The Shark Helmets Grand Prix de France is ready to go and ahead of track action, it was pre-event Press Conference time at Le Mans. Championship leader – and home hero – Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) was joined by closest challenger Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar), Catalan GP podium finisher Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), Pramac Racing’s Francesco Bagnaia, home hero Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) and newly-announced 2021 MotoGP rider Jorge Martin, riding in Moto2 with Red Bull KTM Ajo.
“Finally it was a great moment to have my third win in Barcelona and I think that was the most important. We had some difficult moments in Misano, Brno and Austria. It was great to be back at a track that I really like. Last year here was really positive, the result was not that great but in the race we showed our pace was really fast, if we check the lap time we had the pace for the podium. That’s really good, we hope for the same this year. I’m really confident, the weather doesn’t look that bad so I’m happy and confident to be here.”
Why did he not ride at the Portimão Test?
“First of all it was to avoid any kind of injury, I think it was a bit risky two days before doing three races in a row. I was there six years ago and also we have a long FP1 and FP2 when we’re there so that’s the reason I didn’t go to Portimao and also it was a different bike.”
On Joan Mir as a teammate back in Moto3:
“For sure we are in a much better position than back then. That year, less for Joan, but for me it was a total disaster. It’s great that we keep a relationship since then and right now we are 1-2 in the championship, we were rookies last year and now we fight for the championship so it’s a cool story.”
“Yeah, it’s so nice, I remember that year really well because it was not easy at the beginning because it was my rookie year. We both struggled a lot the first half the season and then at the end it was a bit better and my season was not bad for the first. But yeah, it is nice that both of us are fighting for the championship and I’m really happy.”
What’s his focus? Winning races or the title?
“Honestly, I think in the World Championship we are really close but to fight for the Championship you need to win races and that is a fact. At the moment we are competitive, focused, consistent and fast, but we don’t have a victory yet. I am fully focused on that, fully focused on trying to get my first victory. Meanwhile it is important to score points and continue this way and like I said, just focus on the victory.”
And finally, on Suzuki getting two machines on the podium last time out:
“It was so nice especially because both of us were on the podium and the celebration was all the team, so it was special like you said some funny moments and I expect to repeat it this weekend.”
Rins picked up from there…
“Yeah for sure it was super nice for both Suzuki riders to finish on the podium, then all the team were super happy because as you know, this doesn’t come from the work we’re doing now, it comes from the work they’ve done since they were racing. It was super nice to do a double podium in Montmelo. To celebrate with Ken, Davide and all the team it was super. In Suzuki the relationship is quite nice, it’s like a family.”
Next up, the Spaniard talked about his ongoing recovery:
“For sure the podium in Montmelo gave me extra motivation and power. About the shoulder, I would like to say I’m at 100% but still not 100%. I’m happy to not feel pain on the bone but with this sort of injury you have to stop and recover for 2-3 months to be perfect. We didn’t stop with this season full of races, on the bike I’m not feeling enough muscle on the right arm. So we need to finish this season and fully recover for next season.”
Bagnaia was first asked about his 2021 move to the factory Ducati team:
“Very good! I’m happy I think I deserve this position because the races I have finished I have been strong and in front. We have done a great job this season. We have had a bit of bad luck with the broken leg and the engine failure so we are not in the position we deserve but I think our potential is very high, our bike is very strong, and we can be happy with the work we are doing. We need to be more consistent and finish the races, but we are there.”
And last time out?
“I’m not happy with the result because it was my mistake, Friday I was struggling with the conditions and it was my mistake not to adapt to the conditions. I started to move the settings on the bike too much. That Saturday I tried something different on the bike but it didn’t work and Sunday when I decided to go back to my standard bike I was strong in the race. Not in the first part because we already know Suzuki and Yamaha were better in the first part of the race because they heated the front tyre before and for us it was a little bit more difficult. And then in the last laps I closed the gap to the front. I think 3 seconds. So, we can be happy about the race but not happy with the weekend. My leg at the moment is riding at 100% but walking less.”
Zarco also began by talking about his 2021 machinery:
“It makes me feel good to know where to go next year and on a winning bike. I still have many things to learn on the Ducati and from the last races, the work was good but clearly on Sunday I didn’t get good results. I still need to put things together but I believe I’m on the good way and thanks to Ducati, all the things I’ll do this season, will be useful for next season. I’m also happy for Pecco that with these three races that he did, he showed the factory team was for him. I have this step with the bike, getting a new bike but similar for next year. Happy and fully motivated, one year ago this was not the situation in October, I know where I’m going and that makes my target really clear.”
How’s his injured wrist healing?
“The injury on the wrist was quickly getting well but then there are some ligaments that are still giving pain. I think it doesn’t disturb when riding but for the opinion of the physio, it’s disturbing a little bit the body is adapting and trying to compensate in another way. I think the not good results in the last races weren’t due to the wrist and still, as Alex said, when you have an injury you should stop for a few months but with our work you can’t. I’m feeling ok, still really taking care of it.”
And finally, is there any home pressure?
“At the French GP, the pressure is for Fabio I think, not for me. I have everything to win, we have 5,000 people here on Sunday which is better than nothing and it will give us some good energy. We will see the weather, not think too much and try to perform!”
First on Martin’s agenda was also 2021, when he’ll be moving to partner Zarco at Pramac.
“Super excited. After a long career I have finally arrived to MotoGP. It’s great, I’ve been racing with some of these guys in the past and I know them. I think it was the moment, I felt quite strong in Moto2 so I think it was the right moment to make the jump and I think going into MotoGP was my best option.”
So what’s the target for the rest of 2020?
“I think I have nothing to lose. I will try to win or be on the podium every race. I don’t have the pressure to make a mistake because my future is decided. I have the potential to win, not the Championship as I’m 71 points away, but for sure the top three is there and I will try to get into it.”
Le Mans Facts and Stats Update
Le Mans has hosted a Grand Prix on 32 previous occasions, including the “Vitesse du Mans” GP in 1991, which is the only year that two GPs have been held in France in the same year. Le Mans was first used for a Grand Prix event in 1969, when the 500cc race was won by MV Agusta’s Giacomo Agostini, who lapped all the other riders. This is the 21st year in a row that Le Mans has hosted a motorcycle Grand Prix event, starting in 2000.
There are seven other circuits that have hosted the French GP: Paul Ricard (13 times), Clermont-Ferrand (10), Nogaro (2), Reims (2), Rouen (2), Albi (1), Magny-Cours (1).
Honda’s last premier class win at Le Mans wasMarc Marquez in 2019 from pole position, which was the 300th win for Honda in the premier class. Marc Marquez also won in 2018 at the track.
Yamaha’s last premier class win at Le Mans was Maverick Viñales in 2017, from pole. Yamaha have had 10 premier class wins at Le Mans, including three in a row with Jorge Lorenzo (2015 & 2016) and Viñales in 2017, the latter of which was the 500th win for a Yamaha rider in Grand Prix racing.
Suzuki’s last premier class win at Le Mans was Chris Vermeulen in 2007, in the wet. Prior to Maverick Viñales winning at Silverstone in 2016 and Alex Rins in Austin and Silverstone in 2019, this was the only MotoGP™ victory for Suzuki since 2002. Viñales finished third at Le Mans in 2016 (the most recent premier class podium for Suzuki here), which was the first podium for Suzuki since Loris Capirossi was third at Brno in 2008.
The best premier class results for Ducati at Le Mans are seconds for Loris Capirossi in 2006, Valentino Rossi in 2012, Danilo Petrucci in 2018 and Andrea Dovizioso last year.
KTM’s best MotoGP result at Le Mans was Pol Espargaro, sixth in 2019, which was also their best result that season. Aprilia’s best premier class result at Le Mans: Noriyuki Haga, eighth in 2003.
There have been five wins at Le Mans for French riders: Jean Auréal (125cc – 1969), Guy Bertin (125cc – 1979), Patrick Fernandez (350cc – 1979), Mike Di Meglio (125cc – 2008) and Louis Rossi (Moto3™ – 2012).
The best MotoGP result for a French rider at Le Mans is second for Johann Zarco in 2017; the third premier class podium for a French rider at Le Mans after Raymond Roche was second in 1985 and Christian Sarron third in 1987.
Of the 18 MotoGP races held at Le Mans, nine have either started in wet conditions or rain has started during the race. The only years that the MotoGP™ race at Le Mans has been run in full dry conditions are: 2004, 2010, 2011 and from 2014 onwards.
Most successful Le Mans riders
Jorge Lorenzo – 6 wins (5 x MotoGP, 1 x 250cc)
Marc Marquez – 4 wins (3 x MotoGP, 1 x Moto2)
Tom Lüthi – 4 wins (2 x Moto2, 2 x 125cc)
Dani Pedrosa – 4 wins (1 x MotoGP, 2x250cc, 1 x 125cc)
Valentino Rossi – 3 wins (3 x MotoGP)
Solo motorcycle races
MotoGP – 18
500cc – 14
350cc – 2
Moto2 – 10
250cc – 22
Moto3 – 8
125cc – 22
80cc – 1
50cc – 5
Premier class wins
Honda – 15
Yamaha – 10
Suzuki – 5
MV Agusta – 2
MotoGP Facts and Stats
There have been six different winners in the opening eight MotoGP races of the year, equalling the record of different winners over the opening eight races set in 1974 and 2000.
13 different riders have stood on the podium since the opening race of the year in Spain, which is the highest number of podium finishers in the opening eight races of premier class season since 1976 when there were 16 podium finishers after the opening eight races.
10 different riders have qualified within the top three in the MotoGP class over the opening eight races, which is as many as last year in the first eight races. Five have qualified on pole, which is two more than the whole of 2019.
Only two different riders have led the Championship over the opening eight MotoGP races: Fabio Quartararo and Andrea Dovizioso.
10 different riders have led at least one lap across the line since the opening MotoGP race in Spain, one more than the whole of both 2019 and 2018. Fabio Quartararo leads the way, with 58 laps.
21 riders competing full-time in MotoGP have scored points since the opening race in Spain. The only one who started the 2020 season as a permanent rider who hasn’t scored any points yet is Marc Marquez.
Fabio Quartararo became the first Yamaha from an Independent Team to win more than twice in a single premier class season since Garry McCoy in the 500cc class, who did it three times in 2000. With Fabio Quartararo (Spain, Andalucia and Catalunya), Miguel Oliveira (Styria) and Franco Morbidelli (San Marino), this is the first time that there are five (or more) wins for Independent Teams riders in a single MotoGP season since 2004, when there were seven wins.
This is the first time that Yamaha riders have taken three successive wins in MotoGP since the last race of 2016 in Valencia with Jorge Lorenzo and the opening two races of 2017 with Maverick Viñales.
In addition, with Franco Morbidelli (San Marino), Maverick Viñales (Emilia Romagna) and Fabio Quartararo (Catalunya), this is the first time ever that Yamaha have taken three wins in a row in the premier class with three different riders.
Joan Mir crossed the line in second place equalling his best result in MotoGP from Austria and Emilia Romagna this year. This is his fourth podium finish in MotoGP and the first time he’s done it in three races in a row, becoming the first Suzuki rider to do so since Kenny Roberts Jr. in 2000 (Malaysia to Spain).
Following the Catalan GP, Joan Mir is second in the MotoGP Championship which is the best place for a Suzuki rider since Akira Ryo was also second after the opening race of 2002 in Japan. Prior to that, it was Kenny Roberts Jr. when he took the title in 2000.
At the French Grand Prix, Joan Mir will be aiming to become the first Suzuki rider to take four premier class podiums in four successive races since MotoGP Legend Kevin Schwantz did it in 1994 (from Japan to Germany).
Alex Rins crossed the line in third at the Catalan GP, which is his best result since he won the MotoGP race at the British GP last year. This is Rins’ ninth MotoGP podium and his 49th overall in GP racing, one less than Geoff Duke and Ralf Waldmann.
With Joan Mir and Alex Rins, this is the first time there are two Suzuki riders on a MotoGP podium since Misano in 2007 with Chris Vermeulen and John Hopkins.
With Andrea Dovizioso crashing out on the opening lap at the Catalan GP, only one rider has now scored points in all eight of the MotoGP races in 2020: Takaaki Nakagami, who has also always finished in the top ten.
Since the opening race of the season in Jerez, no Honda riders have been on the podium. This is the first time there has been no Honda rider on the podium in five or more successive premier class races since Honda came back to the premier class of GP racing in 1982.
None of the Honda riders have won at least one of the eight opening MotoGP races this season. The last time that happened and Honda did not have a win in the first eight races of the year was in 2007, when MotoGP Legend Dani Pedrosa gave Honda their first win of the year in Germany, which was the tenth race of the season.
Fabio Quartararo is now leading the MotoGP Championship with 108 points, the lowest score for a Championship leader after the opening eight races of a premier class season since the current scoring system was introduced in 1993.
Fabio Quartararo is 72 points ahead of Johann Zarco in 15th place; this is the closest top 15 after the opening eight races of the season in the premier class since the current scoring system was introduced in 1993.
At the French Grand Prix at Le Mans, Maverick Viñales is scheduled to make his 100th start in the premier class.
Two of the three rookies in MotoGP this year have previously won a Grand Prix race at Le Mans, in any of the smaller classes: Brad Binder won in Moto3 in 2016 and Alex Marquez took victory in the Moto2 race in 2019.
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