The MotoGP paddock heads to the Le Mans circuit for the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France as the Championship fight heats up.
Le Mans first hosted a motorcycle grand prix back in 1969, and since then it has born witness to 27 races, but few with the potential to be as exciting as this one.
Movistar Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi has a 15-point advantage at the top of the World Championship standings after the Spanish GP, although the Italian has not won in Le Mans since 2008. The man who claimed his 200th career grand prix podium in Jerez, and eighth in a row, should feel confident heading to a track where he has won three times (2002, 2005, 2008) and finished second last year.
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His teammate Jorge Lorenzo, who completely dominated proceedings at the Spanish GP to take his 34th MotoGP victory, will not be looking to make it easy for him. The Spaniard looks like a man reborn after a tricky start to the season, and currently finds himself third in the Championship battle, just 20 points behind Rossi. He is also one of the most successful riders at Le Mans with four race wins to his name, one in the 250cc class (2007) and three in MotoGP (2009, 2010, 2012).
Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez has never been off the podium when he has managed to finish a race at Le Mans. Marquez, who took victory at the circuit last year, will have had an extra two weeks to recover from his broken finger and currently sits fourth in the standings, 26 points adrift from Rossi.
Le Mans should see the return of Marquez’s teammate Dani Pedrosa, after he missed the last three races due to arm-pump surgery. Pedrosa joins Lorenzo with four wins at the French circuit, one in the 125cc class, two in 250cc, and his MotoGP race win from 2013.
Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso will be looking to bounce back from his 9th place in Jerez, at a circuit he has finished on the MotoGP podium twice before (2011, 2010). Ducati have never taken victory at Le Mans, with Rossi claiming their last podium at the circuit in 2012. Dovizioso still sits second in the Championship standings despite his result in Spain, after three podiums in a row in the first three races, fifteen points behind Rossi.
His teammate Iannone will be looking to build on his excellent qualifying performance in Jerez, although he crashed out of the French GP last year on the second lap, and only has a best-placed finish of 11th in MotoGP at the circuit.
Team Suzuki Ecstar have been making huge strides this season, and only just missed having both riders finish inside the top 10 in Jerez. Aleix Espargaro crossed the line at Le Mans last year in ninth, his best finish in the MotoGP class, while his teammate Maverick Viñales won the Moto3 race there in 2013.
CWM LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow finished last year’s French Grand Prix in 11th, after getting caught up on an incident on the first lap, although the Brit did manage to finish on the podium at Le Mans in 2013.
Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Pol Espargaro last year finished the French GP in fourth, just missing out on a podium by four-tenths of a second. His teammate Bradley Smith was almost 20 seconds behind him as he crossed the line in 10th, but currently sits two places above Pol (26pts) in the Championship standings in seventh, with 36 points.
Estrella Galicia’s 0,0 Marc VDS’s Scott Redding won the Moto2 race in Le Mans in 2013, and crossed the line 12th in MotoGP last year, while Pramac Racing’s Yonny Hernandez was 13th. These two, along with Hernandez’s teammate Petrucci and Viñales will be looking to continue their exciting battle from Jerez, which saw Hernandez come out on top.
Avintia Racing’s Hector Barbera currently leads the way in the Open class battle with 10 points, ahead of CWM LCR Honda’s Jack Miller (6pts) and Nicky Hayden (3pts) on the Aspar MotoGP Team RC213V-RS.
The MotoGP on-track action kicks off at Le Mans on Friday at 09:55 local time with Free Practice 1.