The guide to the Bugatti Le Mans circuit with Zarco

  • Construction: 1965

  • First race: 1969

  • Location : Le Mans (France)

  • Length: 4,185 kilometers

  • Number of laps: 11

  • More wins: Jorge Lorenzo (5)

  • lap record: Johann Zarco (1 min 31 s 185)

Know this: Although it hails from the 24 Hours of Le Mans circuit (and hosts the 24 Hours of Motorcycles), the Bugatti it only operates a third of the legendary car route, built a few decades earlier. In addition, since the first test won in 1969 by Giacomo Agostini, this circuit that hosts the French Grand Prix every year since 2000 it has undergone several modifications aimed at improving its safety. The Dunlop and Chemin aux Bœufs corners have become noticeably chicanes, making the Le Mans circuit one of the most physical tracks of the championship MotoGP.
And one thing is certain: the 4,185 km of Bugatti track no longer has any secrets for John Zarco. The Frenchman competed in his first French Grand Prix in 2009. At the time he was racing in the 125 class, which has since become Moto3, and had not made it to the finish line. The following season, Johann was ranked eleventh. The Frenchman took his first podium at Le Mans in 2015, en route to his first Moto2 world championship title. From his move to MotoGP, in 2017Zarco has returned to this famous podium twice, finishing second twice, the first time on the Tech 3 Team Yamaha in his rookie season, the second time in 2021 with the Ducati of the Pramac team. In 2018, the people from Avignon fell while playing for victory with Jorge Lorenzo after taking pole position.

All in all, we couldn’t dream of a better ambassador to give us a little tour of the owner, turn by turn.

The layout of the Bugatti circuit

© Wikimedia Commons

In this long uphill curve that follows the short pit straight, the MotoGPs reach more than 300 km/h. “With less powerful bikes, we overcome this curve thoroughly, he explains John Zarco. In MotoGP, you brake and go in two gears to approach the Dunlop chicane in second. This long curve allows different trajectories and favors overtaking. There is no precise mark to attack the brake, except a faint mark on the ground at 150 meters. Depending on the angle you take, the pressure on the brake lever varies. “At the end of this curve, the machines generally dropped below the 250 km/h mark.
The MotoGPs reach more than 300 km/h on the long uphill Dunlop curve of the Bugatti circuit at Le Mans in France.

At least, it’s clear

© Gold & Goose/Red Bull Content Pool

Difficult after the start because playing the role of a funnel, the Dunlop chicane is negotiated between 90 and 100 km/h. Motorcycles go down there a little more than 4 seconds. “In fact there are two techniques to address this section, comments Zarco. Either you brake early on the Dunlop and accelerate again before the chicane, or you go in harder and slow down until you hit the brakes. It’s harder to get because it freezes the bike in a certain position and then it’s harder to grab. In any case, it is a good place to get ahead of the race because the speed differences are easier than in other places. The chicane itself is very tight. It’s really characteristic of this stop and go circuit. You have to be able to relaunch as well as possible on the way out because the bike tends to lean due to the small gap in the trajectory. »

The descent through La Chapelle bend forces riders to turn left before heading right, going from 200km to 100km in a distance of 160 metres. “This place is quite technical, points out the double Moto2 world champion. By braking hard enough, you lighten the rear and can do a bit like on skis, with a reverse call to turn the bike. With the Ducati it is more difficult than with the Yamaha because you have to stop it in the corner to help it turn. This part of the circuit is not very fast but you spend a lot of time in the corner while accelerating, hence the importance of being well positioned on the entry. You can relax at the start by taking advantage of the electronics that will manage the wheel and the slip of the rear wheel. As at the Dunlop chicane, you approach La Chapelle in second position and pass third at the start. »

Australian rider Jack Miller drives at the Bugatti circuit during the MotoGP French Grand Prix.

Jack Miller in his works

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At the entrance to the bend of the Musée, slightly downhill, MotoGP bikes apply the brakes at 220 km/h to dive with the rope at 90 km/h. “It’s a pretty complicated place,” Zarco says. It’s when you hit the brakes that the track starts to descend. Suddenly the back of the bike is lighter and it becomes harder to brake. If you’re comfortable, however, it can help to turn it around, a bit like the entrance to the Chapel. Here, acceleration is very important because there is more time to gain at the exit than at the entrance of the Museum. We go, second, third, fourth… It’s a place where we have to reduce the power with the electronics to keep the front wheel on the ground before we reach the braking of the Green Garage. »

Braking at Garage Vert is one of the most demanding on the Bugatti circuit. In the 210-meter space, riders go from 250 to 72 km/h to tackle a double straight on a slope: “The braking tends to push you out and you have to be careful not to go too far to don’t waste your time. . When you’re inexperienced, you can also tend to brake a little earlier to help the exit, but there really isn’t much to be gained by approaching it this way. This turn has two vertices, so you have to go in hard and let yourself go on the outside before shifting into second. This sequence is also negotiated in seconds, like most corners at Le Mans. It really is a circuit where we use short gear ratios. The exit del Garage Vert is an interesting place for Ducati because we have good acceleration. You can really get the power despite the small bump in the middle of the straight. »

Johann Zarco has been on the podium twice at the French MotoGP Grand Prix at the Bugatti circuit since his move to MotoGP in 2017.


© Gold & Goose/Red Bull Content Pool

The Chicana Chemin aux Boeufs

It is the most severe braking of the Le Mans circuit. With 6.4kg of pressure on the front brake lever, MotoGP riders go from 295km/h to 108km/h in just over 4 seconds while making 1.5g jumps under braking between 150 and 200 meters . I have a small visual cue with a piece of vibrator on the right. There, we enter three reports to chain this chicane in second. You have to go hard but carefully because there is only one trajectory and you must not delay the angle change in order not to lose time in this sequence before accelerating towards the Esses Bleus. »

“Here, again, you have to reduce the power in the short section before the Esses Bleus to keep the front wheel on the ground. We also use the rear brake to manage the stability of the bike. Braking is severe, with nearly 5kg of pressure on the front brake lever. From 224 km/h, the speed increases to 100 km/h in about a hundred meters. “The angle change is complicated because you slide a lot from the back in this part of the circuit. You have to be careful not to spin the tire too much with the risk of overheating. »

South African rider Brad Binder drives around the Le Mans Bugatti circuit during the MotoGP French Grand Prix.

Brad Binder at Le Mans

© Gold & Goose/Red Bull Content Pool

At the last corner of the Bugatti circuit, the Connexion commands the pit straight. This bend is so named because here is the junction with the return to the track used for the 24 Hours of Le Mans Autos. “We also come to bite at the end of the road on the left to widen the trajectory, details Zarco. Sometimes we even manage to get on the inside curb to attack the straight. A straight line where the lap ends at a legendary circuit that this year hosts its 35th French Grand Prix.

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