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Local hopes lie with De Puniet as Elias rides high on confidence

Local hopes lie with De Puniet as Elias rides high on confidence

Local hopes lie with De Puniet as Elias rides high on confidence

Randy de Puniet carries the hopes of a nation on his shoulders this weekend as he aims for his first ever Grand Prix victory on home soil. The talented but temperamental Frenchman has been in outstanding form in recent weeks, raising hopes in his country of a repeat of Olivier Jacque´s quarter-litre title triumph in 2000. The 22 year old has taken pole position and podium finishes at the last two races in succession and, having finished third at this circuit last season, he is primed for an assault on the top step of the rostrum.

Toni Elias arrives at Le Mans in euphoric mood after an emotional first victory of the season two weeks ago. The Spanish rider delighted his home fans with a stirring late charge at Jerez and his confidence will be further boosted by happy memories of Le Mans. Elias took his first ever podium position here with third place in the 125cc race two years ago.

That race was won by Manuel Poggiali, who still leads the 250cc classification by a healthy 23 points despite missing out on the podium in Spain. Poggiali welcomed the tranquillity of fourth place and consolidation of his leadership after surprise victories in the first two rounds but will be back on the charge this weekend after two days of testing alongside Elias and Fonsi Nieto at Catalunya.

Honda seem to be reacting to the threat of Aprilia dominance and Roby Rolfo demonstrated a marked improvement in his RSW as he rode to second at Jerez. The Italian´s consistency over the opening three rounds has elevated him to second place behind Poggiali in the championship and he will be looking for another points boost as he awaits further machine improvements. Factory colleague Sebastian Porto should improve after struggling in Jerez with neck and wrist injuries and a poor set-up.

250cc, 2003, Grand Prix Polini de France, Toni Elias

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