Le Mans: MotoGP Heads To France

Press Release | May 18, 2010

The following is from Yamaha… With a win and a podium each so far this season, Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi will arrive at Le Mans this weekend with high hopes of continuing their victorious start to the season. The Fiat Yamaha pair lie first and second in the championship after two races, with Lorenzo four points ahead of Rossi following his magnificent home victory last time out.The Spaniard turned 23 two days after Jerez and the memory of his first home MotoGP win was still fresh in his mind as he celebrated his birthday at home in Barcelona, following a successful one-day test. He cannot help but feel confident for another good weekend in Le Mans, where last year he kept his head to win by 17 seconds as the weather wreaked havoc on all around him, and the season before he finished second despite riding with two broken ankles. The Mallorcan has one other win at Le Mans, in 2007 on the way to his second 250cc title.The French Grand Prix in 2009 on the other hand is one that nine-time World Champion Rossi would rather forget, plagued as he was by a catalogue of mishaps and visits to pit lane before limping home in 16th position. His previous record at the famous French track is exemplary however, with two wins for Yamaha in 2008 and 2005, as well as one other win and six podiums in all classes. Another two weeks off has given him time to fully recover from the shoulder injury that hampered him in Jerez and he will be back on top form and shooting for the top this time out.Le Mans is most famous as home to the iconic 24-Hour race but the MotoGP also draws a huge crowd every year. The first part of the track is the most difficult in what is not a particularly technical circuit, with the high-speed, uphill turn one giving way to several tight chicanes. The remainder of the track is made up of short straights and hairpins calling for a set up that yields both balance and control under hard and repeated braking and a quick transfer from full braking to full acceleration on the exit of the corners.Jorge Lorenzo – “An amazing and crazy race!”

“Despite our victory in Jerez and taking the lead in the world standings I continue to think that I am not the favourite because the season is very long and it has only just started! I am very proud however because Jerez was my first victory at home in MotoGP. Last year I won in Le Mans in an amazing and crazy race. It was a very complicated because of the rain and drying track, but I think that everybody in our team did an unbelievable job, above all on Sunday. I know that I used everything I had, from the very first laps right to the end. I hope the fans aren’t waiting for a repeat this weekend! Of course the weather is always a risk in Le Mans, but I hope for sun. I’ve been on the podium twice there, last season and when I won my second 250cc title, so I am looking forward to trying again. I’ve had almost three weeks since Jerez and I know that I am ready for this second European race.”Valentino Rossi – “Back to full strength”

“My shoulder is more or less recovered now so I hope I will be back to full strength in Le Mans. Despite the disaster of last year’s race, Le Mans is a good track for me and the Yamaha always goes well there. The biggest problem is the weather, but after last year I think we deserve a sunny French GP! We’ve made a good start to the season, with the win in Qatar and then another podium, but we have also struggled with the bike in some areas and so we need to try to improve our performance. We had a good test after Jerez so I hope that we will be able to use that information to start strongly here.”Wilco Zeelenberg – “Looking to carry on our good start”

“After Jorge’s brilliant win in Jerez everyone has had another long rest and now we’re excited to get back to work and carry on our good start to the season. There is a very long way to go and we won’t get too excited, but just try to continue in the same way. Le Mans has been a good track for Yamaha in the past and last year Jorge had a great win there in very difficult circumstances. Hopefully the race will be a little more simple this year, without the rain!”Davide Brivio – “Something to forget”

“We have something to forget in Le Mans after last year, when it rained, we had some difficulties and took no points! In general however Le Mans is always a very good track for Yamaha and we have had some good results there in the past. We hope for good weather this time. We have started the championship very strongly and our aim now is to continue this trend and remaining close or at the top by taking as many points as possible. We really hope to do well here in order to put us on a good footing for the busy period of June and July, when the championship will really start to take shape.”The following is from Honda…Le Mans – arguably the world’s most famous motorsport venue – welcomes the motorcycling World Championships onto its hallowed tarmac for the 22nd time this weekend. France’s motorsport Mecca has been hosting the French Grand Prix on and off since 1969, and in recent years has been the scene of some thrilling races, several of them influenced by rainy conditions. Indeed three of the last four French GPs have been run on a wet or damp track!Honda has enjoyed much premier-class success at Le Mans, with ten victories achieved by Fast Freddie Spencer, Eddie Lawson, Mick Doohan, Alex Crivillé, Valentino Rossi, Sete Gibernau and Marco Melandri. This year Honda’s six RC212V riders will be doing everything they can to continue that record of success, while keeping a very watchful eye on the weather.The Repsol Honda team of Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) and Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V) is chasing its first victory of 2010 after scoring a podium finish at each of the first two GPs of the year, Dovizioso taking a third-place finish at the season-opening Qatar GP on April 11 and Pedrosa scoring a second-place finish at Jerez on May 2.Following his strong showing at Jerez, Pedrosa has high hopes for Le Mans, where he has scored three GP victories (125 in 2003, 250 in 2004 and 2005), with each of those successes leading to world title glory at the end of the season. Pedrosa also has strong Le Mans form in the big class, having taking three pole positions on his last four visits to the track. If Pedrosa can turn that speed into another victory on Sunday, it will augur well for his 2010 championship challenge.Dovizioso has also tasted glory at Le Mans – winning the 2004 French 125 GP, which led him to that year’s 125 world title – and will be gunning hard for another visit to the podium, especially following a successful post-race test at Jerez. Dovizioso will use the revised RCV chassis he evaluated during those tests.Le Mans is a big weekend for Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda RC212V), France’s only rider in the premier category. The former 250 challenger goes well at the circuit, having scored four 250 podium finishes at Le Mans between 2002 and 2005, but he has yet to repeat that success in the big class. Nevertheless, de Puniet is feeling confident following a successful day of testing at Jerez, during which he worked at honing the chassis set-up of his RC212V. He also focused on improving his starts, after a less than perfect getaway in the Jerez race left him with so much work to do.Marco Melandri (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) is also in positive mood and looking to continue the upward trend of the last two races. The Italian had a challenging winter readapting to Honda machinery after two years with other manufacturers, but he has now found a good direction, which allowed him to secure an encouraging eighth-place finish at Jerez. Melandri won the wet-and-dry 2006 French MotoGP race for Honda and has since finished on the Le Mans podium in 2007 and 2009.Team-mate Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) is learning fast about MotoGP. The Italian rookie has showed his racing prowess in his first two outings in the class and is now getting the hang of squeezing extra performance from his RCV. During the Jerez tests he worked at improving braking stability, which is of huge importance at Le Mans, a track dominated by slow corners.Fellow rookie Hiroshi Aoyama (Interwetten Honda MotoGP RC212V) also has much to learn about MotoGP. With so little off-season testing time available due to new cost-cutting regulations, every extra lap for Aoyama and the other rookies is crucial, which is why the reigning 250 World Champion reckons the post-race tests at Jerez have helped him so much.Another dogfight of a race is expected from the new Moto2 World Championship. The Moto2 race at Jerez was an edge-of-the-seat affair, with the lead changing on innumerable occasions, the Honda CBR600-powered machines all so equal on performance. Winner at Jerez was Toni Elias (Gresini Racing Moto2, Moriwaki), but Shoya Tomizawa (Technomag-CIP, Suter) finished second to maintain his lead in the series. This will be an extra special weekend for Tomizawa, winner of the historic first Moto2 race in Qatar, because he now lives in France during the season, nearby his French team, where the technical department is run by former HRC crew chief Gilles Bigot.French fans should find plenty of home hero interest in Moto2, with three riders in the class: Jules Cluzel (Forward Racing, Suter), former 125cc World Champion Mike Di Meglio (Mapfre Aspar Team) and Valentin Debise, (WTR San Marino Team, ADV).Interwetten Honda 125cc rider Marcel Schrotter scored his first points of the season at Jerez aboard his RS125R and goes into the French GP in confident mood, despite having never raced at Le Mans. The 125cc class is ultra-competitive and the young German will need to get in as many laps as possible during practice and qualifying if he is to challenge for a top ten finish in the race. Schrotter has excelled himself in several wet-dry races and the unpredictable Le Mans weather conditions will not dim his enthusiasm.Honda’s premier-class success at Le Mans covers almost three decades and a variety of riders and bikes. In 1983 Fast Freddie Spencer won Honda’s first 500cc success at the track aboard Honda’s NS500 triple. Between 1985 and 2000, Spencer, Eddie Lawson, Mick Doohan and Alex Crivillé all won 500 GPs with Honda’s NSR500 V4. And since the switch to four-stroke MotoGP, Valentino Rossi, Sete Gibernau and Marco Melandri have won at Le Mans with the RC211V.Legendary for its 24-hour races, Le Mans hosted its first bike GP in 1969. The Bugatti circuit, very different from the much longer 24-hour car circuit, returned to the GP calendar in 2000 after an absence of four years, during which time the French GP was run at Circuit Paul Ricard in Provence. Since 2000 the event has built a huge following in bike-mad France, with tens of thousands of bikers making the two-hour trip to the Sarthe from Paris.Le Mans underwent safety modifications before the 1999 GP, partly as a result of Alberto Puig’s injurious turn-one crash during practice for the

1995 French GP. The daunting right hander was tightened and the Musée left-hander was also modified to lower speeds. Further modifications have been carried out during subsequent years in an ongoing programme of improvements.The track’s character is very stop-and-go, with plenty of slow turns where braking and acceleration performance are primordial. Riders and their engineers therefore concentrate on honing their machines’ stability during braking, as well as improving rear-end traction for the numerous hairpin exits.HONDA MotoGP RIDER QUOTESRepsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa says: “After the Jerez race I’m looking forward to arriving in Le Mans and continuing with our recent progress. We were able to complete a good weekend in Spain, being fast from the first practice and building up to the best set-up possible for the race. This is the pattern we have to achieve again in France. Le Mans is one of those circuits where you need to be prepared for any track conditions because the weather can play a big part during the weekend. In fact, last year’s wet-dry race was a good example of this. So it will be very important to make maximum use of the practice sessions and be ready to set the bike up for a wide range of weather conditions and temperatures. Le Mans will also be my 150th Grand Prix in the World Championship, and I would really like to mark this with another great result there.”Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso says: “I’m looking forward to racing at Le Mans this weekend. It’s a circuit that I like and where I always tend to get good results so I’m confident for this race. After the improvements we found during the Monday test in Jerez, I think we will be very competitive. In fact we will use the new chassis we tested in Jerez and I’m very positive about our potential. Le Mans is a slow racetrack.

It looks easy on paper but in reality it’s quite a tricky place to interpret, and riding at maximum pace is a good challenge. There are many variations of camber and elevation changes that make things difficult – and this is what I like about it. Last year I fought for the podium and I lost out on the very last lap so my motivation is high for this race. I’m confident we can fight with the front riders this year.”LCR Honda rider Randy de Puniet says: “Of course, Le Mans is a big event for me and the team. You always want to do your best in every race, but having so many fans urging you on is an extra boost, so I want to get the best possible result for all the people who support me all year round. I think we can have a better race at Le Mans than we did at Jerez. We made some good improvements to the bike during the tests at Jerez, so I want to say a big thank you to my crew for all their hard work. I like Le Mans – it’s quite stop and go and there’s a lot of hard braking into the hairpins, which I enjoy.”Marco Melandri (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) says: “Things are looking much more optimistic after the last race at Jerez and I was happy with the test we did there on the Monday. I think my feeling with the Honda RC212V is much better compared to the first two races and we are starting to learn about the things we need to change to improve it. We’re heading to some circuits where we have no winter testing data so it will be more difficult for everybody to find a set-up. You also have to consider that the weather can be decisive at Le Mans so is important to find a race setting as quickly as possible in practice. Le Mans is traditionally my strongest circuit in MotoGP – I won there in 2006, I was on the podium in 2007 and 2009 and only just missed out in 2005 so I have lots of good memories of France. Naturally I’m not going to Le Mans feeling totally convinced we will come away with a great result but I feel confident that I can put up a fight, like I did at Jerez, but this time higher up the order.”Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) says: “I was a little disappointed to have an extra weekend off because I wanted to race straight away. I’m confident after the work we did at Jerez, especially the test because we improved a lot under braking and that will be decisive at Le Mans. I can’t wait to go racing again and I head to France in high spirits and hopeful of improving on my race from Jerez. I had fun in Spain and even though I would have obviously preferred to finish at the front of the group I was fighting with it was a great battle. Maybe with a little more determination I could have finished seventh and if I could make that my objective at Le Mans it wouldn’t be bad. It isn’t one of my favourite circuits but I always seem to have done well at Le Mans, including one of my best results of the 2007 season, a second place in 2008 and a victory last year, so I am confident. You never know what will happen with the weather but with the new track surface it should be less of a concern.”Interwetten Honda MotoGP rider Hiroshi Aoyama says: “I expect a lot from Le Mans. I know the track and don’t mind it, but the weather is very critical there. It is always dry/rain/dry/rain and never all dry or all wet. But the layout of the track is very close to the Motegi track with a lot of stop-and-go sections and that suits the Japanese riders somehow. We have tested a lot in Jerez the day after the race and I have a much better feeling with the bike now. I hope the feeling will be there from the first practice on and to improve during these sessions to be strong in the race. Nevertheless I never had a podium there, so we will have to wait and see what happens.”Moto2 RIDER QUOTESTechnomag-CIP rider Shoya Tomizawa says: “This is my team home GP so I am quite happy about that. Beside this, I like the Le Mans layout and my only worry so far is what kind of weather we will get, because last year it rained a lot and this year I would prefer to race in the dry. This weekend may be different from Jerez because no one has been to Le Mans with a Moto2 bike, so the target is to have a good race, finish and score points.”Gresini Racing Moto2 rider Toni Elias says: “We can expect another crazy Moto2 race, I think, because there are a lot of hairpins and slow corners at Le Mans, which means there will be some big battles on the brakes. I hope that everyone understands that the race is more than 20 laps, not just one or two laps! My injuries get better every day, so I hope that I can race with less pain than I had at Jerez.”Interwetten Moriwaki Moto2 rider Thomas Luthi says: “The Le Mans track is not bad for me. I already had several successful races there, my last win included. But this last win was another story as it was in 125cc and a long time ago. My target is to be part of the front group. I will not focus on anything else than riding in the leading group. Once you are there really anything can happen in Moto2.”The following is from Ducati…The MotoGP World Championship enters new level of intensity this weekend as the Grand Prix de France at the historic Bugatti circuit in Le Mans kicks off a run of seven races in a little over two months before the summer break.The Ducati MotoGP Team, which has proven to be competitive on different tracks with both riders, is looking to make the most of the potential of riders and bike as Casey Stoner aims to recover lost ground in the championship and Nicky Hayden targets a continuation of his positive early season progress.Le Mans, widely known as a typical “stop and go” circuit, has proven to be a challenge for Ducati in the past although the factory has celebrated podiums there on two occasions, with Stoner in 2007 and Capirossi in 2006. However, the new specification GP10 machine has given the Ducati MotoGP Team plenty of reason for optimism as they look to tackle the unique demands of the French circuit this weekend.CASEY STONER, Ducati MotoGP Team

“Because of the “stop and go” nature of the circuit at Le Mans you need a bike that is very stable on the brakes but also agile and quick in corner exit, especially in the slow sections. In the past we have usually managed to be fast and run at the front but we’ve never come away with the results that we would have liked. This year I think we can have higher expectations than the past two seasons there and we will certainly give our best to meet them.”NICKY HAYDEN, Ducati MotoGP Team

“Le Mans is probably the most difficult circuit on the calendar for me because I think it is the only place I’ve never been on the podium or the front row at, so it will be interesting to see how we go this year. As I have said a few times we have made a good start to the season and put two good races together but we have to keep our feet on the ground and keep working because our objective is to consistently perform at a high level and close the gap even further to those front guys. The last couple of tenths are definitely the hardest to find but I feel comfortable with the bike and the team, I’m enjoying myself and I feel confident about the rest of the season.”VITTORIANO GUARESCHI, Team Manager

“We have never produced amazing results at Le Mans but this year I am expecting a good race from both our riders – partly because for various reasons in the past we probably haven’t capitalised on our potential there and also because we are more competitive in general now. Casey and Nicky are in great shape and the GP10, with its more linear power curve, will put less stress on the tyres at this track and should also be easier for the riders to handle around this track.”THE TRACK

Located in the Sarthe region, a couple of hours’ drive from the capital city of Paris, Le Mans is renowned for the 24 Hour automobile race. The Bugatti circuit, which is very different to the actual 24 Hour circuit, plays host to the MotoGP race, having returned to the calendar back in 1999. Considered a “stop and go” circuit, Le Mans is riddled with slow corners but also features one of the fastest on the calendar, which comes at the end of the start-finish straight. A host of hairpins and chicanes call for balance and control under repeated heavy braking as well as corner speed and good acceleration on exit. With nine right-hand corners and only four left-handers the track is also a major test for tyres.

By Press Release