Rain had been predicted so I'm sure those in the know expected Valentino to do well, but I think the most important thing was that we saw what we already had at Estoril – his spirit is back! His body language is giving off all the positive signs.
At Estoril he tried his best in the dry conditions and accepted that the Ducati is not going to feel perfect, and here at Le Mans he took the next step in that direction with the bike. He was better in each of the practices over the weekend and was almost on the second row in qualifying, and then in the race everything came together brilliantly.
It was so enjoyable to commentate on the race for German TV, especially knowing that Casey Stoner is going to retire at the end of the season after his announcement at the start of the weekend. Okay, we don't know how the Ducati is going to be in the dry conditions we would expect for the next race in Barcelona, but in the rain at Le Mans he could battle with Casey and you could see that he won the fight!
Valentino really went for it and it was just so good to see. It was fantastic to have him at the front, on the podium and in parc ferme. It makes a huge difference when he is in front of the cameras, everyone is smiling and having a good time. He is so good for MotoGP, especially when he is up at the front.
It's also a huge motivation and a boost for the Ducati team because they have been working so, so hard over the past 18 months, and it feels like this is some payback for them.
Now they go to Mugello to test before the Barcelona round, and I will be there in Italy testing the Aprilia superbike so I'll get a chance to take a closer look at how things are going for the Ducati. The weather forecast is unfortunately not looking great, but I hope there's some dry track time and they can really work and make some progress. They have found a way and now they have to figure out why they are so fast when Valentino has no mechanical grip. When it's dry he is always fast when it comes to the last five laps when the tyres are down, and that's when you usually slow down! In wet weather, like at Le Mans, you have hardly any grip and he performed really well, so it's strange. They have enough power and grip, the two most important aspects to go fast, but they're not working together so they have to figure it out. So I hope we have good weather in Mugello and they can test loads of things.
Nicky's sixth position was a good, solid ride. He was one of the fastest guys out there towards the end of the race, but he lost some time at the start of the race. He was closing the gap all the way at the end, and that's frustrating when you're a rider and have the pace but just run out of laps. He also stayed on the bike which proved to be really difficult for a lot of riders in those conditions.
Now I'm sure Ducati is going to find its way and after Valentino confirmed over the weekend he wanted to ride for another one or two years, we're not going to lose him which is great for the sport. Ducati and Valentino will be working hard and going for it, we have to be honest and say we can't expect the same result as we had in Le Mans when we get to Barcelona, but he should be able to fight for top five in the dry – that should be the next target – and then Ducati will take it from there.