This is one of the most intense moments of the 2008 World Motorcycling Championship. In just 10 weeks, seven races have been completed this season, six of them in Europe, and one, though only for the MotoGP riders, in the United States. After Dani...
This is one of the most intense moments of the 2008 World Motorcycling Championship. In just 10 weeks, seven races have been completed this season, six of them in Europe, and one, though only for the MotoGP riders, in the United States. After Dani Pedrosa's second position in the Chinese Grand Prix, where the Repsol rider had an exciting duel with Italian rider Valentino Rossi, the turn has come for a classic race on the World Championship calendar: the French Grand Prix on the Le Mans Circuit.
Along with the classification leader, Repsol Honda Team teammate Nicky Haydenwill also face an important challenge this coming weekend. The American's best result to date was a fourth position in the Spainish Grand Prix. After a complicated start in Qatar and the fourth place in Jerez, Hayden did not score any points in Portugal due to a fall, and during the last race in China he attempted to make up for it with a sixth position which obviously fell short of his expectations. The American Repsol Honda Team rider wants to be back on the podium this weekend in France.
The race on the legendary French track shall be a fresh chance for Julian Simon to be among the best in the category. The Repsol rider already demonstrated in China that hard work can put him among the five fastest, and as soon as his luck smiles on him again, he is convinced he will give a good performance during the race. What is more, the French track brings good memories to the Spamish rider, who last year managed to finish fifth after taking a place on the first row during the training sessions. On the other hand, the constant improvement over the last few weeks of the problems in his forearms mean that Simon is optimistic, and has had ongoing treatment with an osteopath to try and solve the issue once and for all.
For the 125cc riders, the French Grand Prix means another important challenge, as neither rider has ever raced on the French track. Rabat -who is completing his second World Championship- last season did not get past the timed training session, where he fell and broke his left wrist. For Marc Marquez this will be a chance to discover another new circuit, and to gain further experience. The Repsol rider is very excited after he managed to score his first points in a World Championship at the China Grand Prix, and is aware that his main goal this season will be to learn how to cope with the many situations he can find himself in.
Dani Pedrosa >> "I'm looking forward to getting to Le Mans. We will have a lot of work to do and we want to work hard to prepare as well as possible for the race. This is the fifth race of the year and it is also the start of the busiest part of the season with seven grands prix over ten weekends.
The most exciting part of the Le Mans track is after the first chicane, going downhill and through the long-right hander. The most complicated section is the final few corners after the second chicane. The most important factors at Le Mans are good acceleration and good brakes. You also need to make sure that you choose exactly the right gearbox ratios. And you need to ride aggressively. The weather can be a worry because it often rains. It's usually cold as well, so we normally use intermediate tyres. You get a lot of fans there, the grandstands are full on Sunday and the atmosphere is always great, it seems like they are really enthusiastic motorcycling fans."
Nicky Hayden >>
"We'll be aiming to step it up at Le Mans. We've not quite been there the last few races and we need to change that. I like Le Mans but there's not a whole lot to be said about the track. I like going over the top of the hill after the first chicane and dropping down into that right-hander, then accelerating out of there; that's probably my favourite part of the track.
There's not a lot of flow to the layout. I'd say the last little bit looks like something they threw together just to finish the lap, like they were in a hurry to get it done. You need the bike to be stable on the brakes, for sure, you definitely need something for some hard braking. You also need good acceleration from the engine, something that's smooth and controllable off the bottom. The weather can change a lot too, so your tyre picks on Thursday are pretty crucial. The track can generate some pretty high temperatures in the tyres and you need good traction accelerating out of all the hairpins because the asphalt at Le Mans can be quite slippery."
Julian Simon >>
"The Le Mans Grand Prix is here, the fifth race of the Championship. It's a race which brings me good memories, because last year we had a good weekend. I ran some very good training sessions where I classified in second place, and then I struggled with the leading pack throughout the race. I took a well-deserved fifth place.
This year we're using a new bike which is more difficut to set up, but that's what we're going to work hard on during the first training sessions on Friday. We already have the experience gained over four races, and that should be enough to fix a fast setup, because that's the starting point we usually find the hardest. I like the Le Mans circuit, and as for the issue with my arms, I've been working out with an osteopath since Jerez, and I'm improving a lot. So I'm very motivated, feeling excited and strong. I'm aware that we have to turn the situation around and try to return from Le Mans with a good result."
Marc Marquez >>
"I've been told that the Le Mans Circuit has some technical parts, though not too complicated. We also know that the weather is quite unpredictable there, the sun could be shining one moment and the next it's pouring rain, something like in Jerez. It's a circuit I've never been on, and I'm very excited.
The idea this year is to learn and gain as much experience as possible, and if while I'm at it we get a good result, then all the better. The result in China was quite good, but now I have to concentrate on this race and I'm just as excited as before. If we can improve on the result in China, great; but if not, it will be important to learn and build experience."
Esteve Rabat >>
"I'm very much looking forward to it, especially after the race in China, because aside from the disastrous training sessions, the race didn't go all that bad. I made a few mistakes, but still finished in eleventh position. In Le Mans let's hope KTM can bring us something new, and that I also improve a bit.
I think we can get a good line, because the circuit isn't too demanding on the engine, there are many turns, and it requires more skillful riding than in China, where the straightaways were very important. If we can manage a good setup for the chassis, I think we can do well and maybe climb some positions. I'm really looking forward to it and know it will be tough, but we'll try and get a good result starting from the first training session."