Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) races at legendary Le Mans this weekend after taking the 2018 MotoGP World Championship lead for the first time at his home Grand Prix two weeks ago.

The 25-year-old racing phenomenon is contesting his sixth season in the premier class and chasing his fifth world title in the category, following earlier championship successes in the Moto2 and 125cc classes. Marquez’s runaway victory in Spain was his second consecutive win after a similarly dominant performance in the USA. Jerez was also his 37th premier-class success, which puts him equal with the late, great Mike Hailwood, one of the greatest motorcycle racers of all time.

The 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017 MotoGP king is in particularly brilliant form, thanks largely to sterling work by Honda Racing Corporation engineers who revised the RC213V engine for 2018 to give the Spaniard the user-friendly power he needs to lap fast and consistently. Last week Marquez, HRC and the Repsol Honda Team made further improvements during tests at Jerez and Mugello, venue for next month’s Italian Grand Prix.

However, Marquez knows as well as anyone that MotoGP is more thrillingly unpredictable than ever, so two victories at the last two races will count for little this weekend. At Le Mans he will need to work as hard as always during practice to find the best bike set-up and tyre choice for Sunday’s race. And he knows he hasn’t had the best of times at Le Mans in recent years. The French track is short and tight, which makes incidents common. Last year Marquez crashed out; the year before he fell and bravely remounted to finish 13th. In 2015 he was fourth and in 2013 he finished third. His only French MotoGP victory came in 2014, when he won the first ten races of the season. He also won the Le Mans Moto2 race in 2011.

Team-mate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) has enjoyed greater success at Le Mans, which is most famous for its 24-hour car race (staged over a longer circuit) that started in 1923. The 32-year-old Spaniard won his first success at the track in 2003, riding a Honda RS125 to victory in the 125cc French Grand Prix. The following two years he won the 250cc race aboard a Honda RS250. And in 2013 he won the MotoGP race, riding a Honda RC213V.

Pedrosa has had a mostly luckless start to his 13th season in the premier class. He was the innocent victim of an accident at last month’s Argentine Grand Prix and again at Jerez two weeks ago. Both falls were caused by other riders; the first left him with a broken right wrist, the second with an injured right hip. He should be close to full fitness for Le Mans, but there’s no doubt that he will race in some pain and discomfort.

Pedrosa tested alongside Marquez at Mugello, as did Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL RC213V), who has had a strong start to his fourth MotoGP season with Honda, including victory in Argentina and pole position at Jerez. However, the 32-year-old Britain has come away from the last two races without scoring any points, after twice falling.

Crutchlow hasn’t stood on the Le Mans podium since 2013, when he finished second behind Pedrosa. But he does go well at the track and last year qualified just 0.071 seconds off the front row of the grid. With the speed he has shown so far this year, he has every chance of fighting for the top three once again.

MotoGP rookie Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS RC213V) comes to France boosted by his first top-ten result in the premier-class. The 23-year-old reigning Moto2 World Champion finished in ninth position at Jerez, comfortably beating his previous best of 12th place at the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix.

Three points-scoring rides from his first four MotoGP races make Morbidelli the highest-placed rookie in the championship, ahead of several much more experienced riders.

Also enjoying a very promising start to his MotoGP career is Morbidelli’s former Moto2 rival Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU RC213V), who stands four points further back in the points chase with a 13th, a 14th and a 12th from the last three races. The 26-year-old former Moto2 race winner from Chiba is showing excellent progression, learning his way in the toughest motorcycle-racing category of all.

Marc Marquez

Marc Marquez 93

“Le Mans is a track where we’ll have to work hard and do our best to try and keep the good momentum. In the past, we’ve been able to win or get on the podium there on some occasions, and other times we’ve struggled to get on pace, but as I always say, every season is different. Of course there will be question marks about the weather, the tyres, and the set-up, but our mentality and approach will be the same as always: positive. This year we’re already at a good level as we head to France, so we’ll see how the weekend goes. We’ll try to start well beginning on Friday and then fight for the podium on Sunday.”

Repsol Honda Team
Cal Crutchlow

Cal Crutchlow 35

“The Honda engine is really strong this year, so we definitely have the tools to do the job. We also know that we have the speed to be there every weekend; we just need a little more luck at the next few races to get back in the championship battle. Last year we did okay at Le Mans but this year we want to be much closer to the front and fighting for the top three. I’ve been on the podium before, so I know I can do it again.”

LCR Honda Castrol
Dani Pedrosa

Dani Pedrosa 26

“I’m happy with the work we did with the team during the days of testing after the last round; it gives me confidence and makes me look forward to the next race. The French GP always presents many challenges, starting with the weather, which can be quite unpredictable. The temperature may be low, which can cause challenges with the tyres. We’ll try to keep our focus and have a good race.”

Repsol Honda Team
Franco Morbidelli

Franco Morbidelli 21

“We go to Le Mans after a positive race and an equally positive test in Jerez. The Le Mans circuit is very different to Jerez in character; very stop and go, so we know we will have some work to do with the bike during free practice. The stop part is not an issue, as we know we are strong in this area, but the go part, driving the bike out of the turns, is an area on which we know we will need to work to find improvements during the weekend. I'm looking forward to the weekend ahead and to building on what we achieved in Jerez."

EG 0,0 Marc VDS
Takaaki Nakagami

Takaaki Nakagami 30

“This weekend we will work to try to improve our performance at the beginning of the race because this is where struggled at Jerez. I believe we can get a top-ten finish at Le Mans, because race by race we are improving the set-up of the bike, thanks to help from the team and from HRC. We have a good relationship and we understand each other. Le Mans could be a quite tough weekend because it’s a tighter track than Jerez and because the weather can be difficult. But we just need to keep trying our best and improving.”

LCR Honda Idemitsu
Thomas Luthi

Thomas Luthi 12

“It was disappointing to crash out of the race in Jerez, but the one-day test on the Monday was an important one for us. We made another step with the bike, identifying in which direction we needed to go with the set up. I was able to improve my pace from the previous day, especially on used tyres, and that gives me a positive feeling going into Le Mans. The first practice sessions at Le Mans are going to be busy, because it’s a new track for me with the MotoGP bike. I need to learn the lines and find the braking points, but I hope we can carry the momentum we gained at the Jerez test into this weekend at Le Mans.”

EG 0,0 Marc VDS
HJC Helmets Grand Prix de France

Le Mans, France

MotoGP 2018, Round 5

Rider Standings
Sunday, 6 May 2018 - Open world standings grid
# Rider Num Nationality Nat. Points Pts. Team Constructor Constr.
1 Marc MARQUEZ 93 SPA 70 Repsol Honda Team Honda
2 Johann ZARCO 5 FRA 58 Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha
3 Maverick VIñALES 25 SPA 50 Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Yamaha
4 Andrea IANNONE 29 ITA 47 Team SUZUKI ECSTAR Suzuki
5 Andrea DOVIZIOSO 4 ITA 46 Ducati Team Ducati
6 Valentino ROSSI 46 ITA 40 Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Yamaha
7 Cal CRUTCHLOW 35 GBR 38 LCR Honda Castrol Honda
8 Jack MILLER 43 AUS 36 Alma Pramac Racing Ducati
9 Danilo PETRUCCI 9 ITA 34 Alma Pramac Racing Ducati
10 Tito RABAT 53 SPA 24 Reale Avintia Racing Ducati
11 Dani PEDROSA 26 SPA 18 Repsol Honda Team Honda
12 Alex RINS 42 SPA 16 Team SUZUKI ECSTAR Suzuki
13 Franco MORBIDELLI 21 ITA 13 EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda
14 Pol ESPARGARO 44 SPA 13 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM
15 Alvaro BAUTISTA 19 SPA 12 Ángel Nieto Team Ducati
16 Hafizh SYAHRIN 55 THA 9 Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha
17 Takaaki NAKAGAMI 30 JPN 9 LCR Honda Idemitsu Honda
18 Aleix ESPARGARO 41 SPA 6 Aprilia Racing Team Gresini Aprilia
19 Mika KALLIO 36 FIN 6 KTM Test Team KTM
20 Jorge LORENZO 99 SPA 6 Ducati Team Ducati
21 Scott REDDING 45 GBR 5 Aprilia Racing Team Gresini Aprilia
22 Bradley SMITH 38 GBR 3 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM
23 Karel ABRAHAM 17 CZE 1 Ángel Nieto Team Ducati