Le Mans is all set to be a very interesting Grand Prix, and not just because the top 4 riders are so close in the standings. Valentino is still in the lead, but Vinales and Marquez are closing in and Pedrosa is only 10 points behind too.
Expectations are high, but the French track also needs to provide answers to other questions. Because after the first two GPs of the season, the Yamaha seemed to be the perfect bike, but then Jerez brought some doubts while the Honda took big steps.
“The tyres rule the roost in MotoGP” states Rossi and it's difficult not to agree. The phrase shouldn't necessarily be taken in a negative sense, as it is in fact the case. In a single tyre series, the Manufacturers are obliged to build the bike around the tyres but the Michelins behave differently from track to track and this changes the balance.
At Jerez, the Honda was perfect with the hard rear tyre, but not the Yamaha, with Vinales even citing a possible defect with his tyre. Ducati was also able to exploit the tyres, transforming, with Lorenzo, an indigestible track into a succulent first course.
It's always difficult to make predictions before the riders head out on track, especially at Le Mans where, over the last four years, two two Japanese bikes are tied at 2-2 in terms of wins, while if we look further back the balance tips in Yamaha's favour.
Rossi and Vinales will definitely start with a small advantage, having tested at the recently resurfaced track only a few days ago. Only a very small advantage though, as conditions were only dry for a few hours, but the sensations were nevertheless positive.
If the M1 proves competitive, Valentino will breathe a sigh of relief. Tyres aside, the Doctor was never really in the mix in Spain, and the situation didn't improve during Monday's test either. The steps taken (with 3 podiums) in the first races, melted away like snow under the Andalusian sun.
Not even the new frame or tyre with stiffer carcass tested during the race could put the smile back on Rossi's face. Le Mans just might, putting him back on the right path, with the recent (brief) test helping to speed up their work.
Also because his rivals are not exactly sitting back watching, Vinales - race aside - was consistently up front at Jerez and we don't need to say any more about Marquez and Pedrosa. The Ducati is raising its head once more, having got the better of an unfavourable track just ten days ago.
All of this is weather permitting of course, because the forecast promises rain (at least until Saturday) and autumnal temperatures. One more adversary for Vale & C.