Spanish MotoGP rider Sete Gibernau will try to overcome a disappointing start to the season by winning this weekend's French Grand Prix, although he’ll be up against increased competition, judging by replacement Kawasaki rider Olivier Jacque's inspired performance in the last round.

Spanish MotoGP rider Sete Gibernau will try to overcome a disappointing start to the season by winning this weekend's French Grand Prix, although he’ll be up against increased competition, judging by replacement Kawasaki rider Olivier Jacque's inspired performance in the last round.

Movistar Honda rider Gibernau knows that he will need to win his first race of the season if he wants to keep the championship within his reach. A win at Le Mans would be his third French win in as many years, so the Sarthe could well be the perfect place to get things going forward once more. Although he has been on the pace in all the events this year, Gibernau dropped to fifth place in the championship after a fourth-place finish in China.

However, when it comes to challenging Valentino Rossi's dominance at the top of the log, Gibernau's team-mate, Marco Melandri, is better positioned. Melandri is currently in second place after two podium finishes this year.

Rossi apart, Camel Honda's Alex Barros is the only other rider to have won a round this season after his victory in Portugal. But a disappointing race in China, where he finished 11th, has dropped the Brazilian rider to third place on the log.

Chances are, though, that while the top riders battle it out in France, all eyes will be focused on Olivier Jacque, who stormed to second place in the wet Shanghai race. The French rider's podium finish was Kawasaki's best result in the highest class in three decades and, with some home support, Jacque will be hoping to repeat his performance.

Makoto Tamada, who was sidelined after fracturing his wrist in a warm-up session ahead of the Portuguese Grand Prix, returns to racing this weekend after being declared fit on Monday. Tamada will be further evaluated during the practice sessions, though it is unlikely that replacement Jurgen van Goorbergh, who finished sixth in Shanghai, will have a chance to repeat his performance. Tamada won two races last season.

Among the prominent riders who have had uninspired starts this season Max Biaggi, Loris Capirossi, Carlos Checa and Colin Edwards will be hoping that their machines will be fully prepared for them to redeem some points this weekend.