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Yamaha looking to buck Honda trend

Yamaha looking to buck Honda trend

Yamaha looking to buck Honda trend

The fourth round of the 2002 MotoGP World Championship takes place at Le Mans this weekend with the quest to break Honda domination reaching a critical stage. The Japanese manufacturer are looking for their eighth consecutive win at a circuit where, traditionally, they have excelled. In the nine races held there since 1983, Honda have scored six victories whilst Yamaha have notched two and Suzuki just one.

At the last round in Jerez, Valentino Rossi led home a Honda top five to extend his World Championship lead to 29 points over his team-mate Tohru Ukawa. Prospects look ominous for pretenders to his crown, but they can take heart from the fact that the Italian has never won in any class at Le Mans. One year ago he was defeated by Marlboro Yamaha duo Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa, although fortunes have reversed for the pair since then and only the Spaniard can boast a podium finish so far this season.

The vociferous local crowd will be buoyed by the return to fitness of former 250 World Champion Olivier Jacque. The Frenchman missed his home race last year due to a wrist injury suffered earlier in the season, but two weeks ago in Spain he set the fastest lap of the race by a non-Honda rider and was the highest placed 2 stroke Yamaha on the grid.

The man who replaced Jacque as 250 World Champion last season, Daijiro Kato, is also on form and will be looking to lead the 2 stroke challenge after finishing second in Jerez in just his third start aboard the NSR500. The Japanese star won the quarter-litre race last year but is racing against the odds this time around with the long straights and stop-start nature of the Bugatti circuit expected to favour the extra power and top speed of the big bore 4 strokes of Rossi and Ukawa.

MotoGP, 2002, Polini Grand Prix de France

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