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MotoGP's new generation set for French battle at historic Le Mans circuit

MotoGP's new generation set for French battle at historic Le Mans circuit

After trips to Qatar, Spain, Portugal and China, the MotoGP World Championship is set for its fifth round, the Alice Grand Prix de France, which takes place on May 18th at the historic Le Mans circuit.

The top three riders in the premier class -namely current series leader Dani Pedrosa, Fiat Yamaha rookie Jorge Lorenzo and five-time MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi- are separated by just 9 points with a win apiece so far this year. The MotoGP category has seen four winners from as many races -2007 World Champion Casey Stoner having taken victory in Qatar- for only the second season start since the switch to four stroke machinery in 2002.

Repsol Honda rider Pedrosa has a respectable record at Le Mans, particularly in the lower cylinder categories. He won the French 125cc race in 2003, and also triumphed in the 2004 & 2005 250cc Grands Prix. Since arriving in MotoGP he has placed third and fourth respectively at the track, last year answering critics that had cast doubts about his ability to ride in the wet. A podium at this latest round would continue his 100% record of rostrum finishes in 2008, the Spaniard the only rider to do so.

Lorenzo trails his rival by seven points, ending his own perfect podium run in China with fourth place. The result itself doesn't tell the full story of the Fiat Yamaha rookie's weekend in Shanghai, as the reigning 250cc World Champion rode for almost the entire weekend with multiple ankle fractures courtesy of a huge Friday highside. Whilst his less than 100% fitness obviously casts doubt as to his participation in Le Mans, few would be expecting the gutsy debutant to miss out on another opportunity to take the leadership of the World Championship.

Of the four riders in with a chance of leading the series upon departure from France, only third placed Rossi has tasted victory in a premier class Le Mans race. The Italian was triumphant in the 2002 and 2005 Grands Prix, but has spent the past two seasons outside the podium spots. He ended his longest premier class win drought since his maiden victory with a vintage display in Shanghai, taking maximum points for the first time since switching to Bridgestone tyres.

Stoner lies in fourth in the overall classification, returning to the podium in Shanghai after two races outside the rostrum positions. The Ducati Marlboro rider is hungry to return to winning ways and, like Pedrosa, holds a fourth place and third place in his two previous French visits as a MotoGP rider.

Behind the top four, Rizla Suzuki veteran Loris Capirossi is tied with rookie James Toseland on 33 points, with the latter set for an important race at another unknown track. The Tech 3 Yamaha team have strong links to France, particularly through Team Principal Herve Poncharal. This year the French connection for the outfit is even stronger, with their switch in tyre manufacturers to Michelin.

The man who ended Jorge Lorenzo's perfect run of pole positions, Colin Edwards is also representing Tech 3 Yamaha on their home soil, he heads Repsol Honda's Nicky Hayden, MotoGP rookie Andrea Dovizioso and Kawasaki star John Hopkins in the top ten. Last year´s winner of the wet Le Mans race, Rizla Suzuki's Chris Vermeulen, currently lies in fourteenth place.


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