Michelin, Riders and Teams Preview Le Mans MotoGP
After four very different races this year, Michelin has used all the data gathered from those events, plus the recent one-day test at Jerez, to make a range of tyres which are ideally suited to the unique demands of Le Mans. The 4,185m long circuit is very much a stop-and-go track, with a lot of emphasis placed on late braking and hard acceleration out of the corners.
The nine right-hand and five left-hand corner configuration is not particularly stressful on tyres, but with the extra demands of more right turns the Michelin Power Slicks for the rear will both feature an asymmetrical design with a harder right shoulder. These will be available in a soft (white identifying band) and medium (no band) compound, both of which are new versions that will be used for the first time this season.
The front tyre allocation will feature all three compounds; soft (white band), medium (no band) and hard (yellow band), with the soft Michelin Power Slick featuring a new compound that is softer in manufacture to cope with the expected cooler conditions. The Michelin Power Rain tyres in soft (blue band) and hard (no band) will be available for use in wet conditions.
Round five of the MotoGP championship will be staged on the Bugatti circuit, which is a permanent race track located within Circuit des 24-Heures and is named after Ettore Bugatti, the famous automobile designer and manufacturer. The circuit uses a part of the legendary 24-Heures circuit, plus a separate purpose built section.
Michelin has a rich history at Le Mans with many premier class motorcycle Grand Prix successes and 24 wins, including 18 consecutive victories, at the 24h of Le Mans car race since 1988. The French Grand Prix is always a lively affair with a very partisan and passionate crowd in attendance, and this year’s race looks like being extremely busy with a sell-out crowd expected to pack the circuit.
Nicolas Goubert – Deputy Director, Technical Director and Supervisor of the MotoGP Programme
“The weather is often unsettled for Le Mans so you have to be ready for everything, from rain, overcast skies and chilly temperatures, to hot, bright sunshine. Le Mans is a circuit that is low on grip, so we don’t expect wear to be an issue. The chief difficulty is covering the wide spectrum of possible conditions.”
Ducati Team gets ready for French Grand Prix at Le Mans
After completing a one-day private test at Mugello earlier this week, the Ducati Team has now arrived in France for the fifth round of the championship, to be held at the Le Mans circuit.
Andrea Dovizioso has often been able to produce good results at Le Mans, the Italian in fact always qualifying for the race on the front row in the last five years. Dovi has stepped onto the podium three times in the premier class, the last time twelve months ago when he placed third after qualifying second on the grid. In his three MotoGP races at Le Mans on the other hand, the best result for Andrea Iannone was fifth place last year.
In the last few days one of the main activities within Ducati Corse was a careful analysis of the cause of Andrea Dovizioso’s retirement on lap 10 at Jerez, during the Spanish GP. The conclusion was that the #04 Desmosedici GP’s retirement was not caused by a breakdown of the water pump, but by a problem with another component that prevented the pump from functioning correctly. Ducati Corse wishes therefore to reiterate its full confidence in the quality of the products supplied by OMP, a company which for many years has been an extremely reliable partner for the racing department of Borgo Panigale.
Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team #29) – 10th (25 points)
“Today we have arrived at Le Mans, a track I like a lot. Last year it was a positive race for me and I was quick, despite the shoulder injury I picked up when I crashed in Mugello testing. My approach is therefore relaxed and positive, because this year I know that we have really excellent potential. Obviously, after the difficulties we had at Jerez, now we have to keep up a high competitive level in all the coming races.”
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04) – 11TH (23 points)
“With the new tyres, this year it is really difficult to know what a circuit is going to be like before we take to the track on Friday morning. Every race weekend is completely different to the previous one and so you have to start the work afresh. We have to understand how the tyres are going to work here on my Desmosedici GP, but I am confident because Le Mans is a track where I always manage to express my potential and hopefully we have the chance to be competitive and fight with the top guys.”
The combination of Lorenzo and his Yamaha visited the French podium multiple times. He has secured four premier class wins in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2015 and scored a second place in 2008.
Having showed a very fast and consistent pace aboard his YZR-M1 during the Jerez test last week, the Mallorcan, who celebrates his 29th birthday today, is eager to challenge for a top result again this weekend as he aims to climb up the championship ranking order from his current second place. Having claimed his first victory of the season in Jerez, teammate Rossi is excited to start the fifth round of the championship and add another good result to his already extensive list of podium finishes at the Le Mans Bugatti circuit.=
Traditionally, The Doctor scores good results at the French GP. Throughout his premier class career he has collected three victories at Le Mans in 2002, 2005 and 2008, five second places in 2003, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2015 and three third places in 2000, 2001 and 2011. The Italian currently holds third place in the championship standings.
Massimo Meregalli – Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director
“After a great weekend in Jerez, we are feeling energised as we head to Le Mans. This has been a good track for us in the past and we are looking forward to going there and getting back into action. We will start the first free practice session with the intention to continue the momentum we built at the previous round and we will carry through the same hands-on approach throughout the weekend. The French GP can be unpredictable in terms of weather, but I am confident we will be able to find a solution for whatever the circumstances will be.”
Jorge Lorenzo – Championship: 2nd, 65 points
“Jerez was a good race, not perfect because of the result, but at least we could add one more podium to our tally. This season it’s going to be crucial to keep scoring the maximum number of points every race, like we did in Jerez, so we can now focus on Le Mans, where we intend to do the same. France is often tricky because of the weather, so we need to be prepared in case it rains. Anyway my target is to try to get another podium and be a constant at the front, though it’s still uncertain how we will be able to manage with the new tyres. Every race is different but we need to be focused the whole weekend and try to get the maximum from our package.”
Valentino Rossi – Championship: 3rd, 58 points
“Le Mans is a track where the YZR-M1 usually goes very well. The negative thing about Le Mans is the weather, it is always very uncertain. It can rain, it is often cold and so there are many factors that you must be careful of. Last year I had a good race but I was not able to beat Jorge, I’ll try again this year. First we will start the weekend in the same way as we did in Jerez. There we found a good set-up on Friday and this has helped us to be competitive in the race. We will do our best also in Le Mans.”
Espargaro and Smith fired up for Tech3 home GP at Le Mans
Pol Espargaro will once again be targeting to finish as close as possible to the factory MotoGP riders as he intends to seal the leading satellite placement in the race for the third time this year. The Spaniard, who currently sits in 5th in the Championship standings, undertook a successful test after the Spanish GP and he now intends to use the findings to aid his fight to snatch a notable result.
Whilst Bradley Smith aims to turn around his tricky season so far and battle with his teammate for the top independent position aboard the Yamaha YZR-M1. After making progress at the Jerez test, the 25-year-old British will be gunning to repeat his strong performance in last year’s race at Le Mans, where he seized 6th.
Pol Espargaro – Championship: 5th, 36 points
“Next up is Le Mans and I am looking forward to doing my best there plus making the team proud at their home Grand Prix. The circuit is one of the most famous in the world and I do enjoy riding it every year. I have some fond memories such as finishing in 4th in my rookie season with the Tech3 team after qualifying in 2nd. Of course, I’m not under any illusion that it will be easy to achieve this result again as the competition level has risen this year, yet I will give it everything I’ve got. After the Spanish GP, we had a useful test where we made some positive steps forwards with regards to the suspension and the setup. Therefore, I’m excited to see what we can achieve with these changes in France as I feel that we made some valuable discoveries in Jerez. The weather is always a tricky factor in Le Mans because we have often had rain in the past but I hope that the skies stay clear for this weekend! In any case, I am excited and ready to get the show going in France.”
Bradley Smith – Championship: 12th, 20 points
“Although this season has been quite challenging for me, I am determined to turn things around in Le Mans, especially as it’s the Tech3 team’s home race, plus the Grand Prix is sponsored by Monster Energy who are the team’s title backers. Le Mans is always interesting and the weather there is similar to what we get in England so we all have to be prepared for rain, even if I am keeping my fingers crossed for a dry weekend. However, despite the fact whether it’s wet or not, I am going to do my absolute best and hopefully, we get the bike set up well on the opening day in order to be in a good position to fight for the top independent placement on Sunday. This is what I’ll be aiming for but we will have to work hard to be able to get there. Anyway, we ran well at Le Mans last year and we made some progress at the test in Jerez so we will see what happens. Yet, I am keen to get going and give the Tech3 fans something to cheer about.”
Repsol Honda preview Le Mans MotoGP
Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa are en route to France after scoring solid third- and fourth-place finishes, respectively, in the Spanish GP, which was immediately followed by a positive one-day post-race test. The Repsol Honda riders look forward to trying to make the best use of the data gathered there, and to start the French GP on the right foot beginning with the FP1 session, which will start Friday morning at 9:55 local time.
Marc has had mixed results at the historic Le Mans Circuit. He took the MotoGP victory in 2014 and the Moto2 win in 2011, as well as podium finishes in 2013 (MotoGP) and 2010 (125cc). Last year he earned pole position but experienced difficulty with his front tyre during the Sunday race after temperature significantly increased compared to the rest of the weekend. He made the best of the situation, managing to finish fourth after a hard-fought battle with Andrea Iannone during the final five laps.
Dani has finished on the Le Mans podium seven times, including a MotoGP win in 2013 and three victories in the smaller-displacement classes (250cc in ’04 and ’05, 125cc in ’03). Last year he returned to racing in Le Mans after missing the Americas, Argentine and Spanish GPs (having received surgery to his right arm to alleviate discomfort from arm pump); unfortunately, he crashed out of the race on the second lap. The Spaniard showed grit and determination by re-joining the race in last place and finished in 16th.
Marc Marquez – CHAMPIONSHIP STANDING: 1ST – 82 POINTS
“I like the Le Mans track although it requires that you be ready to deal with many variables. To begin with, the weather: you never know what it will do there. Last year the temperature rose significantly on Sunday and we suffered a lot with front grip in the race. Rain also isn’t unusual there. In addition, the track has a stop-and-go layout, with many slow turns where braking and acceleration are crucial. We’ll see if we find ourselves in a situation similar to Austin, where acceleration out of slow corners was a lot better than expected, or if we have to face a bigger challenge. During the last test in Jerez, we worked a lot on electronics and the chassis setting to find more grip, and on the balance of the bike to reduce wheelying. It’s always a compromise but I think we’ve gathered useful info for Le Mans and, knowing how far we’ve come since this winter and how quickly we’ve been able to react to many situations, I feel confident and look forward to starting the next racing weekend.”
Dani Pedrosa – CHAMPIONSHIP STANDING: 4TH – 40 POINTS
“I enjoy the Bugatti circuit, and we’ve had good results there in the past, but this year there are some factors to consider. In the last race I couldn’t go full-throttle on the straights because the rear tyre was spinning too much, and I think that also in Le Mans a lot will depend on how the tyre will get grip from the track. Normally this isn’t a ‘super-grippy’ track, so we’ll have to continue working on that side in order to make it better. In the Jerez test, we tried to improve our feeling, testing different things such as suspension and some other solutions thought to provide more grip out of the turns and to make the bike faster into the tight corners. We’ll see if the info collected will be useful on a practical level in Le Mans. Finally, let’s hope the weather will be kind to us.”
Suzuki Preview Le Mans MotoGP
Aleix Espargaró arrives in France after very positive improvements he made in Spain. After a tough start to the season, he has found confidence back in his GSX-RR, and at Jerez, finally got back to his normal competitiveness. He is also determined to put last year’s Le Mans event behind him, when he suffered a bad crash in FP3; which affected his overall performance.
Viñales, in contrast, had positive feelings about the track last year and he is now eager to test the GSX-RR’s improvements at such a tight track. The recent race in Jerez left him the desire to further improve, as he is getting closer-and-closer to the fastest riders on track. The progress made so far has given him hope for better results, and Le Mans holds good memories; a circuit where he has tasted victory in the past.
Last year’s race at Le Mans saw Espargaró suffer a huge high-side in FP3 that prevented him taking part in the time attack that could have given him direct access to Q2. He qualified 10th for the race despite fighting with pain from the accident and in the race, a clutch issue took him out of the game on the second lap. Viñales missed Q2 by just 0.027s in FP3, but struggled in Q1, finally qualifying in 13th, while in the race he recovered positions to finally score ninth position.
“I’m looking forward to Le Mans because I have the enthusiasm after the improvements we did at last race. In Jerez, in particular, I found a good set-up and my confidence with the GSX-RR has grown a lot. I struggled in the beginning of the season and I’m so happy to be back to the top. The bike has a lot of potential and my crew is working really hard, and with this combination I’m sure we’ll get to better results very soon. Le Mans is a particular track; very tight, and where we will need a lot of traction. We have worked a lot on this area recently as it was pretty-much an issue to us and we made big steps forward, so I hope the work we’ve done will pay off.”
“After Jerez I had confirmation that we made great improvements, but also that they are not enough. We have a lot of room for improvement and we must be good in exploiting our better potential. We are much more competitive than last year and this makes me confident for the job we are doing; also in Jerez in the test we made big steps forward and we found different solutions that will help us a lot. Le Mans will not be an easy track, but we are working hard and hopefully this will pay us back. We know which areas we still miss-out on and our understanding of the machine and electronics has increased a lot, so this will help us to find better solutions.”
Relatively short with a lot of heavy braking sections and direction changes, the French track with these characteristics could prove to be “friendly” for the Aprilia RS-GP bikes, a new project with developments that continued even this week with a series of private tests at Mugello and that has already demonstrated promising values in terms of reliability and performance.
The unknown at Le Mans that must always be taken into consideration is the weather, which can change suddenly and heavily influence the practice sessions and races. This is another important element that will demand maximum concentration from the entire Aprilia Racing Team Gresini.
ROMANO ALBESIANO – APRILIA RACING MANAGER
“Our development programme continues. On Monday at Mugello we completed a few important electronics tests with Bautista and Bradl in terms of power output, whereas on Tuesday and Wednesday the tests continued with Mike di Meglio and the Aprilia test team. At Le Mans there will once again be aerodynamic changes, engine performance improvements and some further fine-tuning on the electronics package that we will be trying out on the French track. We are coming from a race at Jerez where the RS-GP showed some important signs of competitiveness and we aim to continue the positive trend”.
FAUSTO GRESINI – TEAM MANAGER
“In the private tests and Mugello we tried out the technical updates on the track that had already been introduced in the post-race tests at Jerez, but unfortunately the weather conditions weren’t the best. So at Le Mans we’ll continue testing the chassis upgrades that already gave us positive indications in Spain with improvements in terms of stability and the way the bike performs coming out of corners. We will definitely be able to take another important step forward, continuing development leading up to the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello, which is a very important found for us”.
“Le Mans is a relatively small track with a lot of direction changes and really unpredictable weather. We’ll have one eye on the sky in every session! After the good weekend at Jerez, despite my crash in the race, we hope to continue improving my feeling in the saddle and the bike’s performance. In the tests after the race we put in a lot of kilometres, continuing our development programme with upgrades that we will continue to focus on in France as well. I would like to battle like I did last round, going through to Q2 in the qualifiers and battling in the top 10 zone during the race”.
“I’m very anxious to get to the second European round at Le Mans. We’ll have some upgrades and this is a track that I think can really cater well to the characteristics of our bike. In terms of layout it isn’t a very fast track, but there are a lot of heavy braking sections where the RS-GP has proven to perform rather well. We’ll arrive at the French round ready for action. We are working well and I’m sure that we’ll bring home important championship points here as well for me and for Aprilia”.
The battle to finish as the top independent rider in this year’s championship currently sees three riders separated by just eight points, with Aspar Team rider Eugene Laverty firmly in the hunt. The Irishman is currently ninth in the overall standings and he is determined to maintain his top ten position at Le Mans, preferably by finishing as the top independent rider. Laverty travels to Le Mans feeling confident after his ninth place at Jerez, where he was just 1.5 seconds behind the top independent. Yonny Hernández has had this round circled on his calendar since the schedule was announced. The Colombian scored his best result of last season at Le Mans when he finished eighth, a result he would love to repeat this weekend as he aims to turn some recent bad luck around.
“I was very satisfied with the last race at Jerez. My aim was to maintain this strong top ten form and we did exactly that with ninth position. We arrive at Le Mans with good confidence and good momentum, my aim is to make another top ten finish and keep fighting to be the top independent team. We were so close at Jerez, just 1.5 seconds off, so this time we want to make sure we arrive first. I think the Le Mans circuit should actually suit our bike a lot, so I am looking forward to it.”
“After the test at Jerez last week I think we have some interesting information and a good feeling to take with us to Le Mans for the French Grand Prix. I think we can be fighting to be in the top ten positions if the track conditions and the bike are consistent over the weekend and we don’t have any external issues that make things difficult on race day.”
Avintia Racing Preview
Avintia Racing riders, Hector Barbera and Loris Baz heads to the legendary Le Mans circuit for the fifth round of the 2016 MotoGP World Championship this weekend. For Loris Baz these will be four busy days inside, but also outside the track, starting with the Official Press Conference on Thursday. The 23 year old is the only French rider in the MotoGP grid, and after his recent qualifying performances, with two successive Q2, heads his home grand prix determined to fight for a good result on Sunday’s race.
Hector Barbera is ready to battle in any condition. The Spaniard knows well the weather can change quickly at Le Mans, but he is confident about his pace at the 4,185 meters track. His goal in France will be to maintain the regularity and try to finish once again in the top ten in Sunday.
“The weather always play a big part in France race weekend and the rain can appear at any moment, but I go to Le Mans in confident mood because we already showed a good pace in wet condition. I’m more prepared than ever and during the last week I had time to think and analyse the first four races of the season. We know that we have the potential to go a step forward and we head to Le Mans in high motivation and eager to keep working in the same direction, because this is the best way to archive better results.”
“I’m looking forward to Le Mans, my home race weekend. Sure I’ll be busy attending to sponsors and media, but it’s part of my job and I also like to do it. But what I really want is to be fast on the bike, we will see how the weekend goes, but we are in the pace with the lap times and now we have to focus on get the best result in the race, and fight again to be in the Q2 on Saturday like in the last few races. If we can do it, then we’ll be able to celebrate a good result with my home fans on Sunday.”
MotoGP riders travel back in time at Chateau du Lude
On Wednesday ahead of the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France local riders Loris Baz, Fabio Quartararo and Alexis Masbou were joined by Tito Rabat and Niccolo Antonelli as they took a trip back in time to one of the most historically important castles in France.
The “Château de Lude” is located in Sarthe in the Pays-de-la-Loire region and stands where the Anjou, Maine and Touraine provinces meet. Originally built between the 10th and 11th centuries on the banks of the river Loire to defend against the Normans and English during the Hundred Years War, the chateaux has been inhabited by the same family for the last 260 years.
The riders were greeted in person by one of the chateaux’s current occupants the Countess Barbara De Nicolay and her staff in full historical dress. They were then given the chance themselves to try out some period clothing and given ample opportunity to explore the chateaux and discover its colourful history.
Originally a military stronghold, it was transformed in to an elegant country home during the Renaissance period. The chateaux is world renowned for its transformation throughout the years under its various owners, with each bringing their own unique style to the renovation and development of this incredible building. It is also famous for its lavish gardens, which like the chateaux have evolved throughout the centuries, combining French design with an English style landscape.
After enjoying the day out it didn’t take long for matters to return to this weekend’s Monster Energy Grand Prix de France and the only French Rider in MotoGP, Loris Baz, is looking forward to racing once again home soil: “It is always different and special to ride in front of your fans. I hope I can give them a good result!” MotoGP rookie Tito Rabat is remaining focused on the task at hand as he continues to adapt to the premier class: “The most important thing is for us to try and be fast and consistent with the bike right from FP1.”
Reigning Moto2 World Champion Johann Zarco thinks it could be a rather special weekend as he races in France for the first time since lifting the title: “It will be an honor to ride as World Champion for the very first time in France in front of all of the fans. For one weekend only I will feel like Valentino Rossi!”
It has been a difficult start to Fabio Quartararo’s second year in Moto3, but he is hoping to use his home race to turn his fortunes around: “My plan is to make amends for my bad start to the season. I will push as hard as I can in front of the loyal French fans and I hope to achieve a good result.” His compatriot Alexis Masbou is riding the new Peugeot in 2016 in the French manufacturers debut season in Moto3 and is happy with the progress he is making on the new bike declaring, “Every race the Peugeot is improving!” For Qatar Moto3 race winner Italian Niccolo Antonelli it is a case of trying to bounce back after two DNFs in a row: “After two difficult races in Austin and Jerez, I want change my luck and get back to being on the podium.”