Having discovered that the 2018 Yamaha suffers some of the same grip problems as last season at Jerez, Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales will be hoping the current bike can also be just as strong as last season at Le Mans.

The pair were set to claim a perfect one-two in the 2017 French round, with Johann Zarco due to complete an all-M1 podium, until Rossi fell while pushing to re-pass Vinales with just a few corners to go.

Last year's triumph marked Vinales' third win in five races with Yamaha and put him 17 points clear at the top of the world championship. But the Spaniard hasn't won since, with only a single podium to his credit from the opening 2018 rounds and a demoralising weekend in Jerez.

The good news for Vinales is that his consistency has kept him within touch of the title lead, sitting third overall and 20 points from Marc Marquez, while recent tests at Jerez and Mugello have put him back in a positive frame of mind.

"The race in Jerez was very difficult for us again this year. Fortunately, the tests last week were good. We are very close to finding the perfect set-up for me, so I'm heading to Le Mans with a positive mindset," he said.

"I have really good memories from my victory on the Yamaha last year, so hopefully we'll be able to repeat the success we had there. Le Mans is a good track for us, it suits my riding style, and I think we can do a really good job.

"We'll do our best to be at the top of the classification."



Rossi is more cautious about his prospects for this weekend, saying only that he expects to be more competitive than at Jerez, where he crossed the line in fifth (two places ahead of Vinales, but three behind Zarco) after Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso were eliminated.

"I'm happy we're going to France next, because on paper we should be fast in Le Mans - usually the Yamaha works well there," said Rossi, currently 30 points from Marquez. "I think that at the moment the situation is difficult to predict, because our rivals are strong, so we'll see what our potential will be like.

"I expect to be a bit more competitive compared to the previous GP weekend, but I don't know where we stand compared to the other bikes yet, so that will be interesting to find out. For sure my guys and I will do our best, as always, to make it a good race weekend."

Team principal Massimo Meregalli added: "The Le Mans circuit suits our bike and both our riders - Maverick secured Yamaha's 500th Grand Prix victory just last year and Valentino has stood on the French podium many times - making it a good track for us to gain positive momentum after Jerez.

"So far, the weather forecast looks perfect, so we are looking forward to a competitive race weekend and having both our riders fighting at the front again, like they did last year."


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