More press release previews for Le Mans, this time from the Pramac Ducati squad of Loris Capirossi and Randy de Puniet, and the factory Marlboro Ducati team of Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden:
DE PUNIET READY FOR HIS HOME GRAND PRIX AT LE MANS. CAPIROSSI CONFIDENT AFTER TEST IN PORTUGAL
The fourth round of the MotoGP world championship will take place this weekend in Le Mans, at the Bugatti circuit. It's an important track that was built in 1965 around the original course for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The narrow circuit is characterized by unusual curves, which force the rider to brake and accelerate hard. The Pramac Racing Team will try to continue the encouraging progress it experienced in Portugal, despite the fact that Paolo Campinoti's team has always had a difficult relationship with this track, having only achieved a single podium, in 2004 when the Pramac logo adorned Max Biaggi's fairing. Since that season, there have been mixed results at Le Mans, with some retirements and some finishes far from the top.
Green Team rider Randy De Puniet will be the "landlord," and the Frenchman would love to do well in front of his home crowd, at a track where he has earned four podiums. It will all depend on his knee which, following the removal of a screw a few days after the Jerez race, certainly didn't help him during the next round at Estoril. Loris Capirossi would also like to consolidate the progress made in Portugal, although Le Mans definitely isn't one of his favorite tracks. In addition, it seems that the French race could be the first European GP not to be affected by rain.
Fabio Sterlacchini – Pramac Racing Technical Director
"We worked a lot on the bike at the Estoril test, especially Loris', since Randy unfortunately was affected by his painful knee. The problem at the last race was the front end, so we tried various solutions, and perhaps one of those could help us go forward with our development once and for all. The circuit seems custom-made for our bike: it doesn't have long straights to speak of, so a lot depends on the riders. We're pleased with the most recent results, and we need to stay on that path. Randy's injury is really a shame, as he was taking big steps. I hope he'll be ready for Sunday anyway."
Randy De Puniet – Pramac Racing Team Rider
"I must say that I was very worried about my knee after the race in Estoril. When I got off the bike, I immediately feared the worst. I thought that the ligaments might have been injured during the race, but fortunately the doctor visits I've made have excluded that possibility. It needs rest, but we've had very few days off. The problem had to do with the blood circulation around the scar after the screw was removed. I'm calm and happy to race in front of my fans, on home ground. I wasn't able to test the bike like everyone else did at Estoril, but I hope to have the same approach with the bike that we had in Qatar and at Jerez."
Loris Capirossi – Pramac Racing Team Rider
"The test after the Estoril race showed that we're making progress with the bike. The problem with the front seems to have been solved, along with some other small issues. Sure, the bike isn't perfect, but the work we carried out makes us optimistic about the future. We want to show our capability, and we hope we'll be able to do that. As I said after the last race, we're only getting started. We have plenty of time to put together a great bike. Everything depends on us, and we're confident."
THE DUCATI MARLBORO TEAM RETURNS TO THE TRACK AT HISTORIC LE MANS CIRCUIT
This Sunday, the Ducati Marlboro Team will take on the French Grand Prix for the fourth round of the season, at the Le Mans circuit that is also home to auto racing's famous 24 hour race. That said, the track used by the MotoGP series is much shorter than the over 13 kilometer (8 mile) version used for the legendary endurance race, with which it only shares a small section.
The Bugatti circuit is often described as "stop and go" because it doesn't flow from turn to turn. Nearly every corner is preceded by a straightaway—some long and others shorter—creating a situation where riders brake particularly hard and then accelerate abruptly.
Historically, it has proven to be a demanding track for the Ducati, which has nonetheless twice made the podium, with Capirossi in 2006 and with Stoner in 2007, while Nicky Hayden actually achieved his best result ever at the track aboard the Italian bike, with a fourth place last year.
Valentino Rossi has earned three victories, in 2002, 2005 and 2008, along with another four podiums. All of these were in MotoGP, as the French GP was held at Le Castellet when he raced in the 125 and 250cc classes.
VALENTINO ROSSI, Ducati Marlboro Team
"Le Mans is a historic track, and I always like to go to these places with rich motorsport traditions, even if the stop-and-go layout is a little particular. The atmosphere is always really nice, with the grandstand filled with fans on both Saturday and Sunday. The track isn't particularly technical but maintaining a good rhythm is tricky: there are many points where we brake really hard for corners, so then it's important to have strong acceleration on the exit. We'll see how well we're able to deal with those characteristics. We're coming off a test that confirmed that we've started to go in the right direction and, although we're still in the first phase, we hope we can find a good setup for Le Mans so that we can be faster in the qualifying session. We're all working hard, and we're making progress, but we still have to keep improving."
NICKY HAYDEN, Ducati Marlboro Team
"Traditionally, Le Mans hasn't been a good track for me. I've never had a podium or a front row there, but I was fourth there last year, which was my best-ever result. You can't really make too much out of that, but we'll try to take the information we collected during the test at Estoril and see if we can put it to good use in France. The weather at Le Mans can be either way, especially this time of year, which is just part of racing. One good thing I look forward to is that I think the best strength of our bike right now is stability under hard braking, and Le Mans has a lot of hard braking. Traditionally, the grip there isn't very good, so that's something we're probably really going to have to work on. We'll go there and see what we've got."
VITTORIANO GUARESCHI, Team Manager
"On paper, Le Mans isn't one of the most favorable tracks for us, but we've still had some good races there with Loris and Casey, and with Nicky, who was strong last year and finished close to the podium. He and Valentino were both pleased with the work we did during the post-race test at Estoril, and now the team will try to do everything it can to adapt to the GP11 to a circuit that's very different from the one in Portugal. Once again we're hoping for a sunny weekend, since every hour of track time in "normal" conditions is very important for us because of the work we're doing."
DUCATI MARLBORO TEAM'S BEST RESULTS AT LE MANS
2010: 4th (Hayden)
2009: 5th (Stoner)
2008: 15th (Melandri)
2007: 3rd (Stoner)
2006: 2nd (Capirossi)
2005: 7th (Capirossi)
2004: 8th (Bayliss)
Rossi's MotoGP/500cc track record at Le Mans
2010: Grid: 1st; Race: 2nd
2009: Grid: 4th; Race: 16th
2008: Grid: 4th; Race: 1st
2007: Grid: 4th; Race: 6th
2006: Grid: 7th; Race: DNF
2005: Grid: 1st; Race: 1st
2004: Grid: 4th; Race: 4th
2003: Grid: 1st; Race: 2nd
2002: Grid: 1st; Race: 1st
2001: Grid: 3rd; Race: 3rd
2000: Grid: 10th; Race: 3rd
Hayden's MotoGP track record Le Mans
2010: Grid: 5th; Race: 4th
2009: Grid: 13th; Race: 12th
2008: Grid: 6th; Race: 8th
2007: Grid: 7th; Race: DNF
2006: Grid: 10th; Race: 5th
2005: Grid: 5th; Race: 6th
2004: Grid: 7th; Race: 11th
2003: Grid: 13th; Race: 12th