Team San Carlo Honda Gresini is looking forward to receiving a much-needed shot in the arm for its MotoGP ambitions from HRC as this weekend's French Grand Prix kicks off a hectic run of races leading into the height of summer.

After the long-haul trip to Shanghai, the MotoGP series returns to Europe for the busiest period of the 2008 season, with quick-fire races in Italy, Catalunya, Britain and Holland all following hot on the heels of the trip to Le Mans, and marking a crucial seven-week period, not only for the destiny of the championship, but also for those scrapping a little further down the field.

For the Gresini team, the busy schedule is an opportunity to make up points and positions after a disappointing start to the campaign, with both Alex De Angelis and Shinya Nakano hoping to make up for another frustrating event last time out. Both showed excellent pace throughout the early part of the weekend, only for things to deviate from plan on race day

"Le Mans is quite favourable for our bike; the straights are not long so we should be able to hold our own," team owner Fausto Gresini confirmed, "Shinya showed great progress in Shanghai, setting lap times that were up there with the best and putting together a good rhythm on race tyres in practice. That improvement is important for everybody, even though the result in the race was below our expectations.

"For Alex, the situation is a little more difficult at the moment - after so many crashes, he's focusing on not making mistakes and trying to understand the bike better. He is learning quickly, and is a fast rider - as he has shown many times - so I'm sure that, before long, we'll see him chasing down the lead guys."

The team will also be aided by the promise of new parts from HRC. Both Honda RC212Vs will be fitted with new clutches this weekend, underlining the company's support for its satellite teams, while Bridgestone will also have more suitable rubber for the two riders.

Nakano's target for the weekend is a season-best finish, and the Japanese veteran is already looking to mix it with those fighting for decent points in France.

"It was really important that we managed to get a good pace together during practice at Shanghai and, for that reason, I feel optimistic about Le Mans," he said, "We want to repeat our good performance from China, but this time in the race too, not just in practice. If we manage that, then we can set our sights on the top seven. If you're in there, then anything can happen in a race and you can be in the right place for a great result. We're going to a circuit that I like and that is also more suited to our bike compared to Shanghai, so we can do well."

de Angelis, meanwhile, is aiming to finally turn good practice pace into a positive race result, and Le Mans could provide the perfect opportunity for the San Marino rider, who scored the first of six consecutive podiums in the 250cc class at the track last year.

"I'm feeling really confident about Le Mans - the technical updates with the new clutch have given me a lot of hope and it would be great if it helps to solve the chattering problems that we've been having sometimes under braking," de Angelis commented, "Also, Bridgestone are going to bring some tyres to France that are similar to the ones I tested in the winter, when I found it much easier to go fast.

"Looking back to Shanghai, I think we could have been much closer to the front than we showed in the race. I lost so much time at the start because [John] Hopkins forced me off track, and we also made the wrong tyre choice. We went for something that was too hard for the cooler track conditions. Le Mans isn't exactly my favourite circuit, but it could suit our bike, and these factors make me really optimistic."

 

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