Le Mans, MotoGP Style

The French round is one of the most illustrious in the MotoGP calendar - here we look back at the history of the French GP.

Since the start of the World Championship in 1949, the Grand Prix of France has taken place 52 times, the first one on the 8895-meter Albi track in 1953.

Since then, the gala round of the World Championship was held on eight different track layouts, including Rouen, Reins, Clermont-Ferrand, Le Mans, Paul Ricard, Nogaro and Magny-Cours.

In the modern GP era, the Grand Prix has hosted some fantastic races, such as the battle in 1988 between Paul Ricard, Wayne Gardner, Eddie Lawson, Christian Sarron and Kevin Schwantz.

After a race full of overtaking, a few corners from the end the Australian was ahead and was almost in sight of the finish line, but the engine of his Honda NSR 500 suffered a threat of seizure and he lost all chance of victory, although he could cross the finish line in fourth position ahead of Wayne Rainey.

1991 was unique in that were two rounds of the World Championship in the same season on French soil; one GP at Paul Ricard in France and a second round, where Brazil was replaced by Le Mans with two races remaining, in which Rainey earned the second of his three world titles with Yamaha.

Grands Prix in France have often proved favourable for Spanish riders. Carlos Cardus (uncle of the current Moto2 ™ rider Ricky Cardus) achieved his first victory at Le Mans in 1989 in the 250cc class and the next year he would do the same after beating his main rival for the title, John Kocinski, who was pushing too hard to catch the Spaniard and crashed.

Alex Crivillé won the 1998 French GP at Paul Ricard to become the first Spanish rider to lead the provisional standings of the 500cc World Championship. The following year, he finally won the title.

In the French GP in 2001 Max Biaggi took his first victory in 500cc as a Yamaha rider and in the following year, in the MotoGP era, Le Mans was the setting for the first front row composed entirely of machines with four-stroke engines.

Later in 2003, Le Mans witnessed the first ‘triple’ domination from Spanish riders in the World Championship, with Dani Pedrosa achieving victory in 125cc, Toni Elias in 250 and Sete Gibernau in MotoGP™.

During the 2007 season, at the French GP at Le Mans Suzuki achieved their only win in the MotoGP class, beating Australian Chris Vermeulen in an epic race in the rain. That was also the first victory for Bridgestone tyres in the wet.

In 2009 Jorge Lorenzo achieved the second of his four victories in the French Grand Prix at Le Mans, in a chaotic "Flag to Flag" race in which his teammate Valentino Rossi suffered a fall.

Since the arrival of MotoGP™ in 2002, the most successful riders in Le Mans have been Rossi (2002, 2005 and 2008) and Lorenzo (2009, 2010 and 2012) with three wins each. They are followed by Sete Gibernau with two wins in 2003 and 2004. Behind them, Marco Melandri, Chris Vermeulen, Dani Pedrosa, Casey Stoner and Marc Márquez have one victory each.

Who will be the next winner of the French GP? Will a Ducati finally win at Le Mans?