Ahead of COTA, the stats said Championship leader Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP40) could be facing an uphill struggle and that’s exactly how it played out on race day: the number 07 crashed out and key rival Tom Lüthi (Dynavolt Intact GP) emerged victorious. Since then, Baldassarri has returned to the top step in Jerez with another dominant showing and extended his lead, but he’d reigned in Spain last year and the back-to-back wins came as no surprise despite a tough start to the weekend. Now, as we head into the Shark Helmets Grand Prix de France, the form book says it could be another uphill for the Italian and a big chance for the Swiss rider to fight back, for Le Mans is more than a track where the Italian has struggled; it’s also a track where Lüthi has shone.
Four wins – two in the 125 World Championship and two in Moto2™ – added to two more podiums in the intermediate class make the Swiss rider an immediate favourite. It would also be perfect timing to hit back so soon and he’s on good form this season so far. Will that be enough? Or can Baldassarri show it’s nothing to do with track records and flip the form book?
Behind the two at the top of the standings, Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP) in third is one hoping this season is a clean slate at the circuit, along with Jerez and COTA podium finisher Jorge Navarro (Lightech Speed Up). Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team), meanwhile, will want to bounce back from his Jerez crash that also took out Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) – a man with podium form in France who will also be eager to get back near the front after having been denied the chance on home turf.
Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2), meanwhile, says the Jerez test was a problem solver and is another one with a previous top five finish in France, and Dominique Aegerter (MV Agusta Idealavoro Forward) has a solid record at the track – and has now scored points for new Moto2™ manufacturer MV Agusta twice. It could be another solid venue to keep that record rolling. Finally, one of the biggest questions comes courtesy of another newer chassis on the grid: what can KTM do at Le Mans? After a test that saw plenty of new hardware on show from the Austrian factory – and that after a top five for Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) in Spain – the mutterings were positive as they seemed to find some answers for the issues they’d experienced in the heat of Jerez. Le Mans, as well as coming after some testing time, could well be markedly cooler temperatures too.
Moto2™ is serving up some classics so far in 2019. France is shaping up to be another – make sure to tune in on the 19th May for the Shark Helmets Grand Prix de France.