MotoGP title battle heads to Sachsenring
The 2009 FIM MotoGP World Championship this weekend continues a fierce run of four races in five weeks, following a brief respite, heading to Sachsenring in Germany for the Alice Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland. The halfway point of the premier class season, the race could end with either one of the top three at the head of the championship standings.
Currently leading the way is Fiat Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi, who holds a nine-point advantage following the last round in America. The reigning World Champion is also the only fully fit rider in the top four, as the series rapidly picks up pace.
On the podium for all but one of the 17 races since the last German Grand Prix event, Rossi can equal Giacomo Agostini’s record of 158 top three finishes with another rostrum. The Italian has won at Sachsenring on three occasions in the premier class, and is searching for a fourth win of 2009 this weekend.
Teammate Jorge Lorenzo left Laguna Seca battered and bruised for the second consecutive year, although he was able to maintain pressure on Rossi with third place in the race. Alongside his points haul, Lorenzo also took a dislocated collarbone and a foot injury away from the stateside event, and will not be at 100% fitness in Germany.
Third placed Casey Stoner is also under the weather. The Australian has been battling with illness for over a month, and stayed on in the U.S. for tests with Dr. Artur Ting. Grit and the high performance level of his Ducati Desmosedici GP9 have kept him in the title hunt, 16 points down on Rossi.
Continued recovery from a leg injury culminated in victory last time out for Dani Pedrosa, who ended a long drought for both himself and Honda with glory at round eight. The Spanish Repsol Honda star’s 2008 season was turned on its head with a crash at Sachsenring last year, when he was leading the wet race and the World Championship.
Just 20 points separate positions five to ten in the overall classification, taking in Colin Edwards, Andrea Dovizioso, Marco Melandri, Chris Vermeulen, Randy de Puniet and Loris Capirossi. Of those six only Melandri has taken a podium thus far in 2009.
Not taking part in the weekend’s events, however, is Sete Gibernau, whose Grupo Francisco Hernando team have pulled out of the series due to financial difficulties.
Absent from proceedings at the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix, the lower cylinder categories return to action at Sachsenring this weekend. The 250cc class is not quite as tightly packed as the MotoGP standings, but has every chance of seeing surprises in Germany.
The only riders to have won more than one Grand Prix in 2009 so far, Hiroshi Aoyama and Álvaro Bautista have established themselves as the most consistent quarter-litre performers of the year. The two came together in a crash last time out at Assen when they were fighting for the lead, leaving Bautista with his first DNF of the season and Aoyama with another victory and leadership of the classification by 13 points.
A further 13 points split Bautista and third-placed Héctor Barberá in the standings, as they attempt to prevent a breakaway from Scot Racing Honda rider Aoyama at the top. Last year’s racewinner and World Champion, Marco Simoncelli has a near-50 point deficit to overcome if he is to retain his crown before moving up to MotoGP, but also has fond memories of the Sachsenring circuit. His 2008 win took him to the top of the 250cc classification for the first time in his career.
Back for another bite at the podium after finishing fourth in Assen, Balatonring substitute Aleix Espargaró rides in his second 250cc race of the season.
Seven races into the 125cc season, the 2009 competition is as fierce as ever. Round eight sees the young guns hitting Sachsenring with 20 points – less than the amount awarded for a single victory – separating the top four.
Julián Simón heads the mathematical minefield that is the 125cc standings, where half points were of course introduced after a curtailed first race of the year. The Bancaja Aspar rider holds a 5.5 point advantage over teammate Bradley Smith, with his British colleague holding the upper hand in victories by two to one.
Another rider with a pair of wins to his name, Andrea Iannone is a further 14 points back, suffering from a certain amount of inconsistency since his storming start to the year. He has come under pressure from third Bancaja Aspar rider Sergio Gadea, the winner of the last round in Assen.
Sachsenring hosts the home race for Assen poleman Sandro Cortese and local star Stefan Bradl, the winner of the 2008 race.
The Alice Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland takes place on Sunday, 19th July, with practice beginning on Friday afternoon.