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MotoGP hoping for sun to shine on Grand Prix Polini de France

MotoGP hoping for sun to shine on Grand Prix Polini de France

MotoGP hoping for sun to shine on Grand Prix Polini de France

The MotoGP World Championship heads north through Europe to the Le Mans circuit in France for the third round of the 2004 season this weekend with high hopes of shaking off the bad weather which plagued round two at Jerez in Spain a fortnight ago.

The Grand Prix Polini de France has become a notorious victim to adverse conditions after two consecutive seasons dogged by rain, but current weather forecasts are predicting that sunshine and light clouds will provide the backdrop to another weekend of intriguing track action in the Pays de la Loire region.

The 4.180km Bugatti circuit has been completely resurfaced as it prepares to play center stage to the battle for early superiority in motorcycle racing's premier class, where Sete Gibernau currently has the upper-hand after his dominant home victory in the wet at Jerez.

Gibernau, who won the race at Le Mans last season on his way to the runner-up spot in the championship, is the first man to dislodge Valentino Rossi from the top of the standings since the beginning of the 2001 season and holds a three-point advantage over the reigning World Champion, who now lies in third place.

Ahead of his great rival and lurking ominously in the runner-up spot, just one point off the leader, lies Max Biaggi, who has taken consecutive second place finishes in contrasting conditions at Welkom and Jerez to confirm his own title credentials.

Biaggi is the only current rider in the MotoGP field to have scored a dry premier-class victory at Le Mans since the series returned to the venue five years ago, and he arrives in France buoyed by the confidence of a milestone rostrum finish in Spain which made him one of only five riders in history to have scored 100 Grand Prix podiums.

Elsewhere, Kenny Roberts prepares for his 120th Grand Prix start looking to build on a strong record at the French circuit for Suzuki, Kevin Schwantz having scored the last of four wins for the Japanese factory here in 1991.

Roberts heads to Le Mans boosted by positive initial tests of a radically modified version of the GSV-R engine, which he used for the first time at a busy MotoGP test at Jerez last week.

Ducati were also present during two days of dry sessions at the Spanish circuit immediately after the Grand Prix and they too reported improvements with their Desmosedici GP4.

Loris Capirossi and Troy Bayliss are placed eighth and eighteenth respectively in the rider standings, compared to seventh and fourth at the same stage last season, but will hope for more dry track time in France to measure key progress on weight distribution and engine management at a circuit notorious for its ‘stop-and-go' nature.

Proton Team KR were one of only three teams not to test at Jerez, along with Aprilia and WCM, but have reported key changes to their four-stroke V5 prototype ahead of its first anniversary this weekend.

The machine turned its first corner at Le Mans one year ago after shakedown tests on an airstrip and the latest steps in the exhausting development process which has taken place since then, encompassing research derived from aerospace technology, are a revised firing order and new bodywork which are set to be used by Nobuatsu Aoki and Kurtis Roberts for the first time.


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