Only four points separate leader Jorge Lorenzo from his Fiat Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi heading into round 3 of MotoGP action in Le Mans this weekend.
Rossi, who was in pain during the Jerez race due to a recent injury while motorcross training, had many setbacks during the 2009 French Grand Prix, the Italian only finishing 16th.
But besides last year’s meeting at the track that holds the notorious 24 Hours of Le Mans, the nine-time World Champion has two wins for Yamaha there in 2008 and 2005, as well as another win and six podiums. Rossi currently holds the record lap at Le Mans with a 1:34.215 he set in 2008.
The two-week break from Jerez also gave the 31 year old additional time to fully recover from his MX accident; Rossi finished third in Spain, and won the season opener in Qatar.
Valentino Rossi says: "My shoulder is more or less recovered now so I hope I will be back to full strength in Le Mans. Despite the disaster of last year’s race, Le Mans is a good track for me and the Yamaha always goes well there. The biggest problem is the weather, but after last year I think we deserve a sunny French GP!"
"We’ve made a good start to the season, with the win in Qatar and then another podium, but we have also struggled with the bike in some areas and so we need to try to improve our performance. We had a good test after Jerez so I hope that we will be able to use that information to start strongly here."
Lorenzo, who just turned 23 years old after winning at his home track in Jerez, had better luck at the 2009 Le Mans, winning a full 17 seconds ahead Marco Melandri. He took second there in 2008 during his debut year in the premier class, despite racing with two broken ankles. Lorenzo also won in 2007, on the way to his second 250cc title.
Jorge Lorenzo says: "Despite our victory in Jerez and taking the lead in the world standings, I continue to think that I am not the favorite because the season is very long and it has only just started! I am very proud however because Jerez was my first victory at home in MotoGP. Last year I won in Le Mans in an amazing and crazy race. It was a very complicated because of the rain and drying track, but I think that everybody in our team did an unbelievable job, above all on Sunday."
"I know that I used everything I had, from the very first laps right to the end. I hope the fans aren’t waiting for a repeat this weekend! Of course the weather is always a risk in Le Mans, but I hope for sun. I’ve been on the podium twice there, last season and when I won my second 250cc title, so I am looking forward to trying again. I’ve had almost three weeks since Jerez and I know that I am ready for this second European race."
According to Fiat Yamaha, Le Mans is most famous as home to the iconic 24-Hour race but the MotoGP also draws a huge crowd every year. The first part of the track is the most difficult in what is not a particularly technical circuit, with the high-speed, uphill turn one giving way to several tight chicanes.
The remainder of the track is made up of short straights and hairpins calling for a set up that yields both balance and control under hard and repeated braking and a quick transfer from full braking to full acceleration on the exit of the corners.
Davide Brivio (Fiat Yamaha Team Managers) says: "We have something to forget in Le Mans after last year, when it rained, we had some difficulties and took no points! In general however Le Mans is always a very good track for Yamaha and we have had some good results there in the past. We hope for good weather this time."
"We have started the championship very strongly and our aim now is to continue this trend and remaining close or at the top by taking as many points as possible. We really hope to do well here in order to put us on a good footing for the busy period of June and July, when the championship will really start to take shape."
MotoGP Standings after Round 2:
1. Jorge Lorenzo, 45
2. Valentino Rossi, 41
3. Dani Pedrosa, 29
4. Andrea Dovizioso, 26
5. Nicky Hayden, 26
6. Randy de Puniet, 17
7. Colin Edwards, 12
8. Casey Stoner, 11
9. Ben Spies, 11
10. Marco Melandri, 11
11. Marco Simocelli, 10
12. Mika Kallio, 9
13. Hiroshi Aoyama, 8
14. Loris Capirossi, 7
15. Hector Barbera, 7
16. Alvaro Bautista, 6
17. Aleix Espargaro 1