Champ shuts down ‘bulls**t’ rumours, Aussie rips new rules, Marquez’s belief: MotoGP France Insider’s Guide

Champ shuts down ‘bulls**t’ rumours, Aussie rips new rules, Marquez’s belief: MotoGP France Insider’s Guide

Ducati, Ducati, Ducati, Ducati; it’s the bike ridden by the winner of the past four French Motorcycle Grands Prix, which – in modern-day MotoGP – isn’t unusual in the slightest given the Italian manufacturer has won 20 of the 24 GPs since the start of last season.

Does that pattern make this weekend’s fifth round of the season predictable? Not in the slightest.

While the sport’s dominant brand has held sway in France’s northwest since the new decade dawned, Le Mans has a history of throwing up random results. Allied with its capricious weather, abrasive track surface and a highly-unusual layout of high-speed straights leading into torturous hairpins, this event has been one that regularly punts the pre-race form guide in the bin.

Every MotoGP qualifying, practice and race LIVE and ad-break free from lights out to the chequered flag. New to Kayo? Start Your Free Trial Today >

Take last year, for example. Italian Marco Bezzecchi won at Le Mans for just his second premier-class success in a race that made little sense; from seventh on the grid, Bezzecchi bested the rest after five of the six riders who qualified ahead of him crashed. For context, that win is just one of four in the past two years earned from outside the top six on the grid.

Italian Marco Bezzecchi was a surprise winner at Le Mans 12 months ago. (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

In 2022, in a field featuring MotoGP heavy-hitters like 2021 champion and home hero Fabio Quartararo, three-time winner Marc Marquez and that year’s eventual champion Francesco Bagnaia, it was Enea Bastianini who surprisingly saluted, flying through from fifth on a second-string Gresini Ducati.

More weirdness? Jack Miller won his third MotoGP race – and second in succession – by leaving the rest in his wake in 2021, the Aussie celebrating with no fans in the stands as the pandemic kept spectators locked out. The year before, Italian journeyman Danilo Petrucci won the second – and final – Grand Prix of his career at Le Mans in a season where he finished just 12th in the riders’ championship.

The French Grand Prix is one that continually defies expectations, where weather will almost certainly impact the weekend (half of the 22 MotoGP races at Le Mans have either started in or been affected by rain), and one where what would be considered as outlier victories elsewhere have become sans surprise.

Here’s your Insider’s Guide of what to watch from round five of the MotoGP season.


World champion Francesco Bagnaia has dismissed reports that he doesn’t want Marc Marquez as his teammate next year as “bulls**t” as Ducati’s date for announcing its second rider for its world champion factory team looms larger.

With Ducati believed to have imposed a deadline of at or before the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello in early June to reveal its rider line-up for 2025, the decision – whether to retain incumbent Enea Bastianini, promote this year’s world championship leader Jorge Martin from the Pramac satellite team, or elevate six-time MotoGP champion Marquez from the customer Gresini Racing outfit just one year after joining from Honda – has dominated paddock discussions and social media since Bagnaia and Marquez staged an epic duel for victory in Spain a fortnight ago, one settled in Bagnaia’s favour.

In Thursday’s pre-event press conference at Le Mans – with Martin and Marquez sitting alongside him – Bagnaia was asked which rider he’d prefer as his teammate, turning to the pair with palms upturned before a forthright response.

“In these [past few] days, I saw a video saying I don’t want Marc on the factory team, but it’s bulls**t,” Bagnaia said.

“I don’t care [who my teammate is]. I just want to beat them all, try to be always the best and keep going like this. I don’t have a preference, honestly.

“I am working well with Enea, I know perfectly the type of work we are approaching, and if the team changes the teammate we have to start again. But in any case, my ambition is always to be stronger than them.”


‘LEGS ARE SHAKING’ Inside Ducati’s rider market riddle as nuclear option emerges

HONDA’S HORROR SHOW The story behind a giant’s decline, and the way out of the abyss

Marquez, who finished second to Bagnaia at Jerez on just his fourth Grand Prix start with Ducati, aligned his response to a follow-up question to his future championship chances.

“Step by step, I feel better on the racetrack, I feel stronger and much more confident, and this was my target of this year,” he said.

“Obviously 2025, 2026, if I continue in that way it would be a different target, and the target would be to fight for the championship. If you want to fight for the championship, you need to have the newest material in your bike to have more chances.

“But going faster on the racetrack, I would have more options for my future.”

Bagnaia says he “doesn’t care” if it’s Marquez – or any other rider – as his teammate in Ducati red for 2025. (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO/AFP)Source: AFP


With a spring in his step and with his body finally allowing him to realise his ambition of targeting race wins again, Marquez has injected a jolt of electricity into the fight at the front his season after his final years at Honda fizzled out.

While the factory he left continues to flounder – Marquez’s 2023 teammate Joan Mir is the highest-placed Honda rider in the standings after four rounds in 16th place – the 31-year-old has already taken two sprint race podiums in Portugal and the Americas, qualified on pole in Spain, and finished three-tenths of a second from a first win since the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix of 2021 at Jerez.

Speaking with Jessica Yates from Fox Sports News at Le Mans, Marquez grinned when recalling his scrap with Bagnaia for victory, a result the reigning world champion only sealed by breaking the circuit’s all-time lap record with three laps remaining.

“It was a very nice battle between me and Pecco,” Marquez said.

“It’s true that my second part of the race was super strong and I feel super good. Now, [I need to] work in the weak points. We need to work on that first part of the race, try to understand how I can be better there. It was a pleasure and super nice to fight with the reference of Ducati that is Pecco Bagnaia, the world champion.

“If I fight with Pecco, it means we are on the top group. He always is super fast in all race tracks. He is a nice mate inside the factory because you can compare many things with him, but he is also a tough opponent on the race tracks, so let’s see if we can be closer to him.”

After a physically and mentally draining four seasons that changed the course of his career – Marquez won six MotoGP crowns in just seven years before his Spain 2020 injury – the Spaniard says his mindset has shifted.

“Immediately my target this year is try to enjoy, try to come back on that sports lifestyle,” he said.

“I was more time at home and in the hospitals the last four years than racing on track, and this year I was looking for a different thing. Not thinking about results – of course, results are important – but I feel happy, and I know there will be some tough moments in the season, like every sportsman and every athlete. But we will try to continue in the same way.”

Marquez has his belief back – and his focus renewed – after just four races of ever-improving results for Gresini Ducati. (Photo by Lou BENOIST/AFP)Source: AFP


Jack Miller’s MotoGP future beyond 2024 is far from secure – the Australian, mired in his worst four-race start to a season since his rookie campaign in 2015, is out of contract at the end of the year. But the KTM rider didn’t hold back when discussing one aspect of the overhaul to the sport’s technical regulations set for three years’ time, which were announced earlier this week.

Behind the more headline-grabbing 2027 changes – a shift from 1000cc to 850cc engines, a reduction in aerodynamics, the banning of all ride-height devices and alterations to bike weights and fuel capacities to name but a few – the new rules specified that GPS data from all riders would be available to all teams at the end of each on-track session.

While the data sharing – which includes speed and position of the bikes – will curtail costs, Miller believes it goes against the spirit of competition.

“What the f**k is that for?, Miller asked in his Le Mans pre-event media session on Thursday.

“It’s motorcycle racing, the whole idea is to get the edge over your competition, not tell them exactly where you’re going faster,” he added.

“It’s the whole guesswork of it, that’s what makes the sport beautiful. I don’t understand how that one [rule change] made it past the manufacturers.”

MotoGP teams currently use video overlays to compare the position and speed of rival bikes to their own in certain corners of circuits to see where they’re on top of or deficient to their opposition.


‘WE ARE COMING FROM THE S**T’ Marquez on bounce-backs, podiums and MotoGP title chances

WORST YEAR SINCE FIRST YEAR Inside Aussie’s ‘rock-bottom’ MotoGP season start

Ducati general manager Gigi Dall’Igna, in an interview with, conceded the front-running factories had more to lose with the rule change.

“It’s like having access to part of the telemetry, as data sharing benefits those chasing rather than those in front,” Dall’Igna said.

“It is something that is already done in F1 and I think it makes sense to bring it to MotoGP as well, since it will help to have balance and make a spectacle.

“To date we have videometrics, which is a less robust analysis but just as expensive and cumbersome.”

A new rule to share GPS data between the teams for MotoGP’s regulation reset in 2027 has Jack Miller baffled. (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images


French riders have historically had a tough time of it at their home Grand Prix – no French rider has won their home premier-class race since Pierre Monneret (Gilera) at Reims back in 1954 – and that’s unlikely to change this year with home heroes Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) and Johann Zarco (Honda) sitting in 12th and 21st places respectively in the championship standings after four rounds.

MotoGP has arguably never been more popular in France – last year’s event attracted a record 278,805 spectators, while tens of thousands of fans were packed into the grandstands on the start-finish straight on Thursday’s media day to take in the pre-race coverage of local broadcaster Canal+.

Quartararo’s 2021 MotoGP title was the first for a French rider in the sport’s premier-class history, while Zarco, a two-time Moto2 champion (2015-16), memorably broke through for his maiden MotoGP win at Phillip Island last year on his 120th start.

Quartararo, who will debut a brand-new Yamaha chassis trialled at the test immediately following the Spanish Grand Prix two weeks ago, said any improvement on a season that has featured just one top-10 finish (seventh in Portugal) to date won’t happen this weekend.

“Expectation is difficult to say,” he said.

“It’s always special to come here, it’s quite unique. It’s one of the only tracks where the party starts already on Wednesday! You can hear already the revs from the fans with their bikes.

“We will try some things from the test. It’s not a massive difference, but we will have some items, the new chassis. The [new] swingarm … we will not try here, we will have also a test in Mugello after the race so we will test it there.”

Zarco, in his first year with Honda after spending the past four seasons with Ducati, is taking a similar longer-term view as the Japanese manufacturer starts a long climb out of the sport’s basement. Honda has just 13 points in the constructors’ title chase to sit dead-last after four rounds, but the 33-year-old feels he’s better place to build with a project that requires patience after his 2019 shift to then-struggling KTM ended with him being sacked after just 13 races.

“It was five years ago when I went to KTM and I was not ready to accept to have less performance and try to develop, stay calm and analyse the potential of the rider and the bike,” he said, admitting a top-10 showing this weekend would constitute “a great result”.

“Now with this experience I have more confidence in myself and I can analyse better what I am doing on the bike, so that’s why it’s a way to re-try what I missed five years ago and get involved in this development.

“[The results are] what I was expecting. When it’s getting hard and you can not finish a race or even follow the others, that’s the worst thing as a rider. But I stay calm and I’m seeing the big work of Honda, and that’s giving motivation to keep improving myself and be ready when the bike is ready.”

Related Articles