Fausto Gresini believes his Honda MotoGP rider Alvaro Bautista is on the verge of challenging top satellite riders Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso.
The Tech 3 Yamaha team-mates have claimed fourth and fifth places at all three rounds so far this year, but Gresini hopes strong past performances can move Bautista up to their level this weekend at Le Mans.
“Le Mans holds a lot of great memories for the team thanks to some unforgettable victories over the years,” said Gresini. “Last year we remember Marco Simoncelli having a great ride before the collision with Pedrosa, which caused all sorts of controversy.
“Hopefully this year we can pick up in a positive way and see Alvaro taking another step forward.
“He has been making constant progress lately and just needs a little more to be fighting with Dovizioso and Crutchlow. He is very close to gaining the confidence he needs with the bike to be more aggressive on the brakes and faster in mid-corner.
“There will be no shortage of effort to keep this positive run going.”
Former Suzuki rider Bautista has finished sixth at the last two rounds, and is just six points behind Dovizioso for fifth place in the championship standings.
“With the data we gathered in Portugal I think we can take another step forward and find a few important tenths to close the gap to the guys in front of us,” he said.
“I don't really like this circuit, unfortunately. Le Mans has a lot of direction changes, short straights and the worst thing is the low grip levels and cool track temperatures.
“I have never finished on the podium here in the 125 or 250 classes but hopefully we can have a good race this weekend and improve on the results from Estoril.”