Le Mans Circuit Bugatti
Lorenzo leads the way to Le Mans
Three rounds into the 2011 season and the MotoGP World Championship has already delivered a wealth of thrilling on-track action, as well as a dose of intense competitive rivalry off it, which has added spice to what is already shaping up to be a fantastic title battle.
The drama will continue this weekend at Le Mans where reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo heads into the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France holding a slender four-point advantage over Dani Pedrosa at the top of the standings, after three rounds. Yamaha Factory Racing rider Lorenzo is preparing for his 150th GP start this weekend, which would make him the youngest rider ever to reach the milestone (taking the record off Pedrosa), and he won last year’s race at Le Mans. Lorenzo knows that his Repsol Honda rival is feeling fit and sharp after taking his first win of 2011 at the previous round in Portugal however, and the pair are both now level on 36 career GP wins each.
Casey Stoner stands 20 points adrift of his Repsol Honda team-mate after three races and will bid to take what would only be his second ever podium finish at Le Mans across all classes this weekend. The Australian is closely trailed by Valentino Rossi, who has won at Le Mans three times in the premier class (seven podium finishes in total), and the Italian will be pushing for his first Ducati podium at a circuit at which the factory has never before won a MotoGP race.
Rossi’s Ducati team-mate Nicky Hayden and Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso are level on points and finished fourth and third respectively in last year’s Le Mans race, and Hiroshi Aoyama has enjoyed a good start to the season with the San Carlo Honda Gresini team, something he will aim to maintain in France.
The Japanese rider’s team-mate Marco Simoncelli’s current points haul belies the Italian’s form so far this season. After placing fifth in Qatar he has crashed out of the last two races; at Jerez whilst leading and at Estoril after displaying a pace throughout the weekend which had indicated that an elusive first premier class podium was more than attainable.
British rookie Cal Crutchlow’s debut season continued on an upward curve in Portugal and the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider will make his racing debut at Le Mans. Team-mate Colin Edwards has twice stood on the podium at the track and the pair will be confident of following up an impressive previous round in Portugal at their team’s home GP.
Héctor Barberá (Mapfre Aspar) crashed out of a premier class race for the first time in his career in Portugal and will be determined to make amends in France, as will rookie Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing), and Toni Elías (LCR Honda) has twice won at Le Mans (once in 250s and last year in Moto2).
Ben Spies’ (Yamaha Factory Racing) season has not started as the American would have expected after two crashes in the last two races, and his target will be a points-scoring finish at a circuit at which he did not finish last year’s race. Pramac Racing duo Loris Capirossi and Randy de Puniet will try to follow up their Portugal results with another encouraging step forward, whilst Álvaro Bautista has had further time to recover following his incredible comeback from injury at Estoril.