2018 Le Mans MotoGP Preview

Two weeks ago at Jerez MotoGP, Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez easily claimed his second-straight win.

The three-time MotoGP Champion had zero threats in round four of 19 after the men who were vying for second – Ducati Team’s Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso, and Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa – crashed out.

2018 Le Mans MotoGP Preview Yamaha Johann Zarco
Yamaha’s Johann Zarco leads Honda’s Cal Crutchlow

When this wreck occurred, Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Johann Zarco went from fifth to second, and he finished the race runner-up.

Due to his other finishes so far this season – eighth in Qatar; second in Argentina; and sixth in Austin – Zarco moved to second in the point standings, 12 behind Marquez.

This weekend, the lone Frenchman in 2018 MotoGP heads home for round five at the famed Le Mans Bugatti circuit. Throughout his 125cc and Moto2 years, Zarco’s GP career beginning in 2009, he never did well at his home circuit. His best finish in the support classes was third (2015).

But during his rookie MotoGP season last year, Zarco claimed his first-ever premier class podium at Le Mans, finishing second behind Yamaha Movistar MotoGP’s Maverick Vinales and ahead of the other factory Yamaha pilot Valentino Rossi.

2018 Le Mans MotoGP Preview Yamaha Valentino Rossi
Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi

The 2.6-mile circuit caters to Yamaha YZR-M1 machinery. During his factory Yamaha days, Lorenzo claimed five wins in Le Mans, which is the record. The next closest riders are Vinales with one, and Marquez with one, which was his only premier class victory.

Zarco wants to keep Yamaha’s winning trend flourishing, and will do anything possible to repeat a podium performance at Le Mans, or, better yet, take his first premier-class win before a home crowd.

“I’m pretty happy to come to my home Grand Prix being second in the Championship,” Johann Zarco says. “I got a nice, but also lucky podium in Jerez, but this gave me a very high motivation and a big smile to start the French GP.

“I hope that the weather will be good, but even if we have some rain, I know my Yamaha bike well now and I know, that I have to relax on it in any case. Last year was one of the best races of the season, because in Le Mans I got my first ever MotoGP podium. I would like to fight for the victory, therefore I have to stay cool, work well with the team and we will see what will happen.

“I think the fact that all our fans will be there will deliver some more positive energy, maybe also some pressure, but I will change this pressure to even more positive energy, so we cross our fingers and arrive in Le Mans with full power.”

2018 Le Mans MotoGP Preview Honda Marc Marquez
Honda’s Marc Marquez

Though the factory Yamaha M1s provide a threat, Zarco must watch out for Lorenzo. The five-time World Champion has struggled on the Ducati this year – suffering two DNFs and a best of 11th – but he has dominated at Le Mans in the past, winning by over 10-second margins.

Other threats will arrive from LCR Honda Castrol’s Cal Crutchlow, who claimed the win in Argentina MotoGP, but crashed out of Jerez after claiming pole; the Alma Pramac Ducati riders Danilo Petrucci and Jack Miller, who both are strong front runners; and Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Andrea Iannone, who claimed two consecutive third-place finishes in Austin and Jerez.

2018 Le Mans MotoGP Preview Ducati Jorge Lorenzo
Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo

The action gets underway with the first free practices Friday, followed by qualifying on Saturday and Sunday’s 27-lap Grand Prix.

For TV schedules, visit our 2018 MotoGP TV Listings.

2018 MotoGP Point Standings (after four of 19 rounds):

Pos. Rider Points
1 Marc Marquez 70
2 Johann Zarco 58
3 Maverick Viñales 50
4 Andrea Iannone 47
5 Andrea Dovizioso 46
6 Valentino Rossi 40
7 Cal Crutchlow 38
8 Jack Miller 36
9 Danilo Petrucci 34
10 Tito Rabat 24
11 Daniel Pedrosa 18
12 Alex Rins 16
13 Alvaro Bautista 13
14 Franco Morbidelli 13
15 Pol Espargaro 10
16 Takaaki Nakagami 10
17 Hafizh Syahrin 9
18 Aleix Espargaro 6
19 Jorge Lorenzo 6
20 Mika Kallio 6
21 Scott Redding 5
22 Bradley Smith 4
23 Karel Abraham 1
24 Thomas Luthi 0
25 Xavier Simeon 0