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MotoGP moves to Le Mans for Alice Grand Prix de France

MotoGP moves to Le Mans for Alice Grand Prix de France

MotoGP returns to mainland Europe for round five of the 2007 World Championship, as the action hits the world famous Le Mans circuit at the Alice Grand Prix de France.

MotoGP returns to mainland Europe for round five of the 2007 World Championship, as the action hits the world famous Le Mans circuit at the Alice Grand Prix de France. The track once again marks a debut visit for the 800cc machines, with no preseason testing having been undertaken there by any rider.

Things are already hotting up at the top of the standings in the MotoGP class, where Casey Stoner continues to lead the way after three victories from the opening four races of the season. The Australian was the winner of the most recent round, held at the beginning of the month in China, with another assured display onboard the Ducati Desmosedici GP7, and leads five time World Champion Valentino Rossi by fifteen points. Stoner has not put a foot wrong when leading a race thus far in 2007, going especially well at tracks were he had already shown promise in his rookie season. He finished fourth last year in France, an ominous sign for his title rivals who –if they hadn't already- will be taking Stoner very seriously indeed as a championship contender.

Valentino Rossi lies second in the standings, and his season so far has been a big improvement on the start to 2006. Avoiding the tyre problems which affected him in China last year and most recently at this year's race in Turkey, ‘The Doctor' was able to keep the gap between himself and Stoner to a minimum after the visit to Shanghai. He returns to the scene of one of his worst moments of his title-relinquishing year this week, and few MotoGP fans will have forgotten the sight of a distraught Rossi being driven back to the Yamaha garage after his bike broke down at Le Mans in 2006. The Italian has been on pole for five of the last six races, and has twice taken victory on French soil.

2006 Rookie of the Year Dani Pedrosa was supposed to be the key former 250cc star to shine on the 800cc machines, and watching former quarter litre rival Stoner snatch away the limelight is sure to provide the Honda factory rider with extra motivation. The Spaniard is on a run of twelve races without a win, his longest barren spell since he won his first 125cc race in 2002, and will need to return to the podium spots after two races away if he is to keep touch with the leading two riders.

Last year's winner at Le Mans, Marco Melandri has picked up the pace in the last two races as he continues his adaptation to the Honda RC212V. The Italian is a proven race winner on his day, and the French track seems ideal for a rider who thrives on late braking and has suffered from a lack of power in recent Grands Prix. After achieving his first podium finish in Shanghai, John Hopkins' stock is at an all-time high in MotoGP. The Rizla Suzuki rider had been on the brink of breaking the ‘curse' on many occasions, and now leads Toni Elias and Colin Edwards in the classification. Loris Capirossi, Nicky Hayden and Chris Vermeulen complete the top ten; level on 30 points.

After ending his perfect 2007 record in Turkey, Jorge Lorenzo bounced back in style at Shanghai to once again take pole and victory in 250cc. The Spaniard has won three of the opening four races of the season, and leads nearest rival Andrea Dovizioso by 23 points as he threatens to run away with a second successive title.

Dovizioso has shown an aggressive attitude as of late, a lack of which critics had cited as the reason for his being unable to take more victories in previous races. The Italian was himself on the receiving end of some ‘roughing up' in China, courtesy of reigning 125cc World Champion Alvaro Bautista at the end of the race. Dovizioso's reaction is sure to be interesting, with Bautista also breathing down his neck in the classification.

Separating the two, a new-found consistency from Alex de Angelis has meant that he has less podium finishes but also less crashes to his name in 2007. The Aspar team rider has taken fourth from the last three races to put himself ahead of team-mate Bautista in the standings, and on course for a successful first half of the season.

Hector Barbera and Thomas Luthi complete the top six in the class, with the latter impressing in his rookie year.

Lukas Pesek's maiden victory - a long time in coming for the talented Czech - at Shanghai put him at the top of the tree in 125cc. The Derbi racer holds a two point advantage over Gabor Talmacsi in an extremely tight top three completed by Hector Faubel. One rider finishing ahead of the other almost guarantees their leapfrogging in the classification, with Simone Corsi also waiting for any slip up in the top five.

Rookie Pol Espargaro continues to attract plaudits in the category, and he completes the top six and continues his quest to become the youngest Spanish podium finisher of all time.

The Alice Grand Prix de France takes place on May 20th, with practice starting on the Friday.

Built in 1965 around the existing 24-Hour track, the Le Mans Bugatti Grand Prix race circuit lies 5km south of the city of Le Mans and 200km south-west of Paris. The venue has hosted Grand Prix since the late sixties but a serious accident to Spanish rider Alberto Puig in 1995 saw it struck off the calendar until 2000 whilst stringent safety improvements were carried out. Le Mans is a tight track dominated by first gear corners that place the emphasis on late braking and hard acceleration, whilst rear end traction is also a key area. With the capacity to comfortably accommodate up to 100,000 spectators, the Bugatti circuit also plays host to the 24 hour truck race, the FIA GP2 Championship, French Touring Car and GT races.

Tags:
MotoGP, 2007, ALICE GRAND PRIX DE FRANCE

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