German GP, Sachsenring Preview: MotoGP, Moto2 & 125cc
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. 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.
Whilst 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) whilst 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, whilst 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.
Since Grand Prix racing returned to the Sachsenring circuit in 1998 there have been four podium finishes by home riders (one in 250cc, three in 125cc). Bradl has been one of those, having taken second place in the 125 category in 2008, and the 21 year-old will be keen to continue his impressive form in 2011 with at least repeat of that result.
Márquez is a man on a mission however, 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. At Sachsenring he will be confident of challenging Bradl for victory once again.
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.
Thomas Lüthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2) and Alex de Angelis (JiR Moto2) both finished inside the top six at Mugello and are currently level on Championship points, with Andrea Iannone (Speed Master) close behind. The Italian, who tested the Pramac Racing Ducati machine after Mugello – where he finished fifth in the Moto2 race – will be desperate to make a return to the podium and cut down the gap to the leading Championship riders.
Julián Simón (Mapfre Aspar) completed a short test at Albacete on Sunday, his first time back on a bike since breaking his leg in the Catalunya GP on June 5th, but there is no indication yet as to whether Sachsenring will see the Spaniard make his comeback. Meanwhile the German round provides MZ Racing with its home race, with Max Neukirchner and Anthony West joined by German rider Arne Tode as a wild card on the MZ. South African Steven Odendaal (MS Racing) will also ride as a wild card in the Moto2 class.
A superb return from injury for Nico Terol at Mugello saw the 125cc World Championship leader take his fifth win of the 2011 season in the previous round, and the Bankia Aspar rider leads the category to Sachsenring.
The decision to miss the Assen race and have finger surgery did little to dent the Spaniard’s hold on the 125cc 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.
Having missed last year’s Sachsenring race due to injury Terol has a best finish at the circuit of fourth (2009), and it is one of just two tracks on the current 125cc calendar at which he is yet to score a podium result. His closest threat in the standings at present is Frenchman Johann Zarco (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo) who scored his best result of last year (sixth) at Sachsenring. 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. The Red Bull Ajo Motorsport rider and fellow compatriot Sandro Cortese (Intact Racing Team Germany) are separated by just three points themselves in fourth and fifth and will both compete for the home crowd’s adulation. Marcel Schrötter (Mahindra Racing) will also hope to be spurred on by the German fans.
Five wild card riders will also take part in the 125cc class, four of which will add to the German presence in Luca Gruenwald (Freudenberg Racing Team), Toni Finsterbusch (Freudenberg Racing Team), Marvin Fritz (LHF Project Racing) and Felix Forstenhausler (Schwaben Racing Team) joined by Australian Jack Miller (RZT Racing).
The eni Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland gets underway at 9.15am local time on Friday morning, when the 125cc class takes to the track for the first free practice session.