A frenetic run of six European MotoGP events in two months gets underway at the Le Mans Bugatti Circuit this weekend, and Bridgestone is hoping that its victory there last year can pave the way to another in 2008 - whatever the weather.

The Japanese tyre manufacturer took its first ever wet weather win in torrential wet conditions at last year's French GP, courtesy of an impressive Chris Vermeulen and Suzuki, while Marco Melandri and Casey Stoner completed an all-Bridgestone podium to prove that the result was no fluke. With Valentino Rossi having taken his first win on Bridgestone rubber in China last time out, the brand is aiming to maintain a successful run on rival Michelin's home turf.

"Last year's result at Le Mans was a breakthrough performance for Bridgestone because it was the first time one of our riders had taken victory in the wet," Motorcycle Sport Unit manager Hiroshi Yamada commented, "It was also our second podium clean sweep of the season after Turkey and one of our stand-out performances of the year.

"The competition has been very close in the first four races of 2008 so far, so I think we can expect another close battle at Le Mans. It is the home race for our rivals, who will undoubtedly be strong again this weekend. Because last year's race was wet, we have no dry weather race data from 2007, but we did show some encouraging performances in the dry practice sessions, so I hope we can have another successful event after the performance in China."

Three Bridgestone riders claimed top six grid positions at the 2007 race, with Stoner a mere 0.094secs from pole. The race was hit by rain and riders were forced to pit for wet set-up bikes after some difficult laps on slicks. As the rain worsened, Vermeulen took charge and dominated en route to his maiden MotoGP win,
and the Australian feels confident as he heads back to Le Mans.

"This will be my third year of racing at Le Mans and, although the circuit has changed quite a bit for other riders over the years, this layout is the only one I have ever known," Vermeulen said, "It is a nice circuit with some up and downhill, as well as blind sections. The average speed of the lap is also quite low, but I enjoy it nevertheless.

"The circuit obviously holds good memories for me from our victory there last year. I am sure my subconscious will remind me that we have won there but, as soon as I am back on the bike, I think my focus will quickly turn to the weekend ahead, rather than on last year's result.

"The last two trips I have made to Le Mans, in 2006 and 2007, were quite wet weekends, so I think more dry running would still be advantageous, although we were quite competitive in the dry last year. We have made good steps forward with the Suzuki in the first four races of this season, and there has also been some encouraging development from Bridgestone, so I am hopeful we can be on the pace this weekend.

"We are usually able to run softer compound tyres at Le Mans, but as usual our demands from the Bridgestone tyres will be all about rear edge grip, while we will
also be asking for good front end stability under braking and good traction out of the corners."

After his victory in China, Rossi is also setting his sights on the top step of the podium at Le Mans.

"We're going to Le Mans on a real high after the fantastic result in China, and I am confident that we can have a good weekend," the Italian said, "Yamaha usually goes very well at Le Mans and, although it's obviously the first time we've been there with Bridgestone, I am confident that we will be strong. We are nine points from the top of
the championship, but our rivals are very motivated, so there is no let-up - we must go for the maximum points again."

 

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