Jorge Lorenzo led every lap of a rain-affected French Grand Prix to retake the lead in the World Championship. The Spaniard blasted past the two Repsol Hondas on lap one and never looked back but his joy was matched by Valentino Rossi and Ducati who took a superb second ahead of Casey Stoner.
Polesitter Dani Pedrosa retained his lead until Garage Vert where Lorenzo dived up the inside. The Yamaha rider ran slightly wide on the exit but got a good enough slingshot onto the back straight to stay ahead. Casey Stoner was next along in third while Valentino Rossi had surged past the two Tech 3 Yamahas for fourth.
Pedrosa was looking distinctly uncomfortable in the wet conditions and Stoner capitalised to take second at MusÃ©e on the second lap while the inspired Rossi grabbed third a lap later. Andrea Dovizioso was the leading satellite Yamaha in fifth and that quickly became fourth when he breezed past into turn one with his teammate Cal Crutchlow following suit a few corners afterwards.
The Hondas hadn't looked impressive in the morning warm-up and that was proving the case again in the race with Lorenzo disappearing into the distance. Stoner's RC213V was effectively a bottleneck with Rossi, Dovizioso and Crutchlow all lurking over his shoulder.
After six laps, the world champion finally found some pace and dropped Rossi who was now coming under pressure from the Tech 3 duo, that's when they weren't squabbling amongst themselves. Crutchlow pulled off a sensational move on lap ten to ride around the outside of Dovizioso at Dunlop with half distance approaching, overtook Rossi at the same corner, this time on the inside.
Dovizioso went with the Briton and subsequently ahead of him but Rossi wasn't giving in and regained fourth at Chemin Aux Boeufs on lap 15 before getting back on terms with his compatriot. The Ducati star moved back into the final podium position at Garage Vert nine laps from the finish and Tech 3's race was unravelling, with Crutchlow sliding off at Dunlop. Dovizioso did nothing to improve Herve Poncharal's mood either by crashing himself on lap 25 and a previously encouraging race was now only going to deliver seventh and eighth.
With no threat from behind, Rossi was free to chase down Stoner and in the space of three laps, the Italian had reduced Casey's lead to nothing. Valentino made his first attempt on lap 26, only to run wide and hand the place back while a similar move on lap 27 brought similar results. Just one lap remained for him to get the job done.
Lorenzo was ten seconds up the road and coasted to victory but second place would ultimately be decided in Rossi's favour at the Dunlop chicane, with the nine-time world champion finally making the move stick less than three miles from home. The celebrations at Ducati would've had you believe they'd won the race but considering it was their best result in 21 races, the joy was understandable.
The plight of the Tech 3 Yamahas allowed Dani Pedrosa to come through in fourth while Stefan Bradl finished an outstanding fifth on the LCR Honda. Nicky Hayden completed a great day for Ducati with sixth ahead of Dovizioso, Crutchlow, Hector Barbera and Alvaro Bautista in tenth.
James Ellison scored his first points of the season in style, beating Mattia Pasini to eleventh and the honour of top CRT finisher. Aleix Espargaro was thirteenth for Aspar but his teammate Randy de Puniet had a miserable afternoon on home soil, losing control of his ART machine as he left the start line and eventually retiring.