Le Mans, France - Johann Zarco will have huge home support at Le Mans on Sunday as he attempts to claim a first MotoGP win and dent Marc Marquez's quest for a fifth title.
The 2017 MotoGP rookie of the year has Marquez firmly in his sights in this season's championship standings; second-place finishes in Argentina and last time out in Spain have put Zarco second in the MotoGP standings, only 12 points shy of Marquez.
He has fond memories of Le Mans, after climbing the MotoGP podium for the first time 12 months ago when beating everybody but Maverick Vinales.
"I want to be fighting for the win," said the 27-year-old from Cannes. "To do that I have to keep my cool, work well with the team and then we'll see how things work out."
The gallic setting for this fifth leg of the season should prove beneficial.
"The fact that all our fans will be there should bring me even more positive energy but also it comes with a little bit of pressure too," Zarco said, "but I'm going to try to transform this pressure to even more positive energy."
Zarco will need bags of that if he is to become only the fourth Frenchman to win a top category Grand Prix in history on his satellite-team Tech 3 Yamaha.
Marquez on a roll
Marquez has not enjoyed the best of luck at Le Mans, Honda's Spanish rider failing to finish and coming in 13th on his past two visits. His only win at the race came in 2014, but he arrives at the fabled circuit in the Sarthe region on a roll after wins in Spain and the United States.
"Le Mans is a track where we’ll have to work hard and do our best to try and keep up the good momentum," he said. "In the past, we’ve been able to win or get on the podium there on some occasions, and other times we’ve struggled to get on pace, but as I always say, every season is different.
"This year we're already at a good level as we head to France, so we'll see how the weekend goes. We'll try to start well beginning on Friday and then fight for the podium on Sunday."
Italian Andrea Dovizioso was leading the championship arriving in Spain only to crash out when fighting for the win. Now 23 points behind Marquez, the Ducati rider is desperate to reignite his title bid.
'Full of energy'
Nine-times world champion Valentino Rossi, sixth in the standings, will be praying for better luck than 12 months ago when he was destined to follow his Yamaha team-mate Vinales home in second only to crash on the final lap.
Another crash victim in Spain, Jorge Lorenzo, is a five-time Le Mans winner.
"After what happened at Jerez I can’t wait to race at Le Mans," Lorenzo said. "I’m full of energy and anxious to race on Sunday at a circuit where I’ve won many times in the past."
Meanwhile , two more riders have extended their contracts by two years to 2020, Alex Rins with Suzuki and Aleix Espargaro with Aprilia.