Motorcycling: Doohan seeking to break hoodoo

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The Independent Online
Michael Doohan will bid for his third consecutive victory in Europe when the French 500cc Grand Prix returns to Le Castellet for the first time in five years tomorrow.

The Honda rider, who has a comfortable 25-point lead over Luca Cadalora in the world championship standings after winning in Malaysia, Spain and Italy, will try to improve his record on the Mediterranean track. The last time a world championship race was held at Le Castellet, the Australian had to be content with second place, behind Wayne Rainey.

Since an accident in Italy in 1993 left Rainey paralysed, the Californian manages his own Yamaha team. But a Honda will be favourite to win tomorrow.

Behind Doohan, Cadalora and Alex Criville will be determined to step up their challenge. Cadalora has struggled in qualifying of late and was denied victory in Italy. Criville took second place in Japan and Italy but was also frustrated in Spain when he fell on the last corner as the crowd, anticipating a Spanish victory, invaded the track.

A home victory also looks unlikely, even though the Frenchman, Jean-Michel Bayle, will be one of Yamaha's best hopes alongside Kenny Roberts Jnr, the son of the American former world champion. Brazil's Alex Barros, also riding a Honda, and the Suzuki rider Daryl Beattie, runner-up to Doohan last year, are the other contenders.

In the 250cc race, the veteran Jean-Philippe Ruggia and compatriot Olivier Jacque will be the home crowd's best hopes for victory, however slim their chances against the dominant dominant world champion, Max Biaggi. The flamboyant Italian has won four races out of five since the start of the season and once finished second on his Aprilla.

In the 125cc section, the race could end up in a Japanese duel between the world championship leader, Haruchika Aoki, and Masaki Tokulome. The German Peter Ottl, the surprise winner in Mugello last month, will be pushing them all the way.