This Sunday, the Ducati Team will take on the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France for the fourth round of the season, at the Le Mans circuit. It is often described as a ‘stop and go’ circuit because it does not flow from turn to turn. Nearly every corner is preceded by a straightaway – some long and others shorter – creating a situation where riders brake particularly hard and then accelerate abruptly.
Historically, it has proven to be a demanding track for the Ducati, which has nonetheless twice made the podium, with Loris Capirossi in 2006 and with Casey Stoner in 2007, while Nicky Hayden actually achieved his best result ever at the track aboard the Italian bike, with a fourth place last year.
Valentino Rossi has earned three victories, in 2002, 2005 and 2008, along with another four podiums. All of these were in MotoGP, as the French GP was held at Le Castellet when he raced in the 125 and 250cc classes.
“Le Mans is a historic track, and I always like to go to these places with rich motorsport traditions, even if the stop-and-go layout is a little particular. The atmosphere is always really nice, with the grandstand filled with fans on both Saturday and Sunday. The track isn’t particularly technical but maintaining a good rhythm is tricky: there are many points where we brake really hard for corners, so then it’s important to have strong acceleration on the exit. We’ll see how well we’re able to deal with those characteristics. We’re coming off a test that confirmed that we’ve started to go in the right direction and, although we’re still in the first phase, we hope we can find a good set-up for Le Mans so that we can be faster in the qualifying session. We’re all working hard, and we’re making progress, but we still have to keep improving.”
“Traditionally, Le Mans hasn’t been a good track for me. I’ve never had a podium or a front row there, but I was fourth there last year, which was my best-ever result. You can’t really make too much out of that, but we’ll try to take the information we collected during the test at Estoril and see if we can put it to good use in France. The weather at Le Mans can be either way, especially this time of year, which is just part of racing. One good thing I look forward to is that I think the best strength of our bike right now is stability under hard braking, and Le Mans has a lot of hard braking. Traditionally, the grip there isn’t very good, so that’s something we’re probably really going to have to work on. We’ll go there and see what we’ve got.”
Vittoriano Guareschi, Team Manager:
“On paper, Le Mans isn’t one of the most favourable tracks for us, but we’ve still had some good races there with Loris and Casey, and with Nicky, who was strong last year and finished close to the podium. He and Valentino were both pleased with the work we did during the post-race test at Estoril, and now the team will try to do everything it can to adapt to the GP11 to a circuit that’s very different from the one in Portugal. Once again we’re hoping for a sunny weekend, since every hour of track time in ‘normal’ conditions is very important for us because of the work we’re doing.”
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