The ’10 battle between Lorenzo (above) and Pedrosa is being revisited as both Spaniards share wins coming to Le Mans.
Three different winners have already claimed wins in the 2011 MotoGP Championship as it skids into France’s famed Le Mans circuit for Round 4. Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa and Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo have been quick to snatch wins early in the season, as a war breaks out between the Honda and Yamaha garages for Grand Prix supremacy.
In Portugal Pedrosa rebounded from shoulder surgery to win his first race of the season and move within four points of current leader, Lorenzo. With a week to rest his shoulder, the Spaniard should be in even better form as he looks to add another victory to his career Grand Prix tally of 36. After winning the last round, Pedrosa shares the same amount of wins in MotoGP as Lorenzo, both Spaniards taking 13 victories throughout their careers. Whoever can win at Le Mans will tie the second most successful Spanish rider in history, Jorge Martinez.
With his shoulder surgery a success, Dani Pedrosa will look to overtake Lorenzo in the standings during Round 4.
“It’s been the first week in a long time in which I have felt calm and confident, especially after the race we had in Portugal,” said Pedrosa. “It was a great release for me to feel good on the bike after the operation and makes me see things differently. After the race and Monday’s test I was very tired and sore. I spent three days resting to relax the muscles and then I continued with the physiotherapy and gently working with my trainer. Now, I look forward to getting back on the bike. Le Mans will be, as always, a difficult and busy weekend. I’ve done well overall in this circuit, I have quite a lot of confidence there, but I am yet to win in MotoGP and I would like to.”
Lorenzo, eager to defend his status as 2010 champion, will especially look for a strong comeback in Le Mans after losing to Pedrosain the last match. Lorenzo will become the youngest rider ever to reach 150 GP starts at Le Mans, stealing the record from Pedrosa. Perhaps most important of all, Lorenzo will attempt to stop Pedrosa’s rise in confidence following his successful shoulder surgery.
“I am coming back to Le Mans, a track I really enjoy and where I won last season,” said Lorenzo. “The people in Le Mans love motorbikes, they love the smell of fuel. We are on the top, but we should be focused on getting as many points as possible. Our main goal is the podium, our fourth podium, and to be in front in Montmeló. This track has a lot of chicanes and is funny for me. The weather is always changing, we have to be careful with the forecast, it can change everything.”
Tension between Stoner (#27) and Rossi (below) appears to be escalating after an incident during Estoril testing.
After grabbing the final podium spot at Estoril, Stoner sits 20 points behind Pedrosa in the standings. The main story with the Aussie in Portugal, however, was his nagging back pain which prevented him from pushing toward the top.
“In Estoril I was very happy to retain third and keep some valuable points for the championship,” Stoner said. “We’ve always had some reasonable results in Le Mans, but never really quite good enough. The practice sessions will be important to get the set-up of the bike just right, and I feel the Honda should work well there so I’m looking forward to it.”
Stoner had a marvelous win during the season opener at Qatar, but a DNF in the second round after colliding with Ducati’s Valentino Rossi left the Aussie sore over the Italian’s tactics. The Stoner vs. Rossi rivalry enters Le Mans with recent rumors in the Italian press claiming the Aussie blocked Rossi on-track during the recent Estoril test. Expect more on that feud as the press ramps up to Friday’s first practice session.
While Stoner may not have a strong record to show at Le Mans, Rossi has managed three wins and four podium finishes. Still searching for his first victory aboard the Ducati GP11, Rossi now faces a circuit which the Italian marque has never won before. Rossi is followed just one point behind by his American teammate, Nicky Hayden, and Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso. At Estoril Hayden finished ninth – a far cry from his podium result at Jerez. The Kentucky Kid now faces a tie in the series with Dovizioso, so Le Mans will be pivotal for the duo as they continue their fight inside the top-five.
“After the improvements made in the post GP test in Estoril, we arrive in Le Mans more competitive,” Dovizioso said. “We will use the new clutch we tested in Portugal and take advantage of the set-up solutions tested there. Le Mans is a slow track and has a lot of changes of direction. Unfortunately the circuit has lost part of its fascination after changes made in the past years. I have always scored good results on this track though.”
Marco Simoncelli has proven he has the pace, but can he remain consistent in 2011 to claim his first MotoGP win?
Gresini Honda’s Marco Simoncelli has suffered crashes in the last two rounds which both ruined chances at taking his first premier class victory. Although the Italian has proven to be quick and capable, he’s also earning a reputation for inconsistency. The French circuit will be his chance at redemption as he tries to post his first points since Qatar.
“The Estoril test on the day after the race was a good way for me to put the race behind me and go to Le Mans with a different attitude. Now I am just looking forward to putting it behind me properly. The test was a useful and important one ahead of the fourth race of the season. I am more sure than ever that I can run with the front guys and I will be giving everything to come out with a top result.”
Unlike his start last year, Yamaha’s Ben Spies has gotten off to a rocky start in 2011. The American has crashed out in the last two rounds and is currently 14th in the championship. At this point Spies’ goal is to finish in the points at Le Mans, but it won’t be easy at a circuit which he didn’t finish last year.
“I’ve had a really relaxing few days off after Estoril back home in Como, Italy,” said Spies. “I had a good chance to get out on my bicycle and really work off some of the frustration from the race. Having felt so good at the start I really believed we could have delivered some strong results in Portugal. Anyway, we all move on together and as a team we’re coming to France determined to make up for it and really kick off our 2011 season again.”
Bradl (above) has been perfect in qualifying this year and leads the Moto2 field by 13 points ahead of Iannone (below).
In the Moto2 field German Stefan Bradl continues to control the pack after scoring two wins and a fifth-place finish in the first three rounds. Especially important will be qualifying, as Bradl has maintained perfect form by winning all three Superpole sessions so far this season.
“First of all, I hope for good weather for the whole weekend, because all the time it is changing,” said Bradl. “I think we will be having a good package at the moment, and for sure it won’t be easy this race. Also, (Estoril) for me was very hard. I just need to keep concentrated on myself, do my job and have a good weekend there.”
Leading by 13 points, Bradl’s nearest competitor resides in Suter’s Andrea Iannone, who claimed victory at Jerez and nearly won the last round before sliding out of contention in the last three laps. The Italian heads to Le Mans with a chip on his shoulder and hungry to out-do his personal best of fourth in France.
“I sincerely hope that in (Le Mans) qualifying will be better to be able to start from a better position,” Iannone said. “Now we must wait for the next race and do my best. (Stefan) Bradl has taken a small lead in the championship, but we are still at the beginning of the season. It’s a shame for the Estoril race, but I’m happy because we demonstrated our potential, now we just have to make the most of it.”
Ioda Racing Project’s Simone Corsi is third in the series and managed a podium finish last year at Le Mans. With top-six finishes in every round so far and a podium at Jerez, Corsi now embarks for Le Mans with a top-three finish in sight.
“We must continue working to do better and be able to give my best,” said Corsi. “I know I can do more. I know that I need to qualify better if I’m going to get on the podium in Le Mans, as I did last year. We will concentrate on our set-up in practice and hope for the best.”