Moto2 Le Mans
Another all-out-brawl of a race is expected from the new Moto2 World Championship. The Moto2 race at Jerez was an edge-of-the-seat affair, with the lead changing on innumerable occasions, the Honda CBR600-powered machines all so equal on performance.
Winner at Jerez was Toni Elias (Gresini Racing Moto2, Moriwaki), but Shoya Tomizawa (Technomag-CIP, Suter) finished second to maintain his lead in the series.
This will be an extra special weekend for Tomizawa, winner of the historic first Moto2 race in Qatar, because he now lives in France during the season, nearby his French team, where the technical department is run by former HRC crew chief Gilles Bigot.
French fans should find plenty of home hero interest in Moto2, with three riders in the class: Jules Cluzel (Forward Racing, Suter), former 125cc World Champion Mike Di Meglio (Mapfre Aspar Team) and Valentin Debise, (WTR San Marino Team, ADV).
Honda’s premier-class success at Le Mans covers almost three decades and a variety of riders and bikes. In 1983 Fast Freddie Spencer won Honda’s first 500cc success at the track aboard Honda’s NS500 triple.
Between 1985 and 2000, Spencer, Eddie Lawson, Mick Doohan and Alex Crivillé all won 500 GPs with Honda’s NSR500 V4. And since the switch to four-stroke MotoGP, Valentino Rossi, Sete Gibernau and Marco Melandri have won at Le Mans with the RC211V.
Legendary for its 24-hour races, Le Mans hosted its first bike GP in 1969. The Bugatti circuit, very different from the much longer 24-hour car circuit, returned to the GP calendar in 2000 after an absence of four years, during which time the French GP was run at Circuit Paul Ricard in Provence.
Since 2000 the event has built a huge following in bike-mad France, with tens of thousands of bikers making the two-hour trip to the Sarthe from Paris.
Le Mans underwent safety modifications before the 1999 GP, partly as a result of Alberto Puig’s injurious turn-one crash during practice for the 1995 French GP.
The daunting right hander was tightened and the Musée left-hander was also modified to lower speeds. Further modifications have been carried out during subsequent years in an ongoing programme of improvements.
The track’s character is very stop-and-go, with plenty of slow turns where braking and acceleration performance are primordial.
Riders and their engineers therefore concentrate on honing their machines’ stability during braking, as well as improving rear-end traction for the numerous hairpin exits.
Moto2 RIDER QUOTES
Technomag-CIP rider Shoya Tomizawa says: "This is my team home GP so I am quite happy about that. Beside this, I like the Le Mans layout and my only worry so far is what kind of weather we will get, because last year it rained a lot and this year I would prefer to race in the dry. This weekend may be different from Jerez because no one has been to Le Mans with a Moto2 bike, so the target is to have a good race, finish and score points."
Gresini Racing Moto2 rider Toni Elias says: "We can expect another crazy Moto2 race, I think, because there are a lot of hairpins and slow corners at Le Mans, which means there will be some big battles on the brakes. I hope that everyone understands that the race is more than 20 laps, not just one or two laps! My injuries get better every day, so I hope that I can race with less pain than I had at Jerez."
Interwetten Moriwaki Moto2 rider Thomas Luthi says: "The Le Mans track is not bad for me. I already had several successful races there, my last win included. But this last win was another story as it was in 125cc and a long time ago. My target is to be part of the front group. I will not focus on anything else than riding in the leading group. Once you are there really anything can happen in Moto2."