The MotoGP World Championship enters new level of intensity this weekend as the Grand Prix de France at the historic Bugatti circuit in Le Mans kicks off a run of seven motorcycle races in a little over two months before the summer break.
The Ducati Marlboro Team, which has proven to be competitive on different racetracks with both riders, is looking to make the most of the potential of riders and bike as Casey Stoner aims to recover lost ground in the championship and Nicky Hayden targets a continuation of his positive early season progress.
Le Mans, widely known as a typical "stop and go" circuit, has proven to be a challenge for Ducati in the past although the factory has celebrated podiums there on two occasions, with Stoner in 2007 and Capirossi in 2006.
However, the new specification GP10 machine has given the Ducati Marlboro Team plenty of reason for optimism as they look to tackle the unique demands of the French circuit this weekend.
CASEY STONER says: "Because of the "stop and go" nature of the circuit at Le Mans you need a bike that is very stable on the brakes but also agile and quick in corner exit, especially in the slow sections. In the past we have usually managed to be fast and run at the front but we’ve never come away with the results that we would have liked. This year I think we can have higher expectations than the past two seasons there and we will certainly give our best to meet them."
NICKY HAYDEN says: "Le Mans is probably the most difficult circuit on the calendar for me because I think it is the only place I’ve never been on the podium or the front row at, so it will be interesting to see how we go this year. As I have said a few times we have made a good start to the season and put two good races together but we have to keep our feet on the ground and keep working because our objective is to consistently perform at a high level and close the gap even further to those front guys. The last couple of tenths are definitely the hardest to find but I feel comfortable with the bike and the team, I’m enjoying myself and I feel confident about the rest of the season."
VITTORIANO GUARESCHI says: "We have never produced amazing results at Le Mans but this year I am expecting a good race from both our riders – partly because for various reasons in the past we probably haven’t capitalised on our potential there and also because we are more competitive in general now. Casey and Nicky are in great shape and the GP10, with its more linear power curve, will put less stress on the tyres at this track and should also be easier for the riders to handle around this track."
Le Mans Racetrack
Located in the Sarthe region, a couple of hours’ drive from the capital city of Paris, Le Mans is renowned for the 24 Hour automobile race.
The Bugatti circuit, which is very different to the actual 24 Hour circuit, plays host to the MotoGP race, having returned to the calendar back in 1999.
Considered a "stop and go" circuit, Le Mans is riddled with slow corners but also features one of the fastest on the calendar, which comes at the end of the start-finish straight.
A host of hairpins and chicanes call for balance and control under repeated heavy braking as well as corner speed and good acceleration on exit.
With nine right-hand corners and only four left-handers the track is also a major test for tyres.
Le Mans Track Facts
Circuit Record: Valentino Rossi (Yamaha – 2008), 1’34.215 – 159.910 Km/h
Best Pole: Dani Pedrosa (Honda – 2008), 1’32.647 – 162.617 Km/h
Circuit Length: 4,185 km
MotoGP Race 2010: 28 laps (117.18 km)
MotoGP Timetable 2010: 14:00 Local Time
Number of laps: 28
Race distance: 117.180
PODIUM 2009 : 1st Jorge Lorenzo, 2nd Marco Melandri, 3rd Dani Pedrosa
POLE 2009: Dani Pedrosa (Honda – 2009), 1’33.974 – 160.320 Km/h
DUCATI MARLBORO TEAM’S BEST RESULTS AT LE MANS
2009: 5th (Stoner)
2008: 15th (Melandri)
2007: 3rd (Stoner)
2006: 2nd (Capirossi)
2005: 7th (Capirossi)
2004: 8th (Bayliss)
DUCATI MARLBORO TEAM – RIDER INFO
Age: 24 (Born 16th October 1985 in Southport, Queensland, Australia)
Bike: Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici GP10
GP Appearances: 129 (68xMotoGP, 31×250, 30×125)
GP Victories: 27 (20xMotoGP, 5×250, 2×125)
First GP victory: Valencia, 2003 (125)
First GP: Great Britain, 2001 (125)
Pole positions: 22 (18xMotoGP, 2×250, 2×125)
First pole position: Italy, 2003 (125)
World Titles: 1 (MotoGP, 2007)
MotoGP track record at Le Mans:
2009: Grid:3rd. Race: 5th
2008: Grid: 3rd. Race: 16th
2007: Grid: 2nd Race: 3rd
2006: Grid: 11th. Race: 4th
Age: 28 (born 30th July 1981 in Owensboro, Kentucky, USA)
Residency: Owensboro, Kentucky, USA
Bike: Ducati MotoGP Team Desmosedici GP10
GP Appearances: 118 (118xMotoGP)
First GP: Japan, 2003 (MotoGP)
Number of victories: 3 (3xMotoGP)
First GP victory: USGP, 2005 (MotoGP)
Pole positions: 5 (5xMotoGP)
First Pole: USGP, 2005 (MotoGP)
World Titles: 1 (MotoGP, 2006)
MotoGP track record at Le Mans:
2009: Grid: 13th. Race: 12th
2008: Grid: 6th. Race: 8th
2007: Grid: 7th Race: NC
2006: Grid: 10th. Race: 5th
2005: Grid: 5th. Race: 6th
2004: Grid: 7th. Race: 11th
2003: Grid: 13th. Race: 12th