Gloucestershire’s Scott Redding returns to a scene of triumph when he arrives at Le Mans for the HJC Helmets Grand Prix of France on Sunday. Four years ago Redding won the his first Moto2™ race at the 2.600 miles Bugatti circuit which uses the same start and finish area as the legendary 24 Hour circuit.
Le Mans has been a good circuit for British riders, although there have also been too many crashes around this short demanding track that always produces close racing. Isle of Man-based Midlander Cal Crutchlow finished second in the MotoGP™ race the same year. Ten years ago Bradley Smith took his very first grand prix podium when he was third in the 125cc race.
Roll the clock forward to this season and Crutchlow’s crash in the previous round at Jerez spoilt what had been a great start to the season. Riding the LCR Honda, he’d finished third in Argentina and fourth in Austin before the Jerez fall which dropped him to seventh place in the championship six points behind local hero Johann Zarco who will receive massive support in the 28 lap race on Sunday.
Redding, riding the Octo Pramac GP16 Ducati, has dropped to 11th place in the championship after disappointing results in the last two races after such an impressive start to the year that saw him fourth after the opening two rounds. Oxfordshire’s Bradley Smith has made good progress on the new Red Bull KTM. In just their fourth grand prix he picked up two World Championship points in 14th place.
Lincolnshire’s Sam Lowes, who finished fourth in the Moto2 race from second on the grid two years ago, is close to his first MotoGP World Championship points. He was 16th at Jerez riding the Gresini Aprilia.
Scotsman John McPhee will be looking to bounce back after such a disappointing Moto3™ weekend at the previous round in Jerez. The British Talent Honda team rider crashed out fighting to make up places after poor qualifying. He dropped to fourth in the championship after finishing second in the opening two races.
The 2015 Moto3™ World Champion Danny Kent returns to the class as a wild-card entry for the Red Bull Ajo KTM, team and is replaced by Tarran Mackenzie in the Kiefer Racing Moto2™ team.
But who’s like to win round four of the MotoGP™ Championship? The in form Dani Pedrosa blasts into the Le Mans circuit where he’s won grand prix races in all three classes. The Repsol Honda rider totally dominated the Spanish Grand Prix a couple of weeks ago and starts this weekend just ten points behind Championship leader Valentino Rossi. Pedrosa has won four times in Le Mans and is one of the three winners in the opening four races of 2017.
Thirty-eight-year-old Rossi may not be a winner yet this year but despite major tyre problems in the Jerez heat still leads the way by a slender two points going into the 28 lap race on Sunday. The Movistar Yamaha rider has finished second at Le Mans in the last three years and breathing down his neck is team-mate Maverick Vinales who won the opening two grands prix and his first ever grand prix at Le Mans, the 125 cc race in 2011. World Champion Marc Marquez has bounced back to form with an Austin victory and second in Jerez. The Spaniard trails Rossi by just four points but has a mixed record at Le Mans with Moto2 and MotoGP wins but also numerous crashes.
Just ten points separate the top four riders in the championship but the dark horses on Sunday will be Jorge Lorenzo riding the factory Ducati and Frenchman Johann Zarco riding for the French Monster Tech3 Yamaha team. Lorenzo, who finished third at Jerez in just his fourth grand prix for Ducati, has won five MotoGP races at Le Mans in the last eight years and has led every lap for the last two years. Double Moto2™ World Champion Zarco will receive massive support from the 100,000 crowd on Sunday after a fantastic start to his MotoGP career. After crashing out on his debut while leading in Qatar he secured two fifth places and in Jerez was fourth – what better place than Le Mans to secure that first MotoGP™ podium?
He will be joined on the grid by another Frenchman with 2014 World Superbike Champion Sylvan Guintoli replacing the injured Alex Rins to join Andrea Iannone in the Ecstar Suzuki team. Watch out for Andrea Dovizioso in qualifying where he grabbed front row starts every year between 2011- 2015.
BT SPORT 2
Friday 19 May: 8.00 – 15.00
Saturday 20 May: 8.00 – 15.15
Sunday 21 May: 7.30 – 15.00
Highlights Monday May 22 19.00
talkSport2 will also have live commentary of the race on Sunday.