MotoGP: Rossi vs Lorenzo to Le Mans
With a win and a podium each so far this season, Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi will arrive at MotoGP Le Mans this weekend with high hopes of continuing their victorious start to the season.
The Fiat Yamaha pair lie first and second in the championship after two motorcycle races, with Lorenzo four points ahead of Rossi following his magnificent home victory last time out.
The Spaniard turned 23 two days after Jerez and the memory of his first home MotoGP win was still fresh in his mind as he celebrated his birthday at home in Barcelona, following a successful one-day test.
He cannot help but feel confident for another good weekend in Le Mans, where last year he kept his head to win by 17 seconds as the weather wreaked havoc on all around him, and the season before he finished second despite riding with two broken ankles.
The Mallorcan has one other win at Le Mans, in 2007 on the way to his second 250cc title.
The French Grand Prix in 2009 on the other hand is one that nine-time World Champion Rossi would rather forget, plagued as he was by a catalogue of mishaps and visits to pit lane before limping home in 16th position.
His previous record at the famous French track is exemplary however, with two wins for Yamaha in 2008 and 2005, as well as one other win and six podiums in all classes.
Another two weeks off has given him time to fully recover from the shoulder injury that hampered him in Jerez and he will be back on top form and shooting for the top this time out.
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.
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 favourite 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."
Valentino Rossi says: "Back to full strength. 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."
Wilco Zeelenberg says: "After Jorge’s brilliant win in Jerez everyone has had another long rest and now we’re excited to get back to work and carry on our good start to the season. There is a very long way to go and we won’t get too excited, but just try to continue in the same way."
"Le Mans has been a good track for Yamaha in the past and last year Jorge had a great win there in very difficult circumstances. Hopefully the race will be a little more simple this year, without the rain!"
Davide Brivio 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."
Valentino Rossi : Information
Lives: Tavullia, Italy
GP victories: 104 (78 x MotoGP/500cc, 14 x 250cc, 12 x 125cc)
First GP victory: Czech Republic, 1996 (125cc)
First GP: Malaysia, 1996 (125cc)
GP starts: 229 (169 x MotoGP/500cc, 30 x 250cc, 30 x 125cc)
Pole positions: 58 (48 x MotoGP/500cc, 5 x 250cc, 5 x 125cc)
World Championships: 9 Grand Prix (1 x 125cc, 1 x 250cc, 1 x 500cc, 6 x MotoGP)
Jorge Lorenzo: Information
Lives: Barcelona, Spain
GP victories: 27 (6 x MotoGP, 17 x 250cc, 4 x 125cc)
First GP victory: Brazil, 2003 (125cc)
First GP: Jerez, Spain, 2002 (125cc)
GP starts: 130 (35 x MotoGP, 48 x 250cc, 46 x 125cc)
Pole positions: 35 (9 x MotoGP, 23 x 250cc, 3 x 125cc)
World Championships: 2 (250cc, 2006/7)
Le Mans: Record Lap
V. Rossi (Yamaha) 2008, 1’34.215
Le Mans: Best Lap
D. Pedrosa (Honda) 2008, 1’32.647
Grand Prix Results: Le Mans 2009
1. J. Lorenzo (Yamaha) 47’52.678
2. M. Melandri (Kawasaki) +17.710
3. D. Pedrosa (Honda) +19.893
16. V. Rossi (Yamaha) +2 Lap