After two-week break, the historic circuit des “24 heures du Mans” hosts the third round of the MotoGP Championship for the 22nd time this weekend.
Le Mans is a big weekend for LCR Honda MotoGP racer Randy de Puniet, France’s only rider in the premier category.
The former 250 challenger goes well at the circuit, having scored four 250 podium finishes at Le Mans between 2002 and 2005, but he has yet to repeat that success in the big class. Nevertheless, de Puniet is feeling confident following a successful day of testing at Jerez, during which he worked at honing the chassis set-up of his RC212V.
Thanks to the French GP organiser who obtained the special permission from the French Authorities, the LCR Team moved to Paris city centre in the middle of the night on Wednesday to shoot the RC212V No.14 in front of the spectacular and bright Tour Eiffel.
“Of course, Le Mans is a big event for me and the team. You always want to do your best in every race, but having so many fans urging you on is an extra boost, so I want to get the best possible result for all the people who support me all year round,” said de Piniet.
“I think we can have a good race here because we made some good improvements to the bike during the tests. I like Le Mans – it’s quite stop and go and there’s a lot of hard braking into the hairpins, which I enjoy. Then the weather is perfect… we can finally have a dry race in Le Mans!”
Meanwhile, with a win and a podium each so far this season, Yamaha team-mates Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi will arrive at 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 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.