The Ducati Marlboro Team goes to Le Mans aiming to build on its impressive start to 2007 as MotoGP enters its busiest period, with five races over seven weekends.
The remarkable Casey Stoner currently leads the World Championship by 15 points, after winning three of the first four races, while team-mate Loris Capirossi has proved he too can run close to the front, when luck goes his way. The sterling efforts of the riders and the team have helped keep the Ducati Marlboro Team at the top of the teams' championship and Ducati at the top of the constructors' points chase, but it's a long, long season with 14 races still remaining.
Both riders have good form at Le Mans. Last year Capirossi took second place at the famous French venue while Stoner finished just three second off the podium in his first premier-class race at the track.
Livio Suppo, Ducati MotoGP project manager;
"We go to France in the same frame of mind - taking each race as it comes and aiming to do the best job we can. Le Mans won't be easy, traditionally it's been a Yamaha circuit, Valentino (Rossi) was super fast there last year until his engine broke and he was also very strong at the last race at Shanghai. The Ducati and the Bridgestone tyres are working well, Casey is riding superbly and we know Loris rode an excellent race in France last year, so we hope he will fight for the podium again, just like he did in Turkey last month. Really, the season has only just started, so we must keep our feet on the ground and keep working hard."
Casey Stoner, World Championship leader on 86 points;
"So far, this season is pretty much a dream come true. Now we've got to keep our heads down, make sure we don't get too confident, keep putting in the hard work and maybe things will pay off. In China everything worked out just perfectly again, though it was a very, very difficult race. We'll have to wait and see what happens at Le Mans. I've always been around fourth there, in fact I've finished fourth three times from the last four years. You really need a bike that's very good on the brakes, if you don't have that you can pretty much forget it. At the same time you need a bike that hooks up on the exits of the slow corners, because there's a lot of stop-start onto big straights. Le Mans is definitely for the brave with a lot of out-braking going on, plus there's a few good chicanes to sort people out. I normally go well there in practice, I just don't get it right in the race, maybe this year we can change that."
Loris Capirossi, 8th overall on 30 points;
"I haven't had the luckiest start to this season but I am really looking forward to all the races coming up because I know they will give me a chance to get some points back. Casey has proved that the GP7 is a winning machine and this year's Bridgestone tyres are very good, so I am confident I can perform well over the next few races. We just need to keep working and continue to improve my feeling with the bike, which I really enjoy riding. I don't love the Le Mans circuit, even though I had a great race there last year. It is a very stop-and-go track, not very technical, so it's not a lot of fun to ride a MotoGP bike there, I think it's better suited to 250s and 125s. But I believe the GP7 should perform well at Le Mans because acceleration and braking are the two most important things at this circuit and our bike is strong in both these areas."
Situated in the Sarthe region a few hours south west of Paris, Le Mans is one of the world's most famous motorsport venues, legendary for its 24-hour races. The Bugatti circuit - very different to the longer 24-hour car track - returned to the bike GP calendar in 1999, since when the event has built a huge following in bike-mad France. The circuit is very stop-and-go, with plenty of slow turns where braking and acceleration performance are primordial. Riders and their engineers therefore concentrate on honing their machines' braking stability, as well as improving rear-end traction for the numerous hairpin exits. The layout was changed slightly last year to improve safety at Turn One and into the first chicane.