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Olivier Jacque explains the key to his home circuit

Olivier Jacque explains the key to his home circuit

Olivier Jacque explains the key to his home circuit

Home hero Olivier Jacque arrives at Le Mans hopeful of continuing an upward trend in his early season form that follows a typically injury-hit winter testing programme. The former 250 World Champion spent much of the off-season either injured or recuperating from surgery, so it´s taken him time to get up to speed since the season started. His results – top-ten finishes in the last two of the first three races – and his qualifying performances - 21st in Japan, 12th in South Africa and ninth in Spain two weeks ago – suggest that he should feature well at Le Mans.

`I had a very bad start to the season because I missed a lot of winter testing,´ explains Jacque. `I was suffering from tendonitis in the wrist I broke in 2001, so doctors told me I should have an operation to remove the screws and plates. It took a lot of time to recover from that, then I crashed at Jerez at the end of January and pulled some ligaments in the wrist. I never have any luck with winter testing – it´s my demon!´

However, Jacque claims he is now back to full fitness and ready to prove his potential on the four-stroke M1: `Now I´m 100 per cent physically, and I´m 80 per cent there with the four-stroke. We made a big step forward at Welkom last month, completely changing the direction we´d taken on set-up. It´s a new compromise between handling and traction – every rider needs his own set-up. Now my settings are very different from those used by Alex (Barros). Maybe I use the bike more smoothly than Alex, and I´m now getting better feel to help me do that.´

`I´m still learning to get the best out of the engine and its electronics systems. We´ve spent a lot of time trying to find the right engine-braking set-up, and while we were doing that I was thinking about settings, rather than my riding. Now we´ve found a good base set-up, with good suspension feedback, so I can focus on my riding.´

Like many riders, Jacque isn´t a huge fan of his home GP venue. `Le Mans is a great place for spectators but the track isn´t much fun for riders,´ he says. `It´s nice to be there with all the French fans, to feel their enthusiasm, but that´s about it. The surface is quite old and slippery, and all you really need from your bike is lots of horsepower – its all about acceleration.

`At Le Mans you need good braking stability from the front tyre, because there´s a lot of braking from high speed into slow turns. Also, there´s plenty of low-gear acceleration, so you need feel and traction from the rear tyre. I would say that we´re having less highside crashes with the four-strokes, because the power is softer, but there´s so much power that you can have wheelspin much further out of the corners than you did with the two-strokes.

`Turn one is a real challenge – we´ll be going in there at maybe 290kmh or more, braking all the way through the long right-hander on the side of the tyre. You don´t want to crash there.´

MotoGP, 2003

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