Ducati is hoping that the smoother power delivery of its GP10 bike well help the marque turn around its MotoGP fortunes at Le Mans in this weekend's French Grand Prix.
The Italian manufacturer has never won at the venue in the premier category, with Loris Capirossi coming closest when he finished second to Marco Melandri's Honda back in 2006. Casey Stoner's best finish at Le Mans was a third place, one year later, and the former MotoGP champion could only manage a distant fifth last year. But Ducati team manager Vittoriano Guareschi expects both the Australian and his resurgent teammate Nicky Hayden to be in the mix this weekend.
"We have never produced amazing results at Le Mans but this year I am expecting a good race from both our riders – partly because for various reasons in the past we probably haven't capitalized on our potential there and also because we are more competitive in general now," he explained.
"Casey and Nicky are in great shape and the GP10, with its more linear power curve, will put less stress on the tires at this track and should also be easier for the riders to handle around this track."
Stoner agrees that the pliability of the 2010 Ducati suits the French track better than the peaky power delivery of the 2009 machine.
"Because of the stop-and-go nature of the circuit at Le Mans you need a bike that is very stable on the brakes but also agile and quick in corner exit, especially in the slow sections," explained the 2007 champion. "In the past, we have usually managed to be fast and run at the front but we've never come away with the results that we would have liked. This year I think we can have higher expectations than the past two seasons there and we will certainly give our best to meet them."
Hayden, who is enjoying perhaps his best start to a season since his world title-winning year of 2006, considers Le Mans as something of a bogey track. The Californian is nevertheless determined to maintain the momentum that has seen him rise to fifth in the 2010 rider standings, four places and 15 points above his teammate, and has urged Ducati to keep developing the GP10.
"Le Mans is probably the most difficult circuit on the calendar for me because I think it is the only place I've never been on the podium or the front row at, so it will be interesting to see how we go this year," said Hayden. "As I have said a few times, we have made a good start to the season and put two good races together but we have to keep our feet on the ground and keep working because our objective is to consistently perform at a high level and close the gap even further to those front guys.
"The last couple of tenths are definitely the hardest to find but I feel comfortable with the bike and the team, I'm enjoying myself and I feel confident about the rest of the season."