As championship heads to Germany
After a comparatively luxurious one and a half week break, MotoGP action returns on July 15th when the World Championship arrives at Sachsenring.
The Alice Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland is set to be a thrilling encounter if previous
races are anything to go by, with the first half of the 2007 season having provided nine races of edge-of-your-seat excitement.
MotoGP World Championship leader Casey Stoner is entering uncharted territory in the premier class, having never raced at Sachsenring in the premier class. Last year he qualified eighth on the grid in Germany, but a crash in the Sunday warm up left him without medical clearance to take part in the race itself. The Australian was taken to hospital to check for a concussion and bruising of the hands, and was thus unable to gain the experience of racing at the undulating circuit which would have held him in good stead this year.
It is a more mature Stoner who arrives in Germany this year; currently 21 points clear at the top of the MotoGP World Championship classification. The Ducati factory man has been on top form so far in 2007, with five wins and seven podiums from the opening nine races. A lowest finish of fifth shows that Stoner has outstanding consistency this year, something that he will look to continue at Sachsenring.
Last year's race winner Valentino Rossi managed to trim five points off Stoner's lead with victory at Assen, and is well aware that he has to be at the top of his game to knock his Australian rival off his perch. Luckily for the five-time MotoGP World Champion, on his day he is virtually superhuman, as evidenced by his spellbinding fight through the field in the Netherlands.
Rossi has been on the top step of the podium for the past two years in Germany, last year celebrating the win by donning a t-shirt of the Italian national football team. What odds on a tribute to his beloved Inter Milan if he manages to close the gap between himself and Stoner on July 15th?
44 points behind Rossi and 66 behind Stoner, Dani Pedrosa appears to be losing touch as the title battle threatens to become a two horse race. The Repsol Honda rider has now gone the equivalent of an entire season without a win, continuing his longest winless streak since his maiden Grand Prix win in 2002. With both Honda and Michelin having made something of a breakthrough in the Netherlands, perhaps now the 2006 Rookie of the Year can improve on his fourth place from last year in Germany and repeat his 2004 and 2005 triumphs from the 250cc class.
A regular top five finisher this year, John Hopkins currently lies fourth in the championship, ahead of Suzuki team-mate Chris Vermeulen. Just one point separates the latter and Honda satellite rider Marco Melandri, who will be without his regular team-mate Toni Elias for the Alice Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland. Elias suffered a broken leg in practice for the Dutch showdown, and is looking at a minimum of three months out of action. A different replacement for the Spaniard has been announced for the next two races, with Michel Fabrizio getting the nod from the Honda satellite team at Sachsenring.
Colin Edwards, Alex Barros, Loris Capirossi and Nicky Hayden complete the top ten, with the latter having taken his first 800cc podium at Assen in the last round.
Jorge Lorenzo bounced back from his Donington disappointment in style at race nine, taking a dominant victory from pole and re-establishing his lead at the top of the 250cc classification. The reigning quarter litre World Champion now holds a 23 point advantage over Andrea Dovizioso in the classification, having taken six wins already this season.
Last year Lorenzo was on the podium in Germany, behind Yuki Takahashi and Alex de Angelis. The latter appears to be one of the only riders able to keep up with Lorenzo in a straight battle, despite having yet to taste victory in 2007. Second place at Assen and a run of results in which he has never finished lower than fourth have pushed the San Marino native up the classification, with his current points tally now equal to that of twice race winner Dovizioso.
Alvaro Bautista, Hector Barbera and Julian Simon complete the top six in the category; the latter already trailing runaway leader Lorenzo by a massive 117 points.
Hector Faubel leads the way in 125cc, which remains closely contested with only two riders holding more than a solitary victory this season. Faubel is joined in the elite group by Mattia Pasini, holder of six pole positions but just four race finishes. Pasini's two triumphs have come at the previous two rounds, a sign that his luck is changing and that he still has a chance of rising higher than his current seventh place overall.
Faubel leads Aspar team-mate Gabor Talmacsi by seven points in the classification, with the top three all representatives of the Spanish squad. Sergio Gadea joins the leading two at the top of the standings, two points ahead of Derbi's Lukas Pesek.
Gadea and the rest of the top six are separated by just eight points, meaning that any number of combinations could result from strong performances at the Alice Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland. Last year's race was won by Pasini on the last corner from former team-mate Alvaro Bautista, and this year's Grand Prix has the potential to be just as tight at the head of the field.
The Alice Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland takes place on Sunday July 15th, with practice beginning on the preceding Friday.
Car and bike races have been held on closed public roads in the area around the town of Chemnitz, Germany since the 1920s and were still taking place until as recently as 1990. It was decided, however, that the five mile course through such a densely populated area was no longer suitable and a new circuit was built five miles west of Chemnitz in 1996. Although mainly used as a driver training centre and road transport safety station, Sachsenring first hosted MotoGP in 1998 and many improvements have taken place since then, including a drastic layout enhancement in 2001. Numerous tight corners make it one of the slower tracks on the calendar but there is never any shortage of close racing action. Permanent pit garages were completed in time for the 2001 season.
DORNA / CAPSIS International