2013 Le Mans MotoGP | French Grand Prix Preview

Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo leads Valentino Rossi

2013 Monster Energy Grand Prix de France

Following three rounds of the 2013 MotoGP Championship, only one nation’s riders tasted victory – Spain.

The season opened up with Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo taking the win under the floodlights at Qatar. The next Spaniard to triumph was the rookie Marc Marquez. The Repsol Honda rider broke many records that weekend at Circuit of the Americas in Texas, including becoming the youngest rider to ever take a premier-class pole, and also the youngest rider to take a premier-class win.

After Marquez ousted the previous records held by Freddie Spencer since 1982, the reigning Moto2 Champion’s teammate, Dani Pedrosa, took the round-three victory at Jerez two weeks ago. Joining Pedrosa on the podium was Marquez and Lorenzo, further solidifying the Spanish presence in 2013 MotoGP.

And this weekend, MotoGP  heads to Le Mans for the Monster Energy Grand Prix of France. After three of 18 rounds, Marquez leads the points race, followed three points back by Pedrosa, and four back by Lorenzo.

Each of these Spaniards will be a favorite heading into Le Mans, but one rider has a huge advantage – two-time MotoGP Champion Lorenzo. The YZR-M1 pilot took three wins in the last four consecutive races held at the 2.59-mile circuit containing 13 turns, and also took a win in the former 250cc class.

Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing YZR-M1 MotoGP) says: “Now we travel to France, to Le Mans, a special circuit which is a very different track to Jerez. I am looking forward to racing there. I arrive with a lot of motivation after the Jerez results. Perhaps we expected better there but we struggled much more than we expected because of the extreme heat on the track. Fortunately we worked a lot on the test day afterwards to solve little problems.

“That session helped us to understand what the main problems had been on the Sunday. I’ve always had very good results at Le Mans and it brings me good memories. Last year in fact, I got a victory in the wet by a great distance over the rest. I rode a perfect race, without making a single mistake and in terrible track conditions. I have won many times in France and think it’s a good track for both me and the Yamaha M1.”

As for Pedrosa, he has three wins in Le Mans across the former 125cc and 250cc classes, but he has never been victorious in the premier class. Last year he finished fourth. Pedrosa’s teammate Marquez took two podiums at Le Mans (1st, 2011 Moto2; 3rd, 2010 125cc), but also suffered three DNFs at the French circuit..

These three Spaniards will surely be the top challengers at Le Mans, but will also receive much pressure from the Italian Valentino Rossi, who is fourth in the championship with 43 points. The Yamaha Factory Racing rider has won at Le Mans three times in the premier class, and once in the 125cc class.

And regardless of his sour performances with Ducati Team the past two years, the nine-time World Champion took second there last season, and third in 2011, his debut year on the Ducati.

As Rossi looks to take another podium like he did at Qatar, Monster Energy Cal Crutchlow will be looking for some additional top-five results as he did all season. And since the race will be a home race for his French-based team, Crutchlow will have some extra incentive to place his YZR-M1 on the podium for the first time of 2012.

Due to his finishes just off the podium this season, the Brit Crutchlow is fifth in points with 35 points, though trailing just seven behind is GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista.

The Spaniard has been the fastest of the satellite Honda riders all season, though LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl – currently 11th in points – will be looking to redeem himself after a DNF at Jerez.

Next up in the seventh- and eighth-positions in points are Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden, respectively. Though the two riders recently completed some testing aboard lab Desmosedici prototypes, the two will pilot their regular GP13s at Le Mans.

The top CRT motorcycle after three of 18 rounds is the Power Electronic Aspar’s Aleix Espargaro, who is ninth in points with 17. He is followed by Pramac Ducati’s Andrea Iannone, who had surgery last week to cure some arm pump, and has been suffering from a hurt knee.

As for the other Pramac Ducati rider, Ben Spies continues to recover from shoulder injuries. The Texan will once again be replaced by Ducati test rider Michele Pirro, who finished 11th at Le Mans while testing a special “Lap Bike.” For Le Mans, though, Pirro will pilot Spies’ standard GP13.

Espargaro will be hard to beat as top CRT, though teammate Randy de Puniet will be a huge challenge due to his home support. Fellow ART rider, Cardion AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham, will have recovered sufficiently from his broken collarbone to take part, whilst final ART rider Yonny Hernandez aims to overcome the set-up issues which led to his crash in Jerez.

All other CRTs will be riding with the latest Magneti Marelli software upgrade brought to the Jerez test last week. This means that wheelie control and anti-jerk strategy will be improved for NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards and teammate Claudio Corti, the Avintia Blusens pairing of Hector Barbera and Hiroshi Aoyama, Came IodaRacing Project’s Danilo Petrucci and Lucas Pesek, as well as PBM’s Michael Laverty and Gresini’s Bryan Staring.

2013 Le Mans MotoGP on TV

SPEED TV will broadcast MotoGP from Le Mans at 8 a.m. EDT Sunday, May 19.

2013 MotoGP Point Standings (after three of 18):

Pos. Rider Bike Nation Points
1. Marc MARQUEZ Honda SPA 61
2. Dani PEDROSA Honda SPA 58
3. Jorge LORENZO Yamaha SPA 57
4. Valentino ROSSI Yamaha ITA 43
5. Cal CRUTCHLOW Yamaha GBR 35
6. Alvaro BAUTISTA Honda SPA 28
7. Andrea DOVIZIOSO Ducati ITA 26
8. Nicky HAYDEN Ducati USA 24
10. Andrea IANNONE Ducati ITA 13
11. Stefan BRADL Honda GER 11
12. Bradley SMITH Yamaha GBR 10
13. Ben SPIES Ducati USA 9
14. Hector BARBERA FTR SPA 7
16. Michele PIRRO Ducati ITA 5
17. Michael LAVERTY PBM GBR 3
19. Danilo PETRUCCI Ioda-Suter ITA 2
20. Colin EDWARDS FTR Kawasaki USA 1
21. Hiroshi AOYAMA FTR JPN 1