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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Stoner leads MotoGP to mid-season


After a weekend off the premier class again goes into back-to-back rounds of action as the 2011 MotoGP World Championship reaches its halfway stage with the eni Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland this weekend.

Sachsenring follows a short break after the rounds at Assen and Mugello, races which have seen the factory Yamaha machine win both times out, and with Jorge Lorenzo's victory in Italy the gap to Casey Stoner was closed to 19 points.

While the Australian's lead remains a considerable one at the top of the standings recent results have added a hint of intrigue to proceedings, after his three successive wins at Le Mans, Catalunya and Silverstone. However, with podium results at Assen and Mugello – the latter of which was his 50th premier class rostrum result – Stoner remains the standard bearer on board his factory Repsol Honda.

Defending World Champion Lorenzo moved level on GP victories (37) with Jorge Martínez 'Aspar' thanks to his win at Mugello and with the former rider turned team manager is now joint second in the list of most successful Spanish riders behind Angel Nieto. Sachsenring remains just one of two circuits on the current calendar where Lorenzo is yet to taste GP victory in any class, but having finished second for the past two seasons the Yamaha Factory Racing rider will be confident of continuing to chip away at Stoner's hold on the lead of the standings.

Second Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso has his sights set on closing further on Lorenzo and along with Stoner tested at Mugello on the Monday following the previous round. The Italian is yet to finish on the podium at Sachsenring, but is on a run of three straight rostrum results and is looking strong on the RC212V.

His fellow countryman Valentino Rossi is the rider with the most victories at the 'new' Sachsenring (the circuit was newly built in 1998) having taken five wins across all classes, four of those in MotoGP. Last year he made his comeback from injury at Sachsenring, and this weekend the Ducati rider will make his 250th Grand Prix start, making him only the sixth rider to reach the milestone.

Like Rossi his team-mate Nicky Hayden will also continue his search for a second podium of the season, with fellow American Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing) aiming to build on the two podiums he has so far achieved this season.

Dani Pedrosa won last year's Sachsenring race and continues his climb back to full fitness after making his return to action at Mugello following a three-race absence. The Repsol Honda man and his fellow RC212V riders will be hopeful of building on Honda's position as the most successful manufacturer at Sachsenring since the introduction of the current four-stroke format in 2002. The Japanese factory has taken five wins in the past nine years, Yamaha three and Ducati one. Interestingly, three different bikes have won at the track in the past three years; Ducati with Stoner on board in 2008, Yamaha with Rossi in 2009 and Honda with Pedrosa last year.

Marco Simoncelli continues to await his maiden premier class podium result and a turnaround in race fortunes this season, having started the last six races from the front row but without a top-three result to show for it. His San Carlo Honda Gresini team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama missed last year's race through injury and is currently struggling with the aftermath of an injury picked up in a crash in practice at Assen.

Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Colin Edwards and Cal Crutchlow experienced mixed fortunes at Mugello, the American placing ninth and the British rookie failing to finish the race. In Sachsenring Edwards approaches a track at which he has a best finish of fourth (2007) while Crutchlow faces another new circuit.

The satellite Ducatis of Héctor Barberá (Mapfre Aspar) and Karel Abraham (Cardion ab Motoracing) are closely matched, and LCR Honda's Toni Elías will seek inspiration from a fantastic Moto2 ride at Sachsenring last year that brought him victory.

Álvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki) and Randy de Puniet (Pramac Racing) will both be hopeful of improving on their results from Mugello, while French rider Sylvain Guintoli is on standby to replace Loris Capirossi if the Italian is not fit in time to ride this weekend.

For the Moto2 class this weekend's eni Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland provides an important opportunity to sign off for an extended summer break with a strong result, as the ninth of 17 rounds of the 2011 campaign takes place at the Sachsenring circuit.

Leading the way by some distance and approaching his home race with one eye on an almost one-month interval after this weekend is Stefan Bradl, the German of the Viessmann Kiefer Racing team who currently holds an impressive 52-point advantage at the top of the Championship. Bradl reinforced his title credentials with a solid second-placed finish last time out at Mugello, bouncing back from his DNF at Assen in style with an ever-strengthening Marc Márquez gaining momentum with a third win of the year in Italy.

Márquez is a man on a mission, and the Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol rider became the youngest ever rider to win back-to-back races in the intermediate class with his result at Mugello.

Another Moto2 rookie impressing highly is British rider Bradley Smith, the Tech 3 rider who took a third straight podium finish at Mugello. In doing so Smith moved into third position in the Moto2 standings, ahead of Simone Corsi (Ioda Racing), and just three points separate Smith and the Italian.

A superb return from injury for Nico Terol at Mugello saw the 125 World Championship leader take his fifth win of the 2011 season in the previous round, and the Bankia Aspar rider now leads the category to Sachsenring for this weekend's eni Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland.

The decision to miss the Assen race and have finger surgery did little to dent the Spaniard's hold on the 125 class, as he returned to winning ways immediately in Italy. His lead at the top of the standings is a healthy 39 points going into round nine, following which the category has almost a month's respite before the Brno round.

His closest threat in the standings at present is Frenchman Johann Zarco (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo). Zarco has made a step up this year having taken four podiums to date, and the perfect birthday celebration for the man who turns 21 on Saturday would be a first GP victory.

Continuing to electrify the category with his superb displays in his rookie season is Maverick Viñales, and the young Spaniard took his fourth podium of the season at Mugello last time out. The Blusens by Paris Hilton Racing rider trails Zarco by just eight points in the standings, with German rider Jonas Folger only five points behind Viñales.


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