After a dramatic round at the Circuito de Jerez, the MotoGP™ paddock heads to Le Mans for the HJC Helmets Grand Prix de France, but who will be victorious on French soil?
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) comes to Le Mans off the back of two consecutive victories, and leads the World Championship for the first time this season. However, the French circuit is a track he hasn’t had a podium at since winning in 2014, including a DNF and a 13th place finish in the previous two years.
The venue has been a tricky one for Honda in general recently, with Yamaha taking the last three victories at the circuit. However, before Marquez, Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) did win at a rain soaked Le Mans in 2013, and MotoGP™ Legend Casey Stoner crossed the line first in 2011. Can the Japanese factory get back to winning ways in France this weekend?
The Movistar Yamaha MotoGP duo of Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi will certainly try and have a say in that. The pair had a tougher than expected round in Andalusia, but aforementioned, they come to a circuit that has suited the M1 in the past. Last season, both Viñales and Rossi - along with home hero Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) - dominated the race. The Spaniard eventually took victory after a fantastic battle with his teammate, with Rossi crashing at Turn 11 on the final lap. The factory garage will be hoping for more of the same this year, minus the crash.
Before his switch from the M1 to Ducati, Le Mans was Jorge Lorenzo’s (Ducati Team) playground. The five-time World Champion is the rider with the most Grand Prix victories at Le Mans, having stood on the top step of the podium on six separate occasions, five times in the premier class.
The Spaniard has won both in the wet, and in the dry at Le Mans, both by impressive margins. In 2009, Lorenzo judged it to perfection for a 17 second victory margin in mixed conditions, then in 2016, he was victorious by over 10 seconds. In Jerez this season, the number 99 looked to have rediscovered his mojo, leading comfortably in the opening stages. Will the 31-year-old carry this positive form over and battle for the podium on board his GP18 this weekend?
Podiums are something Team Suzuki Ecstar have been enjoying recently. Their three consecutive third-place finishes were the first time they’ve managed that since Sachsenring, Laguna Seca and Brno in 2008, with Chris Vermeulen and Loris Capirossi. Is a fourth on the cards in Le Mans?
Suzuki have had five wins at Bugatti circuit in the premier class, the last of which was in 2007 with Vermeulen. Viñales also finished third at Le Mans in 2016, which was the first podium for Suzuki since Loris Capirossi was third at Brno in 2008. The Hamamatsu factory will be confident they can challenge for a podium again this weekend.
The French GP is shaping up to be a thrilling weekend, and with Zarco on home territory, who wins this weekend really is anyone’s guess before track action begins on Friday.