As the MotoGP circus descends upon the charming French town of Le Mans this weekend, there is one question at the front of everybody’s minds: can he do it? Can Marc Marquez continue his incredible string of poles and victories by winning at Le Mans?
On the evidence of the 2014 season so far, you would have to say he can. But Le Mans is a different circuit, and one where a gaggle of Yamaha riders have gone well in the past. This could possibly be the first race since Qatar where Marquez is made to work for it.
Marquez has a lot going for him in France. Leaving aside his form – a perfect record of poles and wins this year, as well as being fastest in over half the sessions of free practice so far – the track looks to play to the Honda’s strengths, on paper at least.
The stop-and-go nature of the Le Mans track sees the bikes spend a lot of time under hard acceleration, with slower corners needing hard braking. The Honda’s ‘V’ approach to the corners – brake late, turn hard, stand the bike up quickly and get on the gas – seems to be a much better fit to the Le Mans circuit than Yamaha’s ‘U’ style – brake early, enter faster, carry more corner speed and smoothly wind on the throttle.
And yet Yamaha riders have won four of the last six races at the circuit. Jorge Lorenzo has won the French Grand Prix at Le Mans three times, and each time with a very comfortable margin over his competitors. Valentino Rossi has won here twice on a Yamaha, in 2005 and 2008, and finished second behind Lorenzo in 2010.
It’s even a track where Colin Edwards has shone in the past on a Yamaha – and where perhaps he can do well once again, despite hating the current Yamaha chassis he is riding at Forward Yamaha. This is the first in a series of circuits where Yamaha riders have dominated in the past.
If Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi want to start fighting back against the might of Marquez, Le Mans is as good a place to start as any.
We knew at some point that the eight-part “TT Legends” documentary would have to come to an end, and today is that day. For the last seven Wednesday’s, we have been enjoying the racing antics of the Honda TT Legends team, as they compete in road racing and endurance events.
Our final installment comes from the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which also happens to be the final stop on the FIM Endurance World Championship calendar. The Honda TT Legends crew is mathematically in the hunt for the Championship victory, but they need a solid result at Le Mans to solidify a Top 3 position.
Ant West has been issued a retroactive ban by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and has had almost all the results for the last 18 months declared invalid.
All of West’s results between the Le Mans 2012 race and 20th October 2013 have been declared null and void, and will be scrapped from the official Moto2 results.
The retroactive ban goes back to a failed doping test at Le Mans in 2012. West had bought a supplement energy drink without checking the ingredients, and subsequently failed a drug test.
The energy drink (Mesomorph) turned out to contain the banned substance methylhexaneamine, traces of which were found in West’s urine.
In the world of motorcycle racing the Isle of Man TT is indeed infamous, and as a photographer I have been lucky enough to shoot on the Isle in the Irish Sea. When my letter of credential for the Le Mans 24 Hour Moto arrived, I was beyond ecstatic — my charge would be to cover those same TT riders as they participated in the FIM World Endurance Championship finale at Le Mans.
An overnight flight from my home in Atlanta, and a train ride from Paris to Le Mans, and I was on-site 48 hours later. There are times when arriving at a circuit that I have never shot can be daunting, but one walk thru the door to the Honda TT Legends pits and I felt at home. As much due to the familiar faces, as to the more relaxed atmosphere of the team here at Le Mans versus the intensity at the Isle of Man.
After 24 hours of racing around a tiny historic track in France, the 24 Hours of Le Mans motorcycle endurance race, and final round of the 2013 FIM Endurance World Championship has finally come to an end. A race of attrition, SRC Kawasaki claimed the top podium step, followed by Suzuki France’s Team R2CL (which was blessed with the addition of Guy Martin for the event), with Yamaha France – GMT 94 – Michelin Yamalube rounding out the final position.
The conclusion of the 24 Hours of Le Mans also means that the 2013 FIM Endurance World Championship rankings have been settled, with the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT) clinching the Championship, yet again, despite the team’s disappointing 26th place finish overall in Le Mans. Second in the Championship is the Yamaha France – GMT 94 – Michelin Yamalube squad, with SRC Kawasaki closing out the top three spot, for the four-round championship.
If the scuttlebutt out of the FIM Endurance World Championship paddock is to be believed, AMA Pro Superbike racer Josh Hayes could be headed to Le Mans, France next week, as the American is tipped to be replacing Josh Waters in the YART squad for the final round in the Endurance Championship series.
The stout YART (Yamaha Austria Racing Team) is currently 13 points behind the venerable SERT (Suzuki Endurance Racing Team) for the Endurance World Championship title, with the 24 Hour Le Mans race being the deciding event for the top spot in the EWC.
Guy Martin, the affable TT racer from Lincolnshire, will be expanding his motorcycle racing horizons this year by competing in the upcoming 24 Hours of Le Mans. The final stop on the FIM Endurance World Championship, Le Mans is a bucket list event for any fan of motorsport, and clearly ranked high on Martin’s list of racing accomplishments as well.
Entering into the iconic motorcycle endurance race with France’s R2CL Suzuki team, Martin got his EWC ride with help from Tyco Suzuki Team Manager Philip Neill. The sometimes-understandable TT personality will join other top TT riders on the Le Mans EWC grid, such as John McGuinness, Michael Rutter, and Simon Andrews of the Honda TT Legends crew.
Jorge Lorenzo’s disappointing performance at the French Grand Prix at Le Mans has been the cause of some debate. The factory Yamaha man finished a lowly seventh, his worst finish (other than DNFs) since his rookie season in 2008, and finishing off the podium for the first time since Indianapolis in 2011. To say this was an uncharacteristic performance from Lorenzo is something of an understatement.
So what went wrong? Immediately after the race, Lorenzo made it clear that he believed the problem was with his rear tire. He had had no grip whatsoever, and been unable to get any drive from his rear tire.
He told the press afterwards that the only logical explanation he could think of for his problems was a defective rear tire. Lorenzo had been fast in the morning warm up, though it was a little drier then, and the set up used was very similar to then. In 2012, Lorenzo had won at Le Mans by a huge margin, so he could not understand why he was struggling so badly in France.
Bridgestone naturally denied there had been a problem with Lorenzo’s tire. After the race Bridgestone officials told the press that they had examined the tire together with Yamaha engineers and found nothing wrong with it.
In their customary post-race press release, Bridgestone’s Motorsport Tyre Development Manager Shinji Aoki reiterated this stance. “As is always the case in these situations, his engineer thoroughly examined Jorge’s race tyres which were found to be in good working condition,” he is quoted in the press release as saying.
“In addition, I examined the tyre myself and personally discussed the matter with the Yamaha engineers and we all agreed that Jorge’s lack of rear grip was not attributable to his tyre.”
What do we know ourselves? Though nobody is saying anything other than official statements, there are still some clues we can piece together from the data available. The key fact is visible from the race footage, available to those with a MotoGP.com video pass on the official MotoGP website.