but made a complete mess of it and ran over the ripple strip which saw him have to get out of the throttle and let his team-mate back through. Gibernau took advantage of the mistake and pushed Rossi back to third as the final ten laps looked set to be something special.
Gibernau had a medium front and a medium rear while Rossi was on a hard rear tyre which might help him out in the closing stages of this race.
The leading trio running nose-to-tail, Yamaha, Honda, Yamaha – Edwards, Gibernau, Rossi. It seemed as though nobody else was in the race.
Rossi came back at Gibernau then and pushed the Spaniard back to third but the question was going to be, could Rossi this time manage to eclipse his team-mate without making a mistake, and then could he break away?
Rossi went underneath Edwards as the Texan made a small error and Gibernau also took advantage of the tiny miscalculation so it was now Rossi and Gibernau up front. Would the pace hot up again now after the previous battle had slowed the pace of the race by a full second, as Edwards had perhaps been slowing them down a little?
That question looked to be answered on the next lap as Rossi and Gibernau started to pull away from the Texan but Rossi was certainly not breaking away from Gibernau.
Biaggi had recovered from a huge crash in morning warm-up and a poor start from his eighth place on the grid but had soldiered on and worked his way forward to fourth place after taking Marco Melandri.
Nicky Hayden had drifted back to sixth place after running up front for the first few laps where he was looking strong, chattered had set in from lap ten which put the Kentucky Kid out of podium contention.
Rossi and Gibernau had really pulled away from Edwards and the fourth placed battle between Melandri and Biaggi was being waged not too far behind the Texan and if he is not careful a pair of Honda men might push him off the podium.
Two laps to run and Gibernau was still right on the tail of Rossi’s Yamaha. Could this be Sete’s chance to stick it up the inside and push Rossi out into the gravel to return that favour dished out earlier in the season…?
Last lap and nose to tail they are, down the back straight and Rossi still has the advantage and he might have played his cards right once again, only three turns to run, and no the Spaniard can’t do it, Rossi takes the win with a new lap record (1m33.678) set on the final lap.
Amazing stuff, especially as Gibernau had also done his fastest lap of the race on that last time around and that was still not good enough to overcome the phenom that was Rossi on that day in May back in 2005.
The race for the championship was now all Rossi as the 26-year-old enjoyed a huge 37-point advantage after only four rounds. The next best on the ladder was the Telefonica Movistar pairing of Marco Melandri and Sete Gibernau with 58 and 53-points each respectively.
Troy Bayliss had piloted the Camel Honda to tenth place.
Biaggi moved up to 4th with 47 points while Barros still held down 5th place with 43-points despite not finishing this race while Edwards graduated to 6th place in the series after a strong podium finish at Le Mans.
2005 Le Mans MotoGP Rider Quotes
Valentino Rossi – P1
“At the start of the race we were lucky that it didn’t rain and we were able to put on a fantastic show. It was a difficult and long but great race, although I made my life more complicated by messing up the start. But I made positions up lap by lap with some good overtaking moves and eventually caught Colin. I stayed behind him for a while because his rhythm was good and nobody was catching up, but then Gibernau arrived very fast from behind so I decided to try and overtake and push to the maximum. Every lap I was better and better and I set the fastest time of the race on the final lap, so that shows the excellent progress we have made with the setting of the bike. I took pole position, the fastest lap of the race and the victory and Colin was also on the podium, so it has been a perfect weekend for us. The bike was very precise and I was able to get the power down well so this looks good for the coming races. We continue our work here tomorrow. I’m not sure what I have to test but I’m very happy to stay if we can make even more progress. I’m looking forward to Mugello and hope to see lots of Italian fans there.”
Sete Gibernau – P2
“The team and Michelin did a great job,” said Gibernau. “We didn’t look like getting a podium here – but here we are in second place. I took it steady until I could feel how good the bike was and then I made my way to the front. But I just couldn’t get the win. We go to Mugello in strong shape now because we learned a lot here this weekend.”
Colin Edwards – P3
“I desperately wanted to win that race but the other guys were just too fast today! Basically we took a gamble on the race tyre because with the limited dry track time in practice we only had five laps on it and didn’t know if it would work towards the end of the race. I got a good start, got into my rhythm of mid-34s and knew that should be enough to keep me at the front. If you’d have said to me you have to get into the 33s I’d have told you there was no way I could do those times! But then Valentino and Sete came through and their pace was incredible. The tyre got really hot and I had of couple of moments, so I just decided to make sure of third place. It’s an overdue reward for the phenomenal job the team have been doing and now we have a firm base to go from for the rest of the season.”
Marco Melandri – P4
“We suffered a lot at the start but from there on we managed a good pace. The morning warm-up didn’t help with tyre choice because the temperature was low and there were damp patches, and I went for a tyre that was little too hard. But this is only the second dry race this season and we’ve got a lot of useful information now.”
Max Biaggi – P5
For Max this was another reasonable result salvaged from impending disaster. “A very hard race,” he said. “After the warm-up crash I didn’t think I could race. When I put my leathers on I wasn’t even sure if I could make it to the flag. But adrenaline is an incredible fuel – although by the end of the race I couldn’t even get off the bike. This fifth place is really important in terms of points for the team.”
Nicky Hayden – P6
Nicky was typically honest. “Really disappointing,” he said. “I got a really good start, but then ten laps from the end I had a lot of chatter. I don’t really know why and we need to find out. It’s a lame excuse but I just went backwards. It’s been a hard weekend but I thought we were in with a chance here.”
Loris Capirossi – P7
“I had a fantastic start! After that I found that I could easily stay with the leaders, the bike was working really well, so it seemed like my Desmosedici could fight for a podium finish. But from lap ten onwards I needed more rear traction, so I had to ease my pace. It’s not been easy here because we only had one fully dry session, so I wasn’t able to try so many tyres. I chose the same tyre that worked so well during my ten-lap endurance run yesterday afternoon. Of course, I’m not happy with seventh, but I am happy that we were strong for ten laps. Our relationship with Bridgestone has only just started, we’re improving step by step.”
Shinya Nakano – P8
“My start was fast, I had a good feeling and tyre grip in the early laps and I felt comfortable. But for some laps I had trouble into turn one judging my braking point, I wasn’t as fast as I usually am in this part of the track. Then, when my good feeling returned, I felt a small misfire with the engine and immediately thought that I must try and finish the race; I didn’t score any points in China two weeks ago, so this was very important.”
Toni Elias – P9
“The crash that happened in the first chicane lost me a fair bit of ground because I had to avoid Carlos, who was on the ground in front of me. After that I managed to latch onto the second group and from then on I could stay with them, but the first group were already gone – their pace was that high! I was trying to make up some of the lost ground but I had to ride past my limit to do so and I didn’t fell comfortable doing that, especially as the track wasn’t offering the same grip as yesterday. We are testing here tomorrow and I am sure it will prove very valuable for or Mugello preparations.”
Troy Bayliss – P10
“I’m happy to have finished the race, to have had a good battle with Olivier Jacque, and to have beaten him. There is still ground to be made up because I’m still not comfortable on the bike – not to ride at the limit anyway. I did my fastest lap on the last one, so there is obviously room for improvement with set-up.”
Olivier Jacque – P11
“This race was a special experience for me, because it was my first race in the dry on the Kawasaki. I learned a great deal today, which I hope will help in the future if I get another MotoGP opportunity. I made some braking mistakes early on in the race, and then ran up the escape road at the second chicane. Later in the race I found a fast rhythm and just got faster and faster; I’m very happy to finish like that. I tried to catch Bayliss at the end after he passed me, but I just couldn’t get close enough.”
Ruben Xaus – P12
“At the beginning of the race I was struggling to find a race pace. But once I started feeling comfortable I was able to ride with Bayliss, Jacque and Kenny. I was able to improve my times, which is very important. Tomorrow we are testing and I’m looking forward to developing on what I have achieved today.”
Jurgen van den Goorbergh – P14
Jurgen van den Goorbergh, standing in for the injured Makoto Tamada (Konica Minolta Honda RC211V), finished 14th and said, “During the last two sessions we didn’t complete all the work that we planned, so we didn’t have a clear idea which tyres to use for the race. But I gained more confidence lap after lap. This is only the second time in the MotoGP for me so I have to be satisfied with the results.”
John Hopkins – P16
A frustrated Hopkins said: “I’m absolutely devastated. We’ve worked hard all weekend and we qualified the bike well. I really felt we could have got a good result. Even on the spare bike – that didn’t perform quite as well as my main bike – I was able to run at a reasonable pace but I just didn’t have the target of any other riders to aim for. I’m sure my pace could have been a lot quicker if I had been with the faster guys. I have no idea what happened to my bike on the warm-up lap. I really feel for my team as they have worked so hard again this weekend. We now need to put this behind us and move onto the next race, and have another go.”
Alex Barros – DNF
“I’m really disappointed, I certainly didn’t expect today to go like this. I was pushing a bit because I was trying to catch Max and Melandri, but it was hard work. I was giving it everything and I lost the back end. It’s a shame because I take no points away from here, but now the World Championship is the last thing on my mind. I want to recover and think about the next race.”
Carlos Checa – DNF
“Max moved off line to avoid someone and I couldn’t brake because I was already leaned over into the corner,” explained Checa. “Sometimes racing is like this, but it’s not easy to accept such bad luck, especially when we had the chance of a good result here. The bike is working so well at the moment, it’s getting better all the time and we are doing everything we can to score good results. I can’t carry this bad luck forever, so I’m looking forward to Mugello.”
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