News 21 May 2010

MotoGP: Stars speak out on eve of French GP at Le Mans

Lorenzo is coming off the back of a home victory at Jerez.

Lorenzo is coming off the back of a home victory at Jerez.

Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo has arrived in Le Mans for the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France, the third round of the FIM MotoGP World Championship, determined to defend his early championship lead.

The Fiat Yamaha rider took prime position in the championship standings courtesy of his win last time out in the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez and is confident of a good result this weekend, at a circuit that has been kind to him in the past.

Lorenzo was second at Le Mans in 2008, his debut season in MotoGP, but went one better and took the win at the Bugatti circuit last year, in a race that he started on wet tyres but ended on slicks.

Lorenzo will be keen to stretch the four point lead that he currently has over his Fiat Yamaha teammate, Valentino Rossi, this weekend in the Grand Prix de France, which marks the start a hectic period that will see the riders contest five MotoGP races in just seven weeks.

“This many races in a short space of time is hard physically, because you are always on the bike and you don’t have time to stop and rest, but for the riders it’s the best thing, because racing almost every weekend is what we live for,” declared the Fiat Yamaha rider at the pre-event press conference, where he was joined by Valentino Rossl, Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa and Randy de Puniet.

Lorenzo also admitted that the Le Mans circuit was one that he enjoys racing at, even if the weather conditions for this year’s race promise to be very different to those when he won here twelve months ago.

“This is a track I like and all the predictions say that it’s not going to rain this weekend, so I’m happy to be at this wonderful track enjoying this wonderful weather,” he commented.

Lorenzo’s confidence is high following a successful post race test at Jerez, where he was able to focus on rectifying the starting issues that forced him to fight his way through the field in the first two races of the season.

“We tested some electronic parts in Jerez after the race and also some things to improve our first laps, but mainly we tried some starts. I’ve had to push too much in the races this season to make up for the start, so this and the first few laps is what we have been working to improve,” he concluded.

Also present at the press conference was Lorenzo’s closest rival in the championship standings, Valentino Rossi. The nine-time world champion is now almost fully recovered from the shoulder injury, sustained in a motocross crash, which caused him problems during the race in Jerez.

“My shoulder feels a lot better. For sure still not 100 percent again, but it’s definitely better than it was in Jerez,” explained Rossi.

Like his Fiat Yamaha teammate, Rossi has also won in France, racking up three race victories since stepping up to the premier class, but the Italian has also suffered disappointment at the tricky Le Mans circuit in the past.

“In Le Mans I’ve had a lot of different results. Sometimes I’ve had great races with great victories, while some other times I’ve had some bad luck and some bad results as well,” he continued. “Last year was the worst weekend of my season – I was never fast enough to stay at the front and I arrived last in the race. It was quite a bad feeling!

“This track is always very tricky, because you need a strange setting for good stability in braking. There’s always a problem with wheelie under acceleration from the tight hairpin, but at the same time you need to have a fast bike for the last part and good agility.”

Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa is another rider who has won at Le Mans in the past, although his three victories were in the 250cc and 125cc classes. Second place and a positive post race test at Jerez three weeks ago mean that Pedrosa is looking forward to the weekend ahead, on a track that he regards as fun to race on.

“On one side this track is very fast, but on the other it’s very hard because there is a lot of hard braking and a lot of overtaking points,” Pedrosa said. “Here the racing is always good and in past years we’ve also had a lot to deal with, because we’ve had to change bikes or the weather was in between, so it was fun.”

Casey Stoner, currently lying eighth in the championship standings, was positive about his chances of clawing back some points from his main rivals this weekend, but the Australian refused to be drawn on the rumours circulating the paddock that he is already deep in discussions with a number of teams about a ride for the 2011 season.

Randy de Puniet heads into his home Grand Prix off the back of good qualifying performances in the opening two races of the season, but the Frenchman remained realistic about his target for this weekend during the press conference.

“This race is so difficult for me -the last five times I’ve raced here on the MotoGP bike were a disaster, although my results prior to that on the 250 were good,” the Frenchman said. “This year I want to be at the front and, if I can finish on Sunday behind these four riders, this would be perfect. I’m confident, but this will be a difficult race, like all the races so far this year.”

Earlier in the day de Puniet joined Marco Simoncelli and Ben Spies on a visit to the Centre Hospitalier du Mans, where they met some of the hospital’s younger patients. The trio handed out posters and signed autographs, while one youngster even conducted an interview with Monster Yamaha Tech3 rider Spies.

“It’s good to be able to do this because I have been in hospital for a pretty good length of time myself, and it’s always great to have people come and visit,” said Spies. “We are always here a day early so it’s nice to be able to do something for the kids and for the charity organisation. I think it benefits everyone so I’m happy to be a part of it.”

Practice in France is scheduled to commence later this evening.