MotoGP heads to the legendary French circuit for its annual FrenchGP.
Le Mans is a track famous for the 24 hours of Le Mans endurance race which is one of the most prestigious races in the world, the race is run on the full Le Mans Circuit de la Sarthe layout. Thankfully for MotoGP our boys and girls ride the smaller Bugatti Circuit situated within the track as the full layout is deemed too dangerous for motorcycles.
The race is a typical MotoGP scrap with the long sweeping first corner causing many issues and crashes on the opening laps as the riders try to gain as many places as possible at the tight chicane before the Dunlop bridge with Joan Mir pulling off a stylish dismount there last year to arrive on his feet in the gravel after a crash, the move was highly risky taking into account the forces involved and could’ve resulted in some serious injures, but it didn’t and now appears on every MotoGP highlight reel you can imagine.
MotoGP is obviously racing in France, aside from the Eiffel Tower, beautiful cuisine and stunning language what is France known for? Oh yes, rain. We saw copious amounts of the stuff last year and it is on the cards again this year looking at the weather forecast, this has the potential to throw up some interesting results with rain being the ultimate leveller for the class, even last year we had a fairly surprising podium with Danilo Petrucci storming to victory ahead of an unexpected Alex Marquez who took his debut podium after demonstrating some huge speed in tricky conditions, almost as if he’s related to Marc Marquez who’s fairly fast in tricky conditions.
With the rain in mind when we look at 2021 it kind of throws off whatever we thought was possible for the weekend but I will try and explain what I feel we can expect in the best way possible starting with Aprilia.
As we all know Aleix Espargaro is in the form of his life on the Aprilia and race by race is improving and setting new records in terms of how close he is to victory in the class, he also has matched Aprilia’s best result of P6 numerous times already this year and with the incoming rain we could see him do even better than this with a possibility of a podium on the cards for the Aprilia man, of course it’s a bit of a long shot but you never know with the rain, combine the weather with Aprilia’s consistent improvements and it wouldn’t be out of the equation to assume a podium is possible, the one thing which could hinder him is his recovery after going under the knife last week for arm pump.
Aleix Espargaro is in the form of his career.
Looking over to the home riders of Fabio Quartararo and Johann Zarco we both know that the duo will be eager for victory, Zarco has crashed out of the chance of victory at the track many times and it’s likely he’s now missed his chance at a home win but this is MotoGP and anything can happen. Quartararo was forced into his first-ever wet MotoGP race last year at the circuit, with no prior experience in the wet on his Yamaha M1 there is no surprise that Quartararo struggled immensely to a P9 finish, fast forward a year and he is in fine form albeit struggling with arm pump in Jerez. Looking at the Frenchman’s current form it would be highly probable to put him in with a chance of the victory and there’s a large chance he can pull off a win on home soil, however, he underwent arm pump surgery last week which will hinder him slightly this week after his almost certain win at Jerez was foiled by the muscle condition, it remains to be seen how he can improve with the home advantage mixed with a cocktail of adrenaline and painkillers.
Another Yamaha rider looking for some glory is Franco Morbidelli, the Italian has been very vocal about how displeased he is with a 2019 Yamaha M1 taking into account the fact that he was the 2020 runner up, despite this he has put in some solid races in the last few weeks with a podium in Jerez. Although he will be angry with the outdated machinery it is clear he is still fast and competitive on it, fuelled with anger and frustration we could see him battle for the win again this weekend.
If there is anyone who can stop the normally cool and relaxed Morbidelli winning it is Ducati, currently Francesco Bagnaia leads the MotoGP championship standings without a race win and is in the MotoGP form of his life taking three podiums in four races with his teammate Jack Miller winning the race in Jerez. Both of the riders will be coming to the circuit their GP20 won at last year in the hands of Danilo Petrucci, they will be able to optimise their data from the year previous with the added bonus that it was in wet conditions. Le Mans is absolutely not a Ducati track but neither was Jerez and they managed a 1-2 race finish there.
Danilo Petrucci won for Ducati last year.
Takaaki Nakagami was a rider left with anger and disappointment in Jerez with another P4 finish under his belt, he is desperate to finish on the podium in the premier class and has shown a visible improvement after moving back to the 2019 chassis which provides him with more rear grip and feel, with a wet race on the cards we could see the Japanese rider take a swig of the podium prosecco.
Looking over to KTM unless a miracle happens it’s unlikely we are going to see them take a podium as we did last year with Pol Espargaro, their bike is struggling hugely with Dani Pedrosa being drafted in last week to complete a test at Aragon to see if they could find any improvements, reportedly there has been some progress made so we may see this come to fruition with Brad Binder looking to be the strongest out of the Factory KTM boys with his P5 in Portimao to back this claim up.
On a smaller rapid note, Marc Marquez now has two races under his belt and has confirmed he is making some big improvements now, the muscle in his arm will have started to grow back to where it was previous to his injury with the bone being more than strong enough after surviving a 120mph crash into an air fence at Jerez, it is likely we will see him start to creep back up the order again. A rider praying and hoping for a result will be Alex Rins after suffering two DNF’s in two races including chasing victory in Portimao before crashing out early into the Jerez race, some points going his way this weekend will be a job well done for the Spanish rider.
Valentino Rossi seemingly is in a slump in the Petronas Yamaha SRT camp taking just four points in four races with a P16 in Doha, a DNF in Portimao and P17 in Jerez, surely the only way is up now for The Doctor?
All our questions and more will be answered this weekend in Le Mans, most likely will get this completely wrong and Zarco will win with Lecuona on the podium as that’s how MotoGP rolls but as long as we get some good racing what does it matter!
Featured images – KTM Media / Polarity Photo (main)
Ducati media – (Petrucci)
MotoGP.com (Aleix Espargaro)