PREVIEW: Can anybody stop Marquez at Le Mans?

by Joshua Close

The 2019 MotoGP Championship heads to the famous Le Mans Circuit in France this weekend, and the main question on everyone’s mind is whether somebody will be able to beat Marc Marquez.

The reigning champion may only be leading the championship by a single point, but he has dominated two, arguably three, of the last three races. The Spaniard won his home race at Jerez after leading from start-to-finish, and also won in Argentina by almost 10 seconds. Marquez was also comfortably leading at The Circuit of the Americas (COTA) before crashing out of the race.

Marquez has two MotoGP victories to his name at Le Mans, and another victory this weekend will seal Honda’s 300th premier class race win. So, who can pose a threat this weekend?

Quartararo Heads Home

One rider on everyone’s radar right now is Fabio Quartararo. The young Frenchman become the youngest pole-sitter in MotoGP history at Jerez, and was looked set for a podium when he suffered from a mechanical problem.

How did he react to this disappointment? Well, he would go and smash the circuit record at Jerez by half a second the following day.

The rookie now heads back home to France looking to continue his impressive form. The French crowd will be giving him full support at Le Mans, which can certainly make a difference. Johan Zarco used it to his advantage in 2018, as he put the Tech 3 Yamaha on pole position. Zarco also qualified on the front-row in 2017, converting that position into a second-place finish.

Like Zarco in the previous two seasons, Quartararo is on the Satellite Yamaha bike and he will be looking to bounce back from his Spanish misfortune.

Rins’ Looks to be a Serious Contender

The closest rider to Marquez in the championship standings is Alex Rins. After an impressive pre-season, the Suzuki rider has made a fantastic start to 2019.

Rins secured his maiden MotoGP victory at COTA to become the only rider to win there in all three classes. He followed this up with a second place at Jerez, after fighting through the field from ninth on the grid.

The 23-year-old’s Suzuki has great race pace and looks smooth heading into the corners. The only thing that may be hampering his championship dreams at the moment is the bike’s ability over one lap. So far this season, Rins’ has qualified in 10th, fifth, seventh and ninth respectively.

Should Rins put the Suzuki towards the front of the grid this weekend, he may just be able to challenge Marquez from the beginning of the race.

Dovizoso Searches for Ducati’s First Win at Le Mans

Andrea Dovizoso narrowly missed out on his first-ever podium at Jerez, however the Italian now has another first on his mind.

Ducati have never won at Le Mans and after slipping down to third in the standings Dovizioso will be gunning for victory this weekend – especially since he crashed out whilst leading the race in 2018.

Like Rins, Dovizioso is going to have to put in a strong performance during qualifying if he is to realistically challenge during the race. He has been off the front-row for the last two races, and even failed to make it through to Qualifying 2 at COTA.

Monster Yamaha Revival?

The last lap battle between Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales at the 2017 French Grand Prix feels like a long time ago now. Who can forget the heartbreak for Rossi as he crashed out of the lead, allowing his young team-mate to secure his third win from five races.

The fortunes of Monster Yamaha have changed a lot since then, with both riders struggling to mount a serious challenge. However, things seem to be heading in the right direction once more in 2019.

Rossi sits fourth in the championship, only nine points behind Marquez, after securing two podiums so far. Rossi has three premier class victories at Le Mans. Meanwhile, Viñales secured his first podium of the year at Jerez and will be looking to build on that success.

Le Mans Schedule

The weekend’s action at Le Mans begins on Friday (17 May 2019) with Free Practice 1 at 08:55. This will be followed by Free Practice 2 at 13:10.

Saturday’s (18 May 2018) action begins at 08:55 with Free Practice 3, with Free Practice 4 at 12:30. This is immediately followed by Qualifying 1 at 13:10 and Qualifying 2 at 13:35.

Sunday’s warm-up (19 May 2019) will begin at 08:40. The race itself is scheduled to take place at 13:00.

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