Throwback Thursday: 21 May Edition

While work continues for motorsport series to salvage some sort of 2020 season, here is a look back at the 2006 MotoGP French Grand Prix which took place on this day.

2006 MotoGP French Grand Prix

The 2006 French Grand Prix was the fifth round of the MotoGP season.

Nicky Hayden led the championship going into the weekend, 13 points ahead of Loris Capirossi with Hayden’s teammate Dani Pedrosa a further two points behind. Marco Melandri was fourth three points behind Pedrosa while in fifth was Casey Stoner who was two points behind Melandri.

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It was Pedrosa who started on pole, sharing the front row with the Kawasaki of Shinya Nakano and the Suzuki of John Hopkins.

Hayden started tenth, Capirossi lined up sixth with Melandri just ahead in fifth while Stoner started eleventh.

There was some talk before the bikes were due to go for their warm up lap as to whether the race would be declared wet or dry. It would ultimately be held under dry conditions from start to finish. This wouldn’t be the only pre-lights out drama as Kenny Roberts Jr was forced to enter the pits at the end of the warm up lap after his bike developed a fault.

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At the start Randy de Puniet crashed out of the race, after getting tangled up with other bikes, only a couple of corners into the race. His crash forced Sete Gibernau and Colin Edwards to go through the gravel, dropping down the field.

There wasn’t much luck for the other Kawasaki of Nakano who would be handed a penalty after being deemed to have jumped the start.

After the first lap Hopkins led Melandri with Pedrosa back in third ahead of Capirossi, Nakano (who was yet to be handed his penalty), Valentino Rossi, Toni Elias, Stoner, Hayden and Chris Vermeulen.

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MotoGP-2006-9” by Don France is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Rossi would slowly work his way through the field, taking the lead on lap 4 as a little further back a race long battle between Stoner and Hayden took place.

It meant that on lap 5 Rossi led Hopkins followed by Pedrosa, Capirossi, Melandri, Nakano (who hadn’t served his penalty), Hayden, Stoner, Makoto Tamada and Vermeulen.

The front three of Rossi, Hopkins and Pedrosa began to slightly pull a gap to the rest of the field. Hopkins ended up running wide, allowing Pedrosa to take second before eventually Hopkins slid out of contention for the podium on lap 10.

Rossi gradually pulled away from Pedrosa, going on to build a gap of just over four seconds. Pedrosa now had to worry about being overtaken by Melandri, who was now in third, as the Italian closed in on the Spaniard.

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The race would change drastically on lap 21 as Rossi slowed and was forced into retirement. It meant that on the completion of lap 21 Pedrosa led Melandri followed by Capirossi, Stoner, Hayden, Edwards and Tamada.

Melandri continued to close down Pedrosa, eventually passing him for the lead of the race on lap 24. Capirossi was the next rider to begin closing in on Pedrosa, passing the Spaniard on the last lap.

It meant that the final top three was Melandri, Capirossi and Pedrosa. Stoner finished fourth ahead of Hayden in fifth while Nakano recovered from his penalty to finish twelfth while Hopkins managed to keep going after his fall to be the last classified finisher in fifteenth.

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At the end of the weekend Hayden still led the championship, four points ahead of Melandri and Capirossi who were tied in second on 79 points. Six points behind the two Italians was Pedrosa while Stoner remained fifth on 65 points. Rossi was down in eighth some 43 points behind Hayden.

The 250cc race was won by Yuki Takahashi ahead of Andrea Dovizioso and Shuhei Aoyama. In the 125cc race Thomas Luthi won ahead of Mika Kallio and Fabrizio Lai.

Elsewhere on 21 May

To stay with Grand Prix Motorcycle racing, both the 1961 and 1967 French Grand Prix were held on this day although the 1967 edition didn’t feature the 500cc class.

Over in Japan, Formula Nippon was at Mine in 2000 for the third round of the season which was won by Tsugio Matsuda ahead of Michael Krumm and Hideki Noda.

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Formula 1 has also contested a few races on 21 May with the first being the 1950 Monaco Grand Prix as well as the 1978 Belgian Grand Prix and finally the 2000 European Grand Prix.

While in America the Champ Car series in 2006 was contesting the third round of the season in Mexico at Fundidora Park. The race would be won by Sebastien Bourdais which was his third of the season, finishing ahead of Justin Wilson and A. J. Allmendinger.

Lastly, in Formula E it contested the 2015/2016 Berlin E-Prix which was the eighth round of the season, won by Sebastien Buemi ahead of Daniel Abt and Lucas di Grassi.

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