“Things are great in our team at the moment”
The Fiat Yamaha Team heads to the historic circuit of Le Mans this weekend after a largely successful start to the season that has seen them take two pole positions, two wins and three podiums as a team in the first three races.
Valentino Rossi arrives in France in perfect shape, leading the World Championship by a comfortable eleven points thanks to his stunning win in Jerez. Jorge Lorenzo meanwhile is targeting a return to his form of the first two races after a disappointing home race.
Le Mans has traditionally been one of Yamaha's best circuits and last year saw a clean-sweep of the podium from the Japanese manufacturer with Rossi on top, Lorenzo second and Tech 3 Yamaha rider Colin Edwards in third. Rossi also won there with Yamaha in 2005 and has one other French victory to his name as well as six podiums in his illustrious career.
Last year' s victory was his 90th and he celebrated by giving Angel Nieto a pillion ride, having equalled the Spanish legend's win tally. This year sees him approaching another milestone; last weekend's win was the 98th of his career and another win in Le Mans will see him set up an incredible possible 100th win at his home race in Mugello. Rossi and his crew are adamant after the last race that they have found the right set-up for the 2009 M1 and the new Bridgestone control tyres to allow them to fight for victory at every round and the 30-year-old Italian will be aiming to do just that this weekend.
“My memories of Le Mans last year are amazing because it was my 90th career victory and I made the lap of honour with Angel Nieto on my bike with me, because I equalled his record”, he said. “Also there were three Yamaha's on the podium, which was very special. Things are great in our team at the moment, we made a big step forward in Jerez; my bike was fantastic and it was great to win again. Le Mans is a very different track but the Yamaha is always fast there; this year a lot of things have changed but I hope we will still be quick! It's good to have a rest between races after two together and now we will arrive in Le Mans fully relaxed and ready to work on maximum power.”
Lorenzo turned 22 the day after Jerez and the brilliant young Spaniard is hoping to celebrate in arrears this weekend, after crashing out of his home race when challenging for a podium. With one win already under his belt this season the Mallorcan has shown that he has the form to challenge the established order and he will want to banish the memories of Jerez this weekend by bouncing back to his best.
Last year saw Lorenzo pull off one of the performances of the season by riding to second behind his team-mate despite two fractured ankles, which he had sustained just two weeks before in Shanghai.
“Le Mans is the next stop and the first after my crash in Jerez. I was very sad about what happened there but now it is another story, everything begins again and I must try to do things step by step. The team and I need to improve after Jerez and main target is to get back on the podium”, he said. “I am fit and I like Le Mans, another historic circuit. For someone like me that loves films, Le Mans is a mythical place, close to one of the most beautiful cities in the world! I have had some difficult times there, and last year wasn't easy because I crashed twice during the weekend, but in the end the result was good. I've been on the podium in each category and I will remember forever the incredible Yamaha podium of last year. It was amazing! I can see now Valentino, Colin and I enjoying the moment with all the Yamaha people smiling! I hope this year we can repeat that moment. I will also remember that podium because it's the only one where I was on crutches!”
The French track is one of the least technical circuits on the calendar, with the first part being the most complicated where the high speed turn one, one of the fastest in MotoGP, is followed by a number of tight chicanes. The rest of the track is made up of short straights and hairpins, calling not just for balance and control under hard and repeated braking, but a neat and swift transfer from full braking to full acceleration on the exit of the corners.