French GP, Le Mans: Preview – MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
Following scorching track temperatures and a racing temperament to match in Jerez, MotoGP™ ascends to Le Mans for the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France to continue on-track track rivalries.
After a dominant display in tricky conditions last time out, Repsol Honda Team’s Dani Pedrosa will be one of the favourites for this weekend, whilst many eyes will be peeled on how Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo will react to his now infamous last corner incident with Repsol’s Marc Marquez. With both riders separated by a tiny margin, any on track meeting is set to be a hard-fought affair.
Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi will look to get back to his podium form he showed in Qatar, whilst Monster Energy Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow will be aiming to beat the Italian at his team’s home Grand Prix. Crutchlow was in great form last time in Jerez despite suffering from pain after two heavy crashes, and will be an outside podium favourite. GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista is currently winning the battle of the satellite Hondas, yet LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl will look to put last weekend behind him, and rediscover the front end feel he seeks to be competitive.
Tech 3’s Bradley Smith may get a boost from the team’s local support, whilst the Ducati Team of Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden will line up on their regular Desmosedici GP13s, despite trying the “lab bike” in the test after Jerez. Ignite Pramac Racing’s Ben Spies is still recovering from issues relating to his injured shoulder, and will be replaced by Ducati test rider Michele Pirro. Unlike in Jerez, Pirro will not ride the “lab bike”, but Spies’ actual GP13 machine. His teammate Andrea Iannone had arm-pump surgery last week, and has a slightly damaged knee, yet will hope to be close to 100 per cent for the French round.
Power Electronics Aspar’s Aleix Espargaro will be hard to beat as top CRT considering the form he is in, yet with teammate Randy de Puniet buoyed by his home support it could prove his toughest weekend yet. Fellow ART rider, Cardion AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham, will have recovered sufficiently from his broken collarbone to take part, whilst final ART rider Yonny Hernandez aims to overcome the set-up issues which led to his crash in Jerez.
All other CRTs will be riding with the latest Magneti Marelli software upgrade brought to the Jerez test last week. This means that wheelie control and anti-jerk strategy will be improved for NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards and teammate Claudio Corti, the Avintia Blusens pairing of Hector Barbera and Hiroshi Aoyama, Came IodaRacing Project’s Danilo Petrucci and Lucas Pesek, as well as PBM’s Michael Laverty and Gresini’s Bryan Staring.
The Monster Energy Grand Prix de France in Le Mans sets the scene for another Moto2™ battle, as Tuenti HP 40’s Tito Rabat and Marc VDS Racing Team’s Scott Redding fight it out for top spot in the championship.
Rabat, fresh from his first ever victory last weekend, will be looking to continue that good form, though will be hard pushed by Redding, who is looking ever-more like one of the championship favourites. Whether Tuenti HP 40’s Pol Espargaro will be in podium contention remains to be seen, with the Spaniard not content with the new specification front tyre that was brought in from the Jerez round.
He will be hard pushed by Mapfre Aspar Team Moto2’s countryman Nico Terol, who will be aiming for his second victory of the season on the Suter machine. Technomag carXpert’s Dominique Aegerter has been a silent performer so far this season, and will undoubtedly be hovering close to a podium place, while Italtrans Racing Team’s Takaaki Nakagami will hope to take his outright pace in practice through to the race.
Redding’s teammate Mika Kallio, Desguaces La Torre SAG Maptaq’s Xavier Simeon, Came IodaRacing Project’s Johann Zarco and Terol’s teammate Jordi Torres will no doubt be top-ten contenders, whilst Tech 3 Racing’s Louis Rossi will hope to discover some of the magic that helped him win last year’s Moto3™ race in his home town. Gino Rea will be returning to the class as a wildcard with his own Gino Rea Race Team on an FTR, whilst Petronas Raceline Malaysia will field a wildcard in the form of Hafizh Syahrin, who did very well in the Malaysian GP last year.
Le Mans is the setting for another round of on-track sparring as the Moto3™ grid arrives for the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France this weekend with Team Calvo’s Maverick Viñales leading the championship ahead of Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Luis Salom.
Viñales and Salom look in fine form, whilst Estrella Galicia 0,0’s Rins will be aiming to make up for his crash in Jerez. He will however remain the man to beat, having been one of the quickest men across the race weekends so far. Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3’s Jonas Folger, who scored a podium in Jerez, will be looking for more outright race-pace, as he felt his podium had been gifted to him, rather than his bike showing the competitiveness he seeks.
Salom’s teammate Zulfahmi Khairuddin will be aiming for his first podium of the year, whilst Ambrogio Racing’s Brad Binder comes off the back of his best result to date in fourth. The South African is looking strong so far this year, yet will face a challenge from Miguel Oliveira, who is currently spearheading the Mahindra Racing project in seventh in the championship.
Avant Tecno’s Niklas Ajo, Redox RW Racing GP’s Jakub Kornfeil and Mahindra’s Efren Vazquez will also be ones to watch. Two Frenchman will be taking part as wildcards in the form of ACR’s Christophe Arciero on a Suter, and Marc VDS Racing Team’s Jules Danilo, who will line up next to regular Livio Loi.