Since 2002, when 4-strokes were ushered into the modern era of MotoGP to replace the irascible 2-stroke 500cc machines, Honda has been the most successful manufacturer at Le Mans, earning four victories.
Yamaha is second with three wins, and Suzuki with one. Valentino Rossi is responsible for three of the wins, landing the top spot on the podium aboard the Honda in 2002, topping the podium again in 2005 on the Yamaha 990cc, and again with Yamaha in 2008 riding the new era 800cc machine.
With the current slate of former 250cc riders that have transitioned to the premier class grid experiencing teething problems in acclimating to the big-bore 4-strokes, it begs the question: how long will it take the likes of Marco Simoncelli, Alvaro Bautista, Hiroshi Aoyama, and Hector Barbera to adapt and be running at the front?
Personally, I honestly thought these riders were going to make more of an impact than they have. It just goes to prove how strong and talented (and tough) the usual suspects are.
That said, with the exceptions of the Americans, all of the current riders in the premier class came up through the 2-stroke screamers: the 125cc and 250cc machines.
The fact that they’ve adapted to the rapidly evolving characteristics of the modern-era machines to rule the roost is testament to what is most certainly in store as these new recruits gain confidence and seat time.
For the time being however, it’s pretty hard to bet against the entrenched (Rossi, Pedrosa, Stoner, and Lorenzo) running at the front this weekend.
But look at Le Mans to potentially be a turning point as several riders are showing signs of rejuvenation. Nicky Hayden and Ben Spies are definitely on the gas and Colin Edwards is always strong at the French circuit, having finished on the podium twice (2005 and 2008) as well as earning his first ever pole in 2007.
We’re all full of speculation and opinions, but the truth of the matter is; every single man on the premier class grid is ready, hungry, and deserving. That’s why they’re here. So, let the games begin.