The Le Mans Bugatti circuit will play host to the fifth stage of the 2014 MotoGP season on Sunday, where less predictable weather conditions threaten to lead to unexpected results.
Dani Pedrosa comes to the Grand Prix of France having won last year's visit on this course, one of just six races in which reigning champion Marc Marquez finished outside the top two finishers.
Low-speed corners mean a stop-and-go-centric approach will be required as opposed to some of the more free-flowing circuits of the MotoGP calendar. Read on for a full schedule of Saturday and Sunday's proceedings, along with some finer analysis of which riders to watch out for in France.
|2014 MotoGP Grand Prix of France Schedule|
|Free Practice 3||8:55 a.m. - 9:40 a.m. BST/3:55 a.m. - 4:40 a.m. ET||May 17||BT Sport app (subscription required)|
|Free Practice 4||12:30 p.m. - 1 p.m. BST/7:30 a.m. - 8 a.m. ET||May 17||BT Sport app (subscription required)|
|Qualifying 1||1:10 p.m. - 1:25 p.m. BST/8:10 a.m. - 8:25 a.m. ET||May 17||BT Sport app (subscription required)|
|Qualifying 2||1:35 p.m. - 1:50 p.m. BST/8:35 a.m. - 8:50 a.m. ET||May 17||BT Sport app (subscription required)|
|Race||1 p.m. BST/8 a.m. ET||May 18||BT Sport app (subscription required)|
Having already claimed three premier-class wins at Le Mans in the last five years (2009, 2010 and 2012), Jorge Lorenzo will be looking at Le Mans as something of a golden opportunity to climb in the riders' standings.
The Spaniard is currently fifth overall and has claimed just one podium placement in his first four outings of the season, but will be hopeful of turning that luck around come Sunday.
Speaking to the official MotoGP website, Lorenzo previewed his chances of being able to overcome the conditions and claim a fourth Le Mans triumph in 2014:
Now we travel to Le Mans, a new track and a new opportunity. The weather will play a big part, usually it is colder and can be tricky like it was with the rain last year. The asphalt can be slippery but I am confident we can manage the circumstances and try to get a good result.
Right now I am just thinking race by race and not about the championship. I think I will have a better pace there, I have had some wins in Le Mans and I like the circuit.
Out of the current MotoGP contenders, only Valentino Rossi can match Lorenzo for wins on this track, but the 2010 and 2012 world champion becomes its most decorated titleholder of the MotoGP era with a win on Sunday.
Andrea Dovizioso is showing marked improvement in 2014 compared to last year, having already done what he could not in the previous campaign by claiming a podium finish in Austin last month.
And as MotoGP commentator Richard Samuel points out, Le Mans has been good to the Italian in years gone by:
As things stand, Dovizioso is fourth in the riders' standings and can move as high as third in the rankings depending on the performance of countryman Rossi.
Any dominance that was established by miniature marvel Marquez last season has only been further improved upon in 2014. The youngster has won all four stages of the campaign thus far, and a win in France would break his own record of four consecutive victories recorded last year.
Having just signed a new deal with Repsol Honda, the Spanish sensation will be in high spirits as he descends upon Le Mans this week, and speaking in a press conference prior to the action getting underway, said, per MotoGP.com:
I’m really happy about the situation and the new contract with Honda, it was an important step to take. I feel good with the team and they feel good with me. It’s a dream come true and I want to say thanks to them.
My level here is usually good. I got pole position here last season and the weather looks better this time. I have had an incredible start with four poles and wins, but I know some day a race will come when victory is not possible, when another rider is stronger, so then you need to be clever and finish second or third.
Despite being just 21 years of age, Marquez speaks with a demeanour and maturity of one far beyond his years, and it's that mentality that is only likely to stave off the defeat he is so evidently wary of.
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