The San Carlo Honda Gresini Team make one of the longest road trips of the season this week as the MotoGP World Championship treks from the south of Spain to the north of France for round four. The world famous Le Mans circuit has played host to...
The San Carlo Honda Gresini Team make one of the longest road trips of the season this week as the MotoGP World Championship treks from the south of Spain to the north of France for round four. The world famous Le Mans circuit has played host to the Grand Prix de France intermittently since 1969 and uninterrupted since 2000, with the Gresini Team celebrating victory on four occasions out of those last nine visits.
Whilst continuously aspiring to the very top, the more realistic target for Toni Elias and Alex de Angelis is somewhat more modest this weekend as the Spaniard and the San Marinese look to recover points and confidence following a disappointing display at Jerez in round three. Elias does have happy memories of this circuit, having scored his first ever Grand Prix podium here with third place in the 125cc race in 2001. He also took victory in the 250cc class in 2003, following up with second place the following year, whilst De Angelis' only podium at this track came in the 250cc race in 2007. Both riders will be looking to make the most of extended track time this weekend, with the three practice sessions returning to an hour in length from the 45-minute limit introduced at the start of the year.
The Grand Prix de France is one of the most historic races on the calendar, having first been held back in 1952 at the Albi circuit. That was the first and only time the series visited that track, as the race moved on to a total of eight different venues: Clermont-Ferrand, Magny-Cours, Nogaro, Paul Ricard, Reims, Rouen and then Le Mans. The current circuit, located in the Sarthe region, was used for the first time in 1969 and was won by Giacomo Agostini, who lapped all the other riders on his MV Agusta. The current Bugatti circuit measures just over 4km and features only a small part of the famous 24-Hour track, which extends to just over 13km.
#24 TONI ELIAS
"I was very disappointed with the level of our performance at Jerez but we cannot turn back the clock and we simply have to take whatever positives we can out of the situation. The truth is that I think we are making progress overall and whilst we still may not be able to challenge where we want to be at Le Mans, the important thing will be to continue getting closer. Le Mans is a circuit I like and it suits my style because there is a lot of hard braking, but the reality is that if we don't find a good balance for the bike then it doesn't matter how much I like it! I felt comfortable there with the Gresini Honda bike in 2007, even though the race didn't go to plan, so hopefully I can get a good feeling again and it can be a positive weekend."
#15 ALEX DE ANGELIS
"It has been a very difficult couple of weeks for me for a variety of reasons. After making a great start to the season with sixth place in Qatar we have struggled for set-up at Motegi and Jerez and I've had a couple of crashes, which are never helpful. Nevertheless, I don't feel like we are entirely to blame and I have absolute faith in myself and my team that we can get back to the pace we know we are capable of. I'm pleased we are going back to an hour for each practice session because it means we don't have to rush so much and take unnecessary risks in practice. At Le Mans we will work hard on our race pace but also try to secure a better starting position because I think it was this, as much as anything, that damaged our chances in Spain."
FAUSTO GRESINI -- TEAM MANAGER
"Le Mans has traditionally been a good circuit for our bikes. However, so far this season the weak points of our machines are in different areas and we know we have a lot of work to do to make sure we are competitive. We took some small steps forward at Jerez but I was very dissatisfied after the race and I am looking for much more this weekend. We will be working hard from the moment the red light goes out on Friday afternoon because we need to make the most of every second. The extra time in the practice sessions should help us. Hopefully the weather will be on our side too because we could do with an incident-free, crash-free weekend if possible!"