“Nothing is impossible”
The MotoGP World Championship returns to Europe this weekend for the Grand Prix of France, round five of the season, at the historic circuit of Le Mans, constructed around a section of the existing 24 Hour track in 1965.
Famous mainly for
its car races, the Bugatti circuit is located around 200km south-east of Paris and is a special event for motor sport fans from across the north of Europe.
With events at the last round in China now firmly behind them, the Team Honda GRESINI riders are looking ahead to France with renewed optimism. Marco Melandri and Toni Elias, and indeed the entire team, are keen to improve both performance and results after their Shanghai disappointment.
"It's nice to be going back to Le Mans, a circuit where I have a lot of nice memories after my victory there last year. I like the circuit and it should suit our bike a little more. It's still a little early to be making predictions and we'll have to wait until we get there to check out the weather conditions, which can change quickly. The Bugatti track is full of hard braking and it needs a riding style that favours braking and opening the gas with perfect timing according to each particular corner. There are a couple of hard acceleration points but there are no really long straights and that should help. It's good fun to ride here - especially when you win, like I did last year! The technical conditions we find ourselves in now are a little different to how they were last season but if we give it everything then nothing is impossible.
It will be important to work well from the first free practice session in order to find a good base that will allow me to squeeze everything I can out of the Le Mans track."
"Le Mans is a track I like and I've had some good results there in the past. I actually scored my first podium here back in 2001 when I finished third in the 125cc race and I also won the 250cc race in 2003. Last year we suffered a lot with the tyres because I couldn't get them up to the right temperature. This year the tyre situation is completely different and we should be in the right shape to challenge at the front of the field again. The bad luck at Shanghai is behind me now and I can't wait to get back on track at Le Mans - it could be a decent chance to register a good result."
The 2007 World Championship is proving, more than ever before, to be a battle between the tyre manufacturers. Bridgestone have beaten Michelin three times out of four races already this season, even dominating at circuits where they hadn't traditionally done well in the past. But Sunday's race is an even bigger challenge for the Japanese brand, with the Le Mans circuit being just a short drive from their rivals' Clermont Ferrand factory. In fact, it is Michelin who have triumphed at their home circuit some 11 times from the past 12 premier class races here - including last year's win with Marco Melandri.
FAUSTO GRESINI was himself a winner at the Grand Prix of France back in 1987: "It was a wet race. The track was really slippery, there were different types of asphalt and a lot of guys were crashing but I managed to escape from the group and win", he recalls about his wet weather win.
Gresini's curious memory of Le Mans, however, comes from 1985 when he clinched his first 125 title: "It was the first and last time in my career that I made an agreement with another rider. I was fighting for the title so Gianola said he would help me, but he didn't - he tried to win the race! It was a lesson for me because I had the potential to win it on my own anyway. That was the day I learned that a rider must focus only on himself and his own team."