|The second European stop of the Motorcycle Grand Prix (MotoGP) Championship is scheduled for Le Mans this weekend. The Bugatti Circuit that hosts the premier two-wheel racing series shares a small section of the longer Circuit de la Sarthe that is used for the annual 24-hour endurance race. This year, Le Mans hosts MotoGP for the 56th time.|
Le Mans’ major challenges include tight chicanes and short straights which would require the bikes to have optimum balance and control under hard braking. Reigning MotoGP Jorge Lorenzo can claim three premier class wins, including last season’s wet race victory, and one 250cc GP victory whilst Valentino Rossi also claims three premier class victories and one 125cc GP win. The Yamaha pair arrive at Le Mans hoping for track conditions that are kinder to the tyres than in Jerez where extremely short tyre life made for a complicated race day. Both Lorenzo and Rossi’s Yamaha M1s will dorn a special emblem at Le Mans, in honor of Yamaha legend Jean Claude Olivier who passed on in a road accident earlier this year. Lorenzo who has generally gone well at Le Mans commented, “Last year in fact, I got a victory in the wet by a great distance over the rest. I rode a perfect race, without making a single mistake and in terrible track conditions. I have won many times in France and think it’s a good track for both me and the Yamaha M1.” Rossi finished second in a wet wet race for Ducati last season at Le Mans; a year previously he also achieved a podium finish. This year the 9-time champion is hoping to repeat a podium finish with the Yamaha Factory outfit, “We hope to do the same and also better with Yamaha because this is a good track for the M1. In Le Mans the weather will be very important, because usually the weather is quite bad. It can be cold and wet so we will see.” Repsol Honda’s rookie rider Marc Marquez and veteran Dani Pedrosa go into this weekend’s French Grand Prix holding first and second places in the 2013 MotoGP Riders’ championship after dominating the second and third rounds of the series. Marquez won last month’s inaugural Grand Prix at the COTA (Circuit of the Americas), which Pedrosa finished in second place; then Pedrosa won at Jerez two weeks ago, ahead of Marquez. It has been a consistent start to the season but the riders and the rest of the factory Honda squad know full well that MotoGP is all about going the distance. On his first appearance on a MotoGP bike at Le Mans, Marquez reiterated, “I’ll do my best and I’ll try to make the most of the situation. I hope it doesn’t rain so we can prepare the bike on a dry track, this is very important to find the right set-up. I’m very happy at the moment but we have to keep our feet on the ground as the coming circuits are new for me in MotoGP.” Pedrosa’s 23rd MotoGP win last time out ignited his push for this season’s MotoGP crown, although it’s still very early to determine that fact. A productive post-race test at Jerez brings the Repsol Honda ace to Le Mans in a confident mood to keep the momentum going. Alvaro Bautista also made significant progress during the post-Jerez tests. The Spaniard is the only rider on the MotoGP grid using Showa suspension, so he’s been working very closely with the Japanese company to solve a few issues that have been holding him back. Satisfied with recent progress, he is optimistic of scoring his first top-five finish of the season at Le Mans. Stefan Bradl has had a disappointing start to his second MotoGP season, with two crashes at the first three races, leaving him some way down the points ladder. The post-Jerez tests therefore couldn’t have come at a better time for the German who was able to spend the day honing his set-up in an effort to cure a front-end issue that has been causing him concern. Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso has had good performances at the French circuit in past years, which included his first Grand Prix pole position in 2003 (in the 125cc class) and a pair of premier-class podium finishes, in 2010 and 2011. Team mate Nicky Hayden doesn’t include Le Mans on his list of favorite circuits, but he’s hopeful of a respectable performance, particularly if his still-recovering right wrist is in better condition than it was at the previous race.