Six-time MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez returns to action this weekend as motorcycling reaches the 1,000 grand prix landmark, 74 years after the first feast of speed was staged.
Modern racing machines, backed by the big budgets of A-list manufacturers, are a far cry from the 500cc bike which carried Britain’s Harold Daniell to victory in the first grand prix staged on the streets of the Isle of Man in 1949.
The bespectacled Daniell, who had been barred from fighting in the Second World War due to poor eyesight, claimed victory on a storied Norton machine.
Fast forward to 2023 and the MotoGP series is now dominated by manufacturers from Japan, Italy and Austria.
Marquez is used to landmarks, claiming victory in the world championship’s 900th race at Aragon in 2017, on his way to the fourth of his six premier class world titles.
This season, however, has been frustrating for the 30-year-old Spaniard.
After claiming pole position for the season-opener in Portugal, he then broke his hand in a crash on race day.
A fifth surgery in three years followed and he sat out the following rounds in Argentina, United States and Jerez.
He picked up a double long-lap penalty for the incident in Portugal, a sanction which has since been annulled by officials who judged that his absence from three races was punishment enough.
Meanwhile, reigning world champion Francesco Bagnaia arrives at Le Mans with a 22-point lead over fellow Ducati rider Marco Bezzecchi.
KTM duo Brad Binder and Jack Miller are third and fourth in the standings, 25 points and 38 points respectively off the pace.
Bagnaia won last time out in Spain as well as taking second place in the Saturday sprint.
However, the Italian has a miserable record in France with his best result being fourth in four appearances at the circuit. Last year, he crashed after starting from pole position.
Portuguese rider Miguel Oliveira, who was injured in Portugal in the clash with Marquez, has withdrawn from the French Grand Prix with a shoulder injury sustained in a fall in Spain after colliding with 2021 world champion Fabio Quartararo.
Italian rider Enea Bastianini also misses out as he continues to recover from a shoulder injury he picked up in Portugal.
Bastianini, the 2020 Moto2 world champion, tried to return for the Spanish Grand Prix, before giving up after free practice.
He will be replaced by veteran Danilo Petrucci who has two MotoGP victories to his name.
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