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GP Week : Issue 153
Defending champion Casey Stoner faces another physical test at Le Mans – a circuit of heavy braking – as he strives to consolidate the championship lead he gained with his second win of a row at Estoril. The same two riders have been on the rostrum at all three rounds so far this year: Qatar winner Jorge Lorenzo for Yamaha and Stoner’s Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa. But Stoner’s two wins in a row have given him the early edge, and his current moment makes him look unstoppable. “I wasn’t at 100 percent – I still had something in reserve,” Stoner said, of his successful resistance of a sustained attack by Lorenzo at Estoril. At the same time, bad chatter triggered the return of the arm-pump that left him weak by the end of the first race at Qatar. Stoner’s wins at Jerez and Estoril were each for the first time at that circuit, giving him a full house at all current tracks. He only has one previous win at Le Mans, last year. Of more significance is the question of tyre chatter and consequent arm trouble: the circuit has few places to relax and a predominance of medium-speed corners connected by short straights. The factory team was denied a chance to address the chatter when Estoril tests were rained off. The French GP, fourth of 18 rounds, also sees the resumption of a secondary battle between the Monster Tech 3 satellite Yamaha riders, which stands 2:1 in favour of Cal Crutchlow versus Andrea Dovizioso. It is also the only track where last year Rossi finished on the rostrum: unpredictable weather could favour him again this year. STONER – IS HE STOPPABLE AT LE MANS? at BRIEFLY » Honda riders Stoner and Pedrosa feel they are being pushed out on a limb by what the Spaniard calls “dictatorial” moves by tyre suppliers Bridgestone. Unlike the rest of the field, both heartily dislike the new-generation Bridgestone front, still only available two apiece, but scheduled to take over the allocation from Silverstone two races away. Of the prototype riders, only they and the Ducati pair Hayden and Rossi did not use the new-spec front tyre for the Portuguese GP. » Questions are being asked about the validity of the new generation CRT bikes, after two tracks where the slowest proved they would not even be competitive in Moto2. Qualifying times illustrate the point: at faster Qatar, Moto2 pole by Luthi was quicker than the CRT bikes of Silva and Ellison; at twistier Jerez Marquez lapped quicker than seven of nine CRT bikes, by better than three seconds in the worst case. Even Estoril’s long straight couldn’t redress the balance, with Marquez faster than four CRT bikes. » Australian battler Anthony West is hoping for a new chassis for his Moto2 Moriwaki ... and for more rain. Always among the fastest in the wet, West says his new QMMF-backed machine has bad balance. “You have to steer it from the rear, like a speedway bike,” he said. “Then when the fuel’s half used, it changes again.” 14 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: MOTOGP >>> NEWS