Melandri celebrates 'best ever' podium
Marco Melandri described his second place in the French Grand Prix as the best podium of his career after taking his Hayate Kawasaki to a shock runner-up spot at Le Mans.
The Italian had spent much of the winter fearing for his MotoGP future after an awful 2008 season with Ducati and then the bombshell news that his new employer Kawasaki was pulling out of the championship.
He was unsure whether to accept a ride with the private Hayate Racing team now running the ex-works Kawasaki, but has flown since joining the squad - taking top six finishes at Motegi and Jerez before today's astonishing podium.
"It's amazing to be here," said Melandri. "Five or six months ago I thought I'd be watching the races on TV. I have to say thanks to Carmelo Ezpeleta, because he worked hard to bring me back, and to all my team who have been working hard as a private team.
"It's awesome to be here. It's so much nicer being back up here now than any past podium."
The key to Melandri's result was his speed on slicks when the track was still damp. Although he changed bikes much earlier than eventual winner Jorge Lorenzo, he lost far less time on his early slick-shod laps than the other riders who had pitted prematurely.
"In the wet I was quite confident and quite fast, and when I saw Valentino (Rossi) change the bike I thought it was a bit too early," Melandri said.
"I changed the lap after but maybe I should have waited one more lap because the first laps on the slick tyres were very, very tricky. I almost went down a few times but I stayed calm, didn't think about the lap time, and just thought about keeping the tyres clean and waiting for better conditions.
"When I saw P2 on my pit board I couldn't believe it. I just tried to control the gap to the guys behind me."
The result has moved Melandri up to fifth in the world championship after four races.