Below are the press release previews from the MotoGP teams ahead of this weekend's French Grand Prix at Le Mans:
MotoGP returns to Legendary Le Mans
Yamaha Factory Racing heads to France this week to prepare for round four of the Championship, the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France at the legendary Le Mans circuit. Jorge Lorenzo arrives trailing Championship leader Casey Stoner by just a single point in the standings and looking to take back the lead. Le Mans has delivered some great results for Lorenzo, the Mallorcan claiming two premier class wins plus one a 250cc GP victory.
Fellow Yamaha Factory rider Ben Spies heads to Le Mans determined to shake off a run of mixed results and get his 2012 Championship firmly back on track. A solid sixth last year marks his best result yet at the French track, something he will be looking to improve on this weekend.
The perfect Le Mans set up requires optimum balance and control under repeated hard braking. The challenging circuit requires riders to dispatch several tight chicanes before attacking the short straights and tight hairpins that form the remainder of the track. Le Mans is this year hosting the Grand Prix for the 55th time and is sure to attract a huge crowd of passionate race fans as always.
“We arrive in good shape having always been in the first two positions in the three races of the year so far, I want to keep this going in Le Mans. Last year we struggled, especially in acceleration but I feel that this year is going to be a little different. It’s a good track for my riding style so we will try to fight for the win again but always thinking about the Championship.”
“I’m looking forward to getting back on the bike again this week. My confidence has been rebuilding well now we’ve found a good set up that works so I think we can make another step and improve our performance again at Le Mans. It’s not my favourite track but I’m going to give it 100% as always to achieve a good result on Sunday.”
“After three strong races and a very close Championship so far we are looking forward to going to France. We had a tough race last year and struggled a lot but the year before was a strong victory. Jorge likes the track so we are curious to see how the 1000cc bike behaves this time as we have traditionally performed well there. We hope to return to the successful rhythm Yamaha has had at Le Mans.”
“Last year was not a perfect weekend for Yamaha at Le Mans, a track where traditionally we have been very strong. This year we arrive with a very competitive package so we are confident that we can perform well. Ben has not had an easy start to the year but has been working hard with the team to have a competitive set up and to rebuild his confidence. I am sure we will see him fighting with the front pack this weekend.”
Bridgestone MotoGP™ Race Preview - Round 4: Le Mans, France
15 May 2012
Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Soft, Medium. Rear: Soft, Medium (Asymmetric).
Bridgestone wet tyre compounds available: Soft (Main), Hard (Alternative).
MotoGP™ heads to the sacred motorsport arena of Le Mans this weekend with the 4.185 kilometre Bugatti circuit playing host to the fourth round of the 2012 season.
The layout of the Le Mans Bugatti circuit features many slow corners connected by a series of straight sections and the second half of the circuit comprises mainly right-hand turns that require the provision of asymmetric rear slicks. The dynamic forces placed on tyres at Le Mans are the least severe of any circuit on the calendar and as cool conditions are often encountered, Bridgestone will bring its soft and medium compound front slicks. At the rear, the soft asymmetric rear slick - featuring Bridgestone’s extra-soft rubber on the left shoulder and soft compound rubber on the right - makes its first appearance in 2012 and will be offered alongside the medium compound rear slick. To ensure adequate tyre warm-up in wet conditions, the main wet tyre for Le Mans will be the soft compound option.
Perhaps owing to its stop-and-go layout and susceptibility to unsettled weather, Le Mans has a reputation of delivering exciting racing and for the previous six years only one rider starting on pole position for the French GP has gone on to win the race; Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner in 2011.
Hiroshi Yamada - Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Department
“Le Mans is a special place to visit with the large crowds and history of the venue combining to create a unique atmosphere and over the years the French GP has provided some very challenging races due to the poor weather conditions encountered at this time of year. Once again this weekend we will provide two of the new specification front slick tyre to each rider which at Le Mans will be available in the medium compound.
“I am happy to hear that the surgery on Colin Edwards’ collarbone was a success and I hope to see him back in action soon. I would also like to welcome back Chris Vermeulen to the paddock as Bridgestone and Chris share some great memories together in MotoGP, particularly his victory at this circuit in 2007.”
Shinji Aoki - Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development Department
“Due to its layout and usually low track temperatures, Le Mans is a race where softer compound tyres are required to generate the necessary levels of grip. The circuit has quite a stop-and-go nature with a series of slow corners punctuated with two straights and though lateral loads placed on the tyres are relatively low compared to other circuits, the tyres provided need to offer good stability under braking, particularly at the end of the straight sections.
“The second half of the lap is mainly right-hand turns, causing an imbalance in the temperatures generated across the tyre and so asymmetric rear tyres with comparatively harder rubber on the right shoulder are provided at Le Mans. The weather at this circuit is also very unstable and can have a significant impact upon bike settings and tyre choice.”
Repsol Honda riders head to France looking for another double podium
This weekend the 2012 MotoGP World Championship heads to Le Mans. The Grand Prix of France, fourth round of the calendar, welcomes the Repsol Honda Team with Casey Stoner leading the Championship with 66 points and Dani Pedrosa in third place with 52.
Both Honda factory riders have visited the podium at every race so far this season and Casey and Dani head to Le Mans aiming to continue this pattern at a track that affected both riders' seasons in different ways last year.
Casey, who clinched the win in Estoril last week and his 18th successive podium, won in Le Mans in 2011, building up towards his second MotoGP World title with three wins in a row (Le Mans, Catalunya and Silverstone).
Dani celebrated his 100th career podium in Portugal and will return to Le Mans with one thing on his mind: to put behind him the bad memories from his crash in 2011, after setting the circuit record and fastest lap of the race (1'33.627). As a result of this accident, Dani broke his collarbone and was absent from the races in Catalunya, Silverstone and Assen in 2011.
The French circuit, located 200 kilometres south-west of Paris, is a tight track, quite similar to Estoril, dominated by first gear corners, late braking and hard acceleration.
CASEY STONER World Championship Position: 1st with 66 points
"The past two tracks have not historically been my best but I've managed wins at both of them so I'm hoping we can go to Le Mans and be competitive again. I've had some mixed results there in the past, the track layout is unique, it's a little stop-start with a lot of braking and I think this year both the Honda's and Yamaha's will be competitive there. It was disappointing that the weather in Estoril on Monday prevented us from testing, we need to work on the chatter issue we have on the bike so let's hope we have some dry sessions from day one in Le Mans so we can get out on track and work on it".
DANI PEDROSA World Championship Position: 3rd with 52 points
"Le Mans is a hard circuit, quite similar to Estoril, a stop and go track where you need to prepare a bike with good stability, traction and acceleration. In the past I felt comfortable riding there, I had good results in 125cc and 250cc, but not really perfect in MotoGP, so I have something small inside me I want to achieve. Last year I did the fastest race lap, but I couldn't keep the pace before the crash, so I want to do better this time. We've had three good races so far, I'm riding well, but I missed something in all of them, especially on the first laps, where I've been stronger in the past. I need to put everything together and if we get better starts, we will start wining races".
FURTHER IMPROVEMENT THE TARGET AS MOTOGP MOVES ON TO LE MANS
After a positive display in the Grand Prix of Portugal two weeks ago Team San Carlo Honda Gresini heads for the Le Mans circuit in France this weekend looking to make further progress towards the front of the pack. Alvaro Bautista is hoping to improve his feeling with the Honda RC213V and join the likes of Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow in their pursuit of the seemingly indomitable top trio of Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa. The team's CRT rider Michele Pirro achieved his first goal of scoring his maiden MotoGP points at Estoril last time out and the Italian's next target is to improve the performance level and reliability of his Honda-powred FTR machine.
Alvaro Bautista “The weather at Estoril finally afforded us some dry track time and we were able to make some changes to the bike and get a good rhythm together before the race. At the start we were struggling for feeling with the front Bridgestone but gradually it improved. In the race I was struggling in T4 because the bike did not feel great in corner entry so I was just focused on holding my position. Now we go to another circuit where the weather is always unpredictable so we have to be ready to adapt. With the data we gathered in Portugal I think we can take another step forward and find a few important tenths to close the gap to the guys in front of us. I don't really like this circuit, unfortunately. Le Mans has a lot of direction changes, short straights and the worst thing is the low grip levels and cool track temperatures. I have never finished on the podium here in the 125 or 250 classes but hopefully we can have a good race this weekend and improve on the results from Estoril.”
Michele Pirro “The memory of picking up our first points at Estoril is still fresh in my mind and I think it is a nice confidence boost for myself and all the guys in the team, who have been working tirelessly on this new project, which we all believe in. We have achieved our first objective and now we need to focus on developing from here. Unfortunately the post-race test at Estoril was cancelled so we missed the opportunity to try some new things but as usual we remain upbeat and look to make up for it this weekend at Le Mans. The circuit is definitely not one of my favourites but that doesn't matter one bit. We have to try our best to improve and close the gap to the top guys in the championship.”
Fausto Gresini “The next round takes us to Le Mans, a circuit that holds a lot of great memories for the team thanks to some unforgettable victories over the years. Last year we remember Marco Simoncelli having a great ride before the collision with Pedrosa, which caused all sorts of controversy. Hopefully this year we can pick up in a positive way and see Alvaro taking another step forward. He has been making constant progress lately and just needs a little more to be fighting with Dovizioso and Crutchlow. He is very close to gaining the confidence he needs with the bike to be more aggressive on the brakes and faster in mid-corner. There will be no shortage of effort to keep this positive run going. Two points for the CRT project with Michele Pirro at Estoril was a nice fillip and it brings to an end the first stage of the project, which now continues apace. We have a few new things that we wanted to try at Estoril in the test and even though it is always hard to try these things during a Grand Prix we have to get on with it because time is of the essence. Thankfully Michele and his guys are absolutely determined to improve.”
Le Mans awaits the NGM Mobile Forward Racing Team
Le Mans will be the place to be for the fourth round of the World Championship. The now classic race of the World Championship takes place at a very particular time for the NGM Mobile Forward Racing team. Absent at the last GP in Portugal after Colin Edwards’s injury on this left collarbone, the team arrives on French soil with an old friend of the MotoGP.
Chris Vermeulen will be Texas Tornado’s substitute. While the American rider continues his post surgery recovery which will lead him to be back on the saddle of his Suter-BMW at Montmelo, the Australian comes back to the circuit in which he won his very first MotoGP race (2007) with his number “7” on the furring.
In Moto2, after the first three rounds Alex De Angelis is in 10th position on the Moto2 World Standing with 14 points while Yuki Takahashi is still in search of points. The rider from San Marino shows a constant progress in this 2012 season and Le Mans could be the turning point for him. For Yuki France con be the ideal circuit for him to get his season started: the Japanese rider has always qualified in front row and even finished second on the podium in 2011.
The Grand Prix de France will begin on Friday at 10:10 am with the MotoGP FP1. One hour later it will be the Moto2 class’s turn.
Ducati Team heads to “stop-and-go” Le Mans circuit
Having encountered at least one day of rain during every winter test and in every race so far except for Qatar, the two Ducati Team riders hope for a weekend with stable weather conditions at Le Mans as they continue working on the setup of the GP12.
Friday will find Valentino Rossi back on the track where he finished on the podium last year, and with the Portuguese post-race test having been cancelled due to bad weather, he’ll start with the settings he used at Estoril race, with the goal of improving upon his seventh-place finish there.
Nicky Hayden also hopes to do better than in Portugal, and although he doesn’t count the French circuit among his favourites, he thinks some of its characteristics could be a good match for his Ducati.
VALENTINO ROSSI, Ducati Team
“It’s a shame that we lost the post-race test in Portugal because we would have continued our development work, and as we had very recent data from the race, we could have made some interesting comparisons. Still, this won’t influence us much from a technical point of view at Le Mans, as any updates would have arrived later anyway. In France, we’ll prepare for the race by working on the bike like we did at Estoril, starting from the base setup that we’re now a bit more familiar with and trying to continue with the settings one step at a time, in such a way that we reach Sunday at the maximum of our current potential. Le Mans is another place where the weather can be challenging, particularly at this time of year, but it’s also the track where I had my best result with the Ducati last year. We’ll see how it goes, but we’d like to do a little better than we did in Portugal.”
NICKY HAYDEN, Ducati Team
“I certainly wouldn’t say Le Mans is my favourite track on the calendar, but there are some things that I like about it. Sometimes it lacks grip somewhat, which I don’t like so much. On the other hand, it has a fair amount of hard braking, and I think some of those parts should suit our bike well. It will also be interesting to be at a different type of track compared to what we’ve seen so far this year. It’s a shame we didn’t get to test in Portugal because it certainly would have been nice to try a few things, but we’ll get to France, see what kind of weather we get, and try to get a good result.”
VITTORIANO GUARESCHI, Team Manager
“Le Mans is a bit strange, a classic stop-and-go track that’s very different from Estoril. This will give us an opportunity to check the work that we’re doing on the GP12’s setup: Valentino used it all weekend at the last GP, so we’ll continue like that in an effort to also make progress at Le Mans, where he had a really nice race last year. Though this isn’t one of Nicky’s preferred circuits, he’ll also use the experience he has gathered while using this setup on the GP12 since the start of the championship.”
THE GREEN TEAM GETS READY TO KICK OFF HIS GRAND PRIX OF FRANCE
The MotoGP World Championship stops off in France this week as the Le Mans circuit prepares to host the fourth round of the 2012 season.
The French track is one of the least technical circuits on the calendar, with the first part being the most complicated where the high speed turn one, is one of the fastest in MotoGP, and it is followed by a number of tight chicanes.
The rest of the track is made up of short straights and hairpins, calling not just for balance and control under hard and repeated braking, but also for a neat and swift transfer from full braking to full acceleration on the exit of the corners.
After the top ten finish in Estoril, where Hector had struggled with a shoulder pain, the White and Green team, arrive to Le Mans for the French round in confident mood but also with a redeem feeling.
It’s important to mention that the Spanish rider and his crew have been able to markedly improve the setup of the bike from the beginning of the MotoGP 2012 season, collected a raft of valuable data about their Ducati GP12, even if the weather condition didn’t help.
The Pramac Ducati rider is ready to kick off this new weekend of race and with his crew, is hopeful that they can mount a challenge for a top ten finish on a circuit where he always did well, also in the smaller classes.
The first in-season MotoGP test that was scheduled for the day after Estoril race, was cancelled due to a downpour, resulting in poor visibility and unfavourable track conditions.
After a meeting with the teams, it was decided to reschedule the test for Wednesday 6th of June at Motorland Aragón, following a post-race Monday test at the Catalunya circuit near Barcelona.
Hèctor Barberà - Rider Pramac Racing Team
“Le Mans is the circuit I like a lot and I tend to do well there. The people in Le Mans love motorbikes, they love the smell of fuel.
This track has a lot of chicanes and it is fun for me. I had one of my best results of last season here and if I were able to do that in 2011 then I should do much better this year.
Our main goal is fighting to stay in the top-ten position, we know we will be able to catch good results, around the 7th place, and we are working tirelessly to achieve our goal.
It usually rains in France at this time of the year so let’s hope we get lucky and have a sunny weekend."
Francesco Guidotti – Team Manager Pramac Racing –
“We left Estoril with some good points and some valuable information picked up from the weekend, but it’s a shame that the test was cancelled due to the rain.
Anyway, we will move on together and as a team we’re coming to France determined to continue to work on our bike and with our rider to achieve even more consistent results.
We really hope to do well there in order to put us on a good foot for the busy period of June and July, when the Championship will really start to take shape."
POWER ELECTRONICS ASPAR AIM TO EXTEND CRT DOMINANCE
Randy de Puniet targetting successful weekend at home Grand Prix
The POWER ELECTRONICS Aspar Team head into the fourth round of the MotoGP World Championship this weekend as the leading CRT team with Aleix Espargaró and Randy de Puniet at the head of the new generation machinery in the current rider standings. It is developing into an entertaining battle between the pair to be the top CRT and Randy would like nothing more than to take the initiative this weekend in his home Grand Prix, having given best to Aleix at Estoril last time out, when the Frenchman rode with painkilling injections.
Even though he is not yet fully recovered from the injuries sustained in a practice crash that unfortunately also involved Colin Edwards, De Puniet's condition has improved in the two weeks since racing in Portugal. Edwards, meanwhile, has been ruled out of the race and will be replaced by 2007 Le Mans winner Chris Vermeulen. De Puniet finished on the podium four times here in the 250cc class between 2002 and 2005 and he is sure to give 120% once again in front of the vociferous home crowd. Aleix finished an encouraging sixth here in the Moto2 last year and has a ninth place finish in MotoGP also to his name at this track.
Aleix Espargaró: "Le Mans has a lot of tight corners and personally I prefer fast tracks but I am currently the top CRT rider in the championship and I want to leave this race in the same position before we go to my home Grand Prix in Catalunya. I know that beating my team-mate Randy in his home race will be very tough but I think we are making progress this season and we want to keep it going. Last year I finished sixth in the Moto2 race after a good weekend of practice and going back further to 2010 I finished ninth in the MotoGP race after a good group battle."
Randy de Puniet: "I was hoping to be feeling better by now but I am still suffering from the crash at Estoril. My back and ribs are still very painful but hopefully I can make some improvements over the next couple of days. Le Mans is a circuit I always enjoy going to because I have thousands of fans there and it has some great corners, like turn one. Riding in front of this crowd is always a great pleasure. In 250cc I always did well here but in MotoGP I have never been in the top five so the objective this year has to be to finish as the top CRT and try to get ahead of some of the MotoGP bikes."