MotoGP arrives at resurfaced Le Mans
2017 MotoGP content on MCNews.com.au brought to you by Honda Genuine
2017 MotoGP content on MCNews.com.au brought to you by Honda Genuine
Four points seperate Rossi, Vinales and Marquez at the top of the table as MotoGP lands in France

Located in the Loire region of France, The Bugatti Circuit in Le Mans is a truly historic racing venue, with the MotoGP paddock touching down for 2017, with the track recently resurfaced, adding an additional uncertainty as the engines fire up and the annual tour de force of the world’s fastest motorcycle racing Championship rolls into town.

MotoGP 2016 - Round Five - Le Mans - MotoGP
MotoGP 2016 – Le Mans

Some classic races have been won and lost on French soil, and 2017 promises another memorable rendezvous. In amongst the history, the track has also been resurfaced for 2017 – another extra challenge for the teams and riders as the Championship gains traction in Europe.

The 4,185m Bugatti Circuit is within the famous 24-hour track (MCNews.com.au tester Mark Willis is a previous winner of that prestigious Le Mans 24-hour event), and uses a part of that legendary layout in conjunction with a purpose-built facility to create a circuit which features nine right-hand and five left-hand corners over its configuration.

The stop-go design of the track makes it less stressful on tyres than some other circuits, with late braking and drivability two determining factors that need to be mastered to give a good lap.

Michelin recently visited the circuit for a test to appraise the new asphalt that was laid earlier this year and a positive assessment led to valuable data being collected in preparation for this weekend’s event. The one-day test was used to evaluate the best compounds for the new surface and with this information Michelin has brought a series of tyres that will be suited to the track’s improved grip levels.

Fastest on Friday, pole on Saturday and race win on Sunday – that was Jerez for Repsol Honda Team’s Dani Pedrosa, and the ‘Baby Samurai’ extended his winning streak to sixteen seasons in a row as a race winner – a record.

Dani Pedrosa dominated in Jerez
Dani Pedrosa dominated in Jerez

Pedrosa will be confident ahead of Le Mans – a venue he’ll be hoping has echoes of 2013 once again, as that year he also won Jerez and then took victory next time out. Teammate and reigning Champion Marc Marquez, second at home in Spain, will also be pushing hard to take another win this season – and won at Le Mans in 2014.

Dani Pedrosa

“After a great weekend in Jerez we now head to Le Mans in a very positive mood. The French GP is always challenging. To begin with the weather is usually quite changeable which makes it difficult to find rhythm in the practice sessions or to plan how to improve run by run as it may be too cold or the total opposite, very hot. The track itself is very short and the smallest differences in the lap times can make a great difference in the standings. I hope the bike works well on the new asphalt. You need good acceleration and good braking, but consistency is the real key. We are working well with the team and we’ll try to maintain the same level also there”.

Marc Marquez' RC213V showing some battle damage from its trip through the kitty litter - Image by AJRN
Marc Marquez’ RC213V showing some battle damage from its trip through the kitty litter back in 2016 at Le Mans – Image by AJRN

One eye is on the big prize for Marquez, too, and the number 93 is now dialed into the long game with a title to defend.

Marc Marquez

“Le Mans is particular and different from many other layouts of the Championship. It’s a really narrow, short track with a lot of stop-and-go corners. To make an example, it’s the opposite of the Montmeló circuit [Circuit de Catalunya], but still quite enjoyable. The surface is new and we’ll discover it on Friday morning. The grip should be better and that’s positive for us riders and also for the fans as it means a better show. We must wait and see how it goes there—this year it’s even more difficult to make any predictions. We just have to continue like we’ve done in the last races, working hard, with the right mentality, because the Championship is once again very close.”

Marc Marquez
Marc Marquez

Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) was another who showed in Jerez that a Champion can change their colours but not their talent, as he got the Ducati on the podium at a notoriously tough venue for the Borgo Panigale factory.

Jorge Lorenzo on the Ducati
Jorge Lorenzo on the Ducati

Jorge Lorenzo

“Following the good vibrations we had at Jerez, we are now at Le Mans which is another circuit where I have good memories because I have managed to win a number of times and in different categories. I have to say however that every circuit has its own story, and here we’ll have to see how my Desmosedici goes with the new tarmac. The most important thing however is to maintain the positive spirit that helped us to get onto the podium at Jerez. I am optimistic for this race, because from Austin onwards there has been considerable improvement, especially in terms of sensations, and I’m starting to feel the Desmosedici increasingly mine.”

Jorge Lorenzo
Jorge Lorenzo

Lorenzo will also be aiming high in Le Mans, where he has six wins – the most successful rider at the venue – including the last two years in MotoGP and a stunning wet weather win in 2009. Teammate Andrea Dovizioso will also be putting up a fight on French soil, after another top five in Spain – and some good pace in Le Mans.

Jorge Lorenzo
Jorge Lorenzo won at Le Mans back in 2015 and 2016 with Yamaha

Andrea Dovizioso

“After a fifth place in Spain, we now go to Le Mans with more optimism and confidence. In Argentina but above all in Texas we were in a bit of difficulty, but at Jerez, on a notoriously insidious track for us, we were quite competitive even though we finished the race at quite a big gap from Pedrosa. I think that Le Mans could be a more favourable circuit for us, especially because we will be racing on a new track surface which means good grip and so I think we can do well there.”

Andrea Dovizioso at the Jerez Test
Andrea Dovizioso at the Jerez Test

Yamaha are the factory looking to bounce back. With a tough time in Jerez for Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) and Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), the venue is a good one for the marque on paper, and temperatures are sure to be lower – with tyres sure to be affected.

Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales
Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales, current championship leader and runner up

 

Valentino Rossi

“After the difficulties during the Jerez weekend, the Le Mans GP will be very important. It is true that we are still first in the championship standings, and this is nice for us, but we need to improve the bike to be really competitive. The test in Jerez was important and we understood some positive things. Now we will have to work well from the first session in Le Mans and we have to try to be immediately competitive. We are feeling positive and we want to get back to working on the bike right away. I also hope that the weather conditions will be good, we need to test the bike in dry conditions.”

Valentino Rossi
Valentino Rossi

In addition, Rossi still leads the Championship from his teammate by two points, and both have good records at Le Mans.

Maverick Viñales took his first ever win in the 125 World Championship at the venue in 2011
Maverick Viñales took his first ever win in the 125 World Championship at the venue in 2011

Viñales took his first ever win in the 125 World Championship at the venue in 2011, and it also staged his first MotoGP podium in 2016.

Maverick Vinales

“The race in Jerez was very difficult for us. Now we have to understand about what happened and try to improve this weekend at the Le Mans circuit. Luckily during the test on Monday in Jerez we had a totally different result, it was a really good test. For that reason we’re arriving in France with a positive mind. Le Mans is a good track for us, it suits my riding style, and we can do a really good job there.”

Maverick Vinales' first podium at Le Mans in 2016 alongside victor Jorge Lorenzo and second placed Valentino Rossi
Maverick Vinales’ first podium at Le Mans in 2016 alongside victor Jorge Lorenzo and second placed Valentino Rossi

The ‘Doctor’ is of course a previous winner at the track, too – and will be looking to extend his lead in the standings as a minimum.

Massimo Meregalli

“We‘re back in Le Mans after fifteen days when we came here for a test, organised by Michelin, of the new tarmac. In the meantime we‘ve been able to work on the bikes‘ setting that‘s most likely going to be our base set-up for Friday‘s FP1. Le Mans has been a track that suits our bike well. We are fully committed to confirm this over the upcoming weekend and this will help us come back strong from the Jerez race. It will be important for us to be prepared for both dry and wet conditions, because Le Mans is known to be a place where the weather plays a big role in the race. We are really looking forward to starting the French GP weekend!”

Zarco took home Independent Team honours at Jerez
Zarco took home Independent Team honours at Jerez

The home crowd have a tricolore of home heroes to cheer for, too. Superstars rookie – and top Independent Team rider last time out in P4 – Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) lines up alongside Loris Baz (Reale Avintia Racing) and another very familiar name as 2014 WorldSBK Champion Sylvain Guintoli returns to MotoGP to replace injured Team Suzuki Ecstar rider Alex Rins.

Johann Zarco

“The French Grand Prix is coming up and for sure, it will be a very interesting weekend. I am excited about racing in my home country because the beginning of this season has been superb so far in MotoGP with the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team. As a result, I think that the French fans are waiting for me and for this event. There is some pressure but I tried to manage it at home, in the week before the GP, where I rested and saved the positive energy. The first three venues that we have visited this year are much bigger than Le Mans, but the Bugatti circuit is small like the Jerez track. In addition, I have the advantage of knowing that because I had a good feeling in Spain, I can have a great feeling in France. I will fight for the best position and possibly even a top three because I am always getting closer and closer to the rostrum, which is the main target. I aim to have a strong race and then fight for the podium to make the Tech3 team, myself and all the French fans happy.”

Johann Zarco at Jerez
Johann Zarco at Jerez

Following some testing in Jerez, Guintoli will be hoping to join his compatriots in putting on a real show.

Sylvain Guintoli

“The test in Jerez last week was very positive for me, especially on the second day. I was able to work intensively with the tyres and get to know them a little bit better. We focused a lot on the hard tyres, likely the ones we will use in the race, and I improved on the pace quite a bit so I’m happy about that. It was really great to experience the Suzuki GSX-RR and do this testing. I have a better understanding of the bike and the tyres. That will be useful in France. Also the connection that we created with the team is very positive. We shared a lot of information and the feeling is very good. I’m really looking forward to Le Mans. The testing got rid of some of my apprehension and I feel more confident, so I can’t wait to meet all the French fans and enjoy this amazing experience.”

Sylvain Guintoli at the Jerez Test
Sylvain Guintoli at the Jerez Test

Sharing the box with Guintoli is Andrea Iannone, who had some good pace in Jerez and had big positives after the Jerez test – someone to watch as he learns his way around the Hamamatsu factory machine.

Andrea Iannone

“Le Mans is a circuit I like, so I hope I will enjoy it and, most importantly, we will be able to be competitive from the very start. It will be important for us to get some points and get back some positive momentum. Last week in Jerez we did very intense work testing many things on the GSX-RR. This gave us some important direction on what we can work on. Hopefully this will also help us to finalize a good setup in Le Mans, which is a tight track with many ‘stop&go’s.”

Andrea Iannone
Andrea Iannone

Jonas Folger is a constant improver, Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) a perennial frontrunner, Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS), Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing), Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and Alvaro Bautista (Pull&Bear Aspar) dark horses in the battle – the grid is deep in 2017, with incredible competition throughout and so many names hitting the front.

Jonas Folger

“I am really looking forward to the fifth round of the World Championship which will take place at the legendary Le Mans circuit. It’s the home Grand Prix for the team so of course, it’s a special race and there will be a lot of fans supporting us trackside in France. The circuit has recently been resurfaced so we will be able to experience the new asphalt, which I am excited about. I remember that it was a bit bumpy in the last few years and I had some trouble with this, plus I had a few crashes. However, it’s going to be great this year because I really like this circuit and combined with the fact that there will be new tarmac, it will be fun. I hope that we can continue working in the same way that we did in Jerez, and I will do my absolute best to get a strong result for the team in France.”

Jonas Folger was right in the mix at Jerez
Jonas Folger was right in the mix at Jerez

It is also the home Grand Prix for the Tech3 Yamaha squad that Zarco and his German teammate represent in MotoGP season 2017.

Hervé Poncharal – Tech 3 Yamaha Team Manager

“Obviously the weekend will be very important for us as it’s the French Grand Prix at Le Mans. This year we have extra motivation as well as some additional pressure but it will be an even more special race because we have a French rider in our MotoGP team. He is the double Moto2 World Champion and the man who is leading the ‘Rookie of the year’ fight, plus he is the top independent rider in the championship standings and his name is Johann Zarco! We have always had a lot of support in Le Mans, but this time we will have more, because of Johann. This is really exciting but it goes without saying that there’s pressure on everyone. We know that the French Grand Prix will not bring us more points than any another round, but for us, it’s the place where we want to do well and put on a good show for our home crowd. There are a lot of people who just come to this race and for sure most of them will be behind Johann and Tech3 so this is a round where we would really like to get a great result. We know that the Yamaha is always good at the Bugatti circuit and the track has been resurfaced so it will have more grip and no more big bumps. Clearly, the lap time will be quicker but we have to see how we get on. The weather is always difficult in Le Mans, and it looks like we could have rain showers on all three days, which is another tricky thing to handle. Yet, we fully trust Michelin to bring the best tyres and the right compounds to match the new track surface and the weather conditions which we may encounter. I have spoken about Johann who will be the home hero, but we also have Jonas Folger who is doing an exceptional job in his rookie season and we are happy with his work and determination. So the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team is delighted to go to Le Mans and for sure you can rely on us to give 120% in order to achieve the best result. We will see you all there and we hope there will be a big crowd who will all enjoy a great weekend of MotoGP racing.”

Tech3 Yamaha at the Jerez Test
Tech3 Yamaha at the Jerez Test

And yet another French connection in MotoGP is the one where the rubber meets the road! Michelin.

Piero Taramasso – Michelin Motorsport Two-Wheel Manager

“This is a very important weekend for us as the home Grand Prix always has a special meaning, as well as the added expectation. The French people are very partisan and will certainly be right behind us, so we must perform for them as well as all the Michelin personnel that will be trackside. We had a good test at Le Mans earlier this month to try the new surface and gather as much data as possible about which compounds we will use. This has enabled us to go back to Clermont-Ferrand and prepare a range of tyres that will give optimum performance around this famous circuit. The new asphalt will provide grip in the dry and as we found at the test – because it rained in the morning – it also has very impressive adhesion in the wet, which could prove important as the weather can certainly be changeable at Le Mans.”

Michelin
Michelin

The Grand Prix of France is talso he home race for Loris Baz, who looks forward to a good result and to celebrate with his home crowd at the legendary French race track. He was not happy the last time out at Jerez, but he improved his feelings with the bike on the Monday test after the race and he is determined to fight for a good result at home.

Loris Baz

“A home race is always special and it is exciting for me to race in front of the massive crowd coming to this Grand Prix. It is a great feeling. Obviously, I will have more commitments and distractions over the weekend, since all my sponsors will come to Le Mans and I will be very busy shaking hands and talking to supporters and friends. It will be crucial to manage my time over the race weekend and to stay focused. The weather forecast for the weekend is good and the track has been resurfaced, so all references will change. Jerez was not the best race weekend for us, but Le Mans is different and it features hard braking areas, which is my strongest point with this bike. I hope to give my home crowd a reason to celebrate on Sunday.”

Loris Baz
Loris Baz

Le Mans is the home race for Loris, but his Reale Avintia teammate Hector Barbera also arrives at the French circuit highly motivated following a positive one-day-test at Jerez. The 

The 4.185km track has been completely resurfaced over winter, so Friday will be crucial for the riders to evaluate the grip level of the new tarmac and to fine-tune the set-up of the bikes in order to achieve the best possible performance.

Spanish rider recovered his feeling for the front end after modifying his riding position on his Ducati Desmosedici GP16 and he expects to confirm this positive feeling with a good result this weekend.

Hector Barbera

“We head to the Grand Prix of France in a positive mood after finding the right feeling with the front during the Jerez test. I think that the track characteristics will suit our bikes even though we have to see how we perform on the new asphalt. The most important thing for me is the step we made to get a better feeling, because this weekend we have the chance to turn things around. The first few races have been really tough and I struggled too much with front end feel, but in Jerez we modified the bike and now I’m able to push harder and ride faster. I think we found the right direction and I hope we can confirm our progress at Le Mans.”

Hector Barbera
Hector Barbera

Crutchlow arrives following an ultimately frustrating stop-off in Jerez, having crashed out in the early stages of the Spanish Grand Prix after a promising time in practice and qualifying.

Cal Crutchlow

“In the last two years I did not finish the French GP so the goal is to end the race in a strong position and get some useful points for the standing. I felt strong in Jerez and I was very disappointed to not finish the race. I missed the opportunity to be on the podium. But we have to keep our confidence ahead this weekend – I got my first MotoGP podium in Le Mans in 2013 so this circuit suits my riding style”.

Cal Crutchlow

Jack Miller heads to this weekend’s French Grand Prix at Le Mans determined to get his 2017 championship campaign back on track. Both Jack Miller and his Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS teammate Tito Rabat crashed out of the Spanish Grand Prix in Jerez two weeks ago.

Miller and Rabat arrive in Le Mans with confidence renewed after a successful post race test at the Jerez circuit, which was followed by a productive one-day wet test with Michelin in Valencia.

Miller was the innocent victim in Alvaro Bautista’s crash in Jerez, but it saw the Australian drop out of the top ten in the championship standings for the first time this season.

Jack Miller and Alvaro Bautista came togehter at Jerez
Jack Miller and Alvaro Bautista came togehter at Jerez

Miller arrives in France determined to reclaim his top ten position with a good result at the resurfaced Le Mans circuit.

Jack Miller

“I’m feeling really positive, as we had good pace in Jerez before I was taken out of the race. We also found a few more things during the post race test on Monday, which was good for us. We learnt a lot during the wet test with Michelin at Valencia that could help us this weekend at Le Mans, where the weather is typically unpredictable this early in the year. Since then I’ve been able to do some solid training at home and I’m looking forward to the weekend ahead in France where, hopefully, we can rediscover our pace from Jerez.”

Jack Miller at the Jerez Test earlier this month
Jack Miller at the Jerez Test earlier this month

Rabat was disappointed not to finish in Jerez, but left his home race buoyed by the fact that he’d been closer to the frontrunners in both practice and the race than ever before in his MotoGP career. The Spaniard is determined to build on this progress this weekend in France, on a track at which he has twice finished on the Moto2 podium.

Tito Rabat

“Jerez was bad only because of the crash in the race, but I was happy with the fact that all weekend I was closer to the frontrunners than I’ve been since I stepped up to MotoGP. We also had a good test on the Monday, where I equalled my qualifying time on the race tyre, so I head to Le Mans with some optimism. The weather is always a factor at Le Mans, but after a day wet weather testing with Michelin at Valencia; I’m ready regardless of whether it’s wet or dry. We’ve made a lot of progress with the bike over the last few races and I’m looking forward to continuing in this way this weekend in France.”

Tito Rabat ended up in the gravel at Jerez
Tito Rabat ended up in the gravel at Jerez

Aprilia riders have already had the chance to test the new Le Mans configuration a few weeks ago, taking away a positive impression in preparation for the upcoming race weekend. Aleix Espargaró and Sam Lowes can also count on the data collected after the Spanish Jerez round on an extremely positive day of testing for the Aprilia Racing Team Gresini for the RS-GP’s development. The Italian V4 showed tangible signs of growth and, above all, significant margins for improvement in this first part of the season. The French race will be called on to confirm this trend.

Aleix Espargaró

“After the test in Jerez, we understood our bike better with different front tyres. We also improved the front end on the bike, so I think that in Le Mans with the new surface, and with the private test that we did 2 weeks ago, we should be competitive again. Le Mans is not one of my favourites tracks, but I like the layout and I will try to ride a good race.”

Aleix Espargaró
Aleix Espargaró

Sam Lowes

“I can’t wait for France. We had a nice test there recently where I felt quite good with the bike. In Jerez we had a bad race day, but the weekend and test afterwards were rather encouraging. That’s what I’m looking to take with me to Le Mans. It’s time for us to make a good step.”

Sam Lowes
Sam Lowes

Fausto Gresini – Aprilia Team Manager

“Le Mans is a nice track where I think the characteristics of the RS-GP will shine. The goal is to improve compared to Jerez, where the result, although good, did not reflect our full potential. The tests done here confirmed the good feeling with the track. It will be fundamental to earn a good spot on the starting grid because it is not easy to overtake here. Usually at Le Mans, whoever starts from the front has a certain advantage. We are pumped up and motivated, as always.”

Aleix Espargaró
Aleix Espargaró

The Pull&Bear Aspar Team are hoping that a smooth weekend on the newly re-laid French asphalt can see them back up their strong pace shown already this season with some equally strong results. Since Karel Abraham qualified second on the grid in Argentina and Álvaro Bautista took a solid fourth in the race, the pair have been dogged by a series of crashes. The Spaniard knows he needs to get back to the form he showed in the opening four rounds as soon as possible, whilst the Czech rider is approaching full fitness again after struggling with a leg injury.

Álvaro Bautista

“Our mind is focused on Le Mans after an unfortunate race at Jerez that didn’t turn out how we wanted. I am still frustrated by what happened because I believe we would have scored a good result there but the first thing you have to make sure of is to finish the race. We go to Le Mans feeling fully recharged after a few days off, ready to get back to work and show our level. The surface is new and seemingly has a lot of grip so we’ll have to wait and see what it’s like. We will also have an eye on the weather because the rain is never too far away there so we’ll have to make sure we are ready to react in practice. It is a stop and go circuit with a lot of direction changes so we need to find a feeling quickly to prepare for the race. We need to work well from the start to make sure we come away from this one with good points, as we have had bad luck in the last two races and it is up to us to turn it around.”

Álvaro Bautista
Álvaro Bautista

Karel Abraham

“We’re already on our way to Le Mans, which in the past has not been one of my favourite tracks although I do like the layout and I think with the new asphalt I will like it even more. I am really looking forward to this weekend after a busy week for me. I have had some race schools in Brno as well as a lot of training and physiotherapy after what happened at Jerez. My leg is still giving me some pain so I can’t run but I have been doing plenty of cycling, gym work and supermoto which is a lot of fun.” 

Karel Abraham
Karel Abraham

Red Bull KTM Factory Racing got closer to that front battle again in Jerez. Taking a huge leap forward with a new engine, closing in on Q2 and in the top ten in two practice sessions with Pol Espargaro, the Austrian factory scored more points with Bradley Smith in Jerez and are well on their way to making a real dent in the grid – committed as ever, and ready to race.

Pol Espargaró
Pol Espargaró

MotoGP gets going on Friday in France, before the lights go out for another piece of the legend on Sunday when the MotoGP race gets underway at 2200 AEST. 

MotoGP World Championship Classification
  1. ROSSI Valentino 46 ITA 62 Movistar Yamaha MotoGP
  2. VINALES Maverick 25 SPA 60 Movistar Yamaha MotoGP
  3. MARQUEZ Marc 93 SPA 58 Repsol Honda Team
  4. PEDROSA Dani 26 SPA 52 Repsol Honda Team
  5. DOVIZIOSO Andrea 4 ITA 41 Ducati Team
  6. ZARCO Johann 5 FRA 35 Monster Yamaha Tech 3
  7. CRUTCHLOW Cal 35 GBR 29 LCR Honda
  8. FOLGER Jonas 94 GER 29 Monster Yamaha Tech 3
  9. LORENZO Jorge 99 SPA 28 Ducati Team
  10. PETRUCCI Danilo 9 ITA 26 Octo Pramac Racing
  11. REDDING Scott 45 GBR 26 Octo Pramac Racing
  12. MILLER Jack 43 AUS 21 Team EG 0,0 Marc VDS
  13. ESPARGARO Aleix 41 SPA 17 Aprilia Racing Team Gresini
  14. BAUTISTA Alvaro 19 SPA 14 Pull&Bear Aspar Team
  15. BAZ Loris 76 FRA 12 Reale Avintia Racing
  16. BARBERA Hector 8 SPA 12 Reale Avintia Racing
  17. IANNONE Andrea 29 ITA 9 Team Suzuki Ecstar
  18. ABRAHAM Karel 17 CZE 9 Pull&Bear Aspar Team
  19. RABAT Tito 53 SPA 8 Team EG 0,0 Marc VDS
  20. RINS Alex 42 SPA 7 Team Suzuki Ecstar
  21. SMITH Bradley 38 GBR 3 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
  22. ESPARGARO Pol 44 SPA 2 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing

Moto2: EG 0,0 Marc VDS look to continue their win record in France

After winning the first three races of the year, Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) seemed to be unstoppable until the paddock arrived in Jerez – where the pendulum swung to the other side of the garage.

Franco Morbidelli in action at COTA
Franco Morbidelli

Teammate Alex Marquez topped almost every practice, started from pole, and took the lead – with Morbidelli making a mistake trying to keep the pace and crashing out. Marquez took his first win in Moto2 – and at a track that traditionally has been more difficult for the rider from Cervera.

Le Mans is much the same, but with a win under his belt, Marquez may fully rip up the formbook in France. But it surely won’t be easy, as Morbidelli’s record at the Bugatti circuit is solid. A top ten in his first race at the track and two top fives thereafter, the Italian will be ready to bounce back and knows he is on a good stage to do so.

Alex Marquez
Alex Marquez

Tom Lüthi (CarXpert Interwetten) could be the man in the way. With four wins at the track – two in 125cc and two in Moto2 – the Swiss veteran is a force to be reckoned with in France. On pole last year and winning in 2015 by an impressive margin, Lüthi will know Le Mans is a place to try and strike back.

With some podiums in 2017 at venues usually more difficult for the 2016 runner up, the Championship gap went down to only 11 points again in Jerez – so the stage could be set for a first win.

Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) took his first podium in Jerez in a stunning ride, and he will be looking to keep his form going and stay in with the frontrunners – with ‘Rookie of the Year’ the goal. But there’s another rookie ready to get in his way in France – home hero Fabio Quartararo (Pons HP 40), who has also shown an impressive adaptation to Moto2.

Oliveira
Miguel Oliveira

Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) will be pushing hard once again on the new KTM intermediate class chassis – already on a 50 per cent podium rate so far – with the likes of Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) and Dominique Aegerter (Kiefer Racing) to contend with.

Aegerter also has a new teammate joining Kiefer from Le Mans – British Supersport Champion Tarran MacKenzie, who will want to hit the ground running and kickstart his Moto2 career.

Aussie Remy Gardner will also be hoping to return to racing, after a top 20 result at Jerez, while still recovering from injury.

Remy Gardner - Image by AJRN
Remy Gardner – Image by AJRN
Moto2 World Championship Classification
  1. Joan Mir 74
  2. Romano Fenati 65
  3. Jorge Martin 59
  4. John McPhee 49
  5. Aron Canet 43
  6. Fabi Di Giannantonio 35
  7. Andrea Migno 35
  8. Marcos Ramirez 23
  9. Juanfran Guevara 23
  10. Nicolo Bulega 22

Moto3 gear up for Le Mans with Mir in charge – as Fenati closes in…

Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) had a tougher time in Texas but the points leader was back on the podium in Jerez as he continues to keep his dominion at the top of the standings.

Joan Mir
Joan Mir

The men behind him – Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) and John McPhee (British Talent Team) were the ones who suffered a little more under the Spanish sun, with a P9 and a crash respectively, and they will be looking to hit back hard in France.

The big winner in Jerez was COTA winner Romano Fenati (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers), who came second – ahead of Mir once again. Now the Italian “veteran” is second in the standings, and only nine back on Mir.

Romano Fenati
Romano Fenati

First time winner Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) shot back in style after the disappointments of Texas, and the first victory in Jerez may transform Canet. Two more riders who had incredible showings in Jerez – Marcos Ramirez and Darryn Binder (Platinum Bay Real Estate) – may also feel the force of having transformed the fight at the front in Jerez.

Another big story is the return of Danny Kent (Red Bull KTM Ajo) as a wildcard. The 2015 Moto3 World Champion tested with the team in Jerez, and now returns – with experience of the team and a title, what can he do?

Jules Danilo (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers) flies the home flag in France, and has shown solid steps forward this season as he learns the Moto3 craft and consistency. Two solid points finishes in the last two races make for good reading ahead of Le Mans, where practice gets underway on Friday at 9:00 (GMT +2).

Moto3 World Championship Classification
  1. Franco Morbidelli 75
  2. Thomas Luthi 64
  3. Miguel Oliveira 59
  4. Alex Marquez 49
  5. Francesco Bagnaia 33
  6. Takaaki Nakagami 32
  7. Luca Marini 31
  8. Dominique Aegerter 27
  9. Lorenzo Baldassarri 26
  10. Xavi Vierge 25