MotoGP Season Kicks Back In At Brno. Weekend Preview: MotoGP, Moto2, 125cc
After just over two full weeks off the 2011 MotoGP World Championship roars back into action this weekend at Brno, where the Cardion ab Grand Prix České republiky takes place. With ten of the 18 rounds of the campaign complete Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda) leads defending title holder Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing) by 20 points at the head of the standings, as the duo re-ignite their tussle at the top once more.
Fresh off the back of a masterful victory at Laguna Seca last time out Stoner will be full of confidence after taking his fifth win of the year, having turned around a weekend that had seen the Australian working hard to find a suitable set-up on his RC212V until he produced a superb display in the 32-lap race. Stoner won at Brno in his own title-winning 2007 campaign, but it is Lorenzo who has the freshest memory of taking 25 points there thanks to his result from last season.
Indeed Yamaha are the most successful manufacturer at the Brno circuit in the four-stroke era with five wins, and that will be a statistic Lorenzo will be aiming to add to as he aims to close the gap to Stoner again. Thirty points behind him in third position overall is Andrea Dovizioso, who is yet to finish on the podium at Brno in the premier class having come close in 2009 when he placed fourth. The Repsol Honda rider holds a similar advantage in the standings over team-mate Dani Pedrosa, who completed the podium in the previous round at Laguna Seca and who has finished second for the past two seasons at Brno.
Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) holds fifth position in the Championship going into this weekend, just two points behind Pedrosa, and returns once again to the site of his first ever GP win which came in the 125cc class in 1996. From his 11 premier class starts at the track Rossi has taken five wins and three second-placed finishes and was fifth last year, and the hard work being carried out on the Desmosedici GP11.1 will continue this weekend.
American duo Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing) and Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) are separated by just four points in the standings. Spies, who has finished in the top five in the last three races since taking his first MotoGP win at Assen, placed fourth at Brno in his debut season last year whilst Hayden will aim for an improvement on the seventh place he scored at Laguna last time out.
Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini) finished just outside the top ten on his premier class debut at Brno last season and the Italian’s determination will be steeled after a DNF in the previous round in the US. An elusive first MotoGP podium continues to be the aim for Simoncelli, whilst his team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama rides for the first time in the elite category at the track having missed last year’s race through injury.
Last year’s race day attendance saw nearly 150,000 fans packed into the Brno circuit and this year interest will be even greater, as Karel Abraham (Cardion ab Motoracing) becomes the first Czech rider to compete in the premier class at his home Grand Prix since Pavol Dekanek did so in 1989. The premier class rookie will hope that the enthusiastic home support will play a part in spurring him on to better his best result so far this season of seventh.
Álvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki), eager to make up for his non-finish at Laguna Seca, will be joined on the GSV-R by wild card rider John Hopkins as the American looks to follow up an impressive appearance at Jerez earlier this season. Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Colin Edwards and Cal Crutchlow will hope that a brief break will pay dividends after neither left Laguna Seca satisfied, whilst Spaniards Héctor Barberá (Mapfre Aspar) and Toni Elías (LCR Honda) will also target improvements. Loris Capirossi will have had an extra fortnight to recover from the injuries which hampered him in the US round, and it remains to be confirmed whether his Pramac Racing team-mate Randy de Puniet will be fit enough to try and ride after being ruled out of the Laguna Seca race through injury.
The premier class will remain at the Brno circuit for an extra day on Monday for the official MotoGP Test.
Fronting the Moto2 field by 47 points is Stefan Bradl of the Viessmann Kiefer Racing team. The German’s remarkable season thus far includes six pole positions, seven podiums and four victories, and Bradl shows no signs of slowing his title charge for the second half of the 2011 season. Bradl’s history at the Czech circuit includes a 125cc win in 2008 and a ninth place finish from a 20th place start in the 2010 Moto2 race.
Fresh off his third successive win is Marc Márquez, who sits second in the Championship with 120 points. The Spaniard’s season only appears to be picking up momentum: Márquez has had four wins since round three at Le Mans, with his latest denying Bradl a home victory at Sachsenring. The Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol rider will make a charge for triumph again at the Czech circuit, where he placed an impressive seventh in the 125cc race last year after crashing in the first free practice session and dislocating his left shoulder.
Simone Corsi sits 36 points behind Márquez and has yet to finish on the podium in Brno, the Czech circuit being one of only two on this year’s Moto2 calendar where the Ioda Racing Project rider has not had a top six finish in GP racing. The Italian finished eighth in the Moto2 race last year after he had briefly led the race in the early laps.
Stepping into fourth place is Alex de Angelis (JiR Moto2), who is just two points behind Corsi after a third place podium at the German GP. The San Marinese is 3 points in front of Bradley Smith (Tech 3 Racing), who will be eager to make up for his DNF in Sachsenring. Smith qualified on pole for the 125cc race last year, though an incorrect set up for mixed conditions put him in sixth place for the race.
Yuki Takahashi (Gresini Racing), who currently sits eighth in the Championship with 58 points, will be making his 100th GP start at the Czech round. The Japanese rider qualified down in 12th at the Czech GP last year but brilliantly fought his way through the pack to finish in second place.
Julián Simón’s hopes for a strong comeback race from injury were dashed when he crashed out of the German GP. The Spanish rider, who finished second at Brno on his way to taking the 125cc World title in 2009, is determined to rejoin the front runners in the Czech Republic following his three race absence and the latest DNF.
Joining the Moto2 grid in Brno are South African Steven Odendaal (MS Racing) making another wild card appearance on his Suter machine and Czech rider Lukas Pesek (IAMT racing) competing as a wild card on an IAMT bike.
The extended break will have also given the 125cc riders plenty of time to take stock of the first nine rounds of the 17-round season, in which Nico Terol built up a 32-point lead at the top of the standings.
The Bankia Aspar rider has won for the past two seasons at Brno and will therefore be confident of further extending his advantage, although Johann Zarco (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo) in second position is edging ever closer to taking his first GP win. The Frenchman was denied by a photo finish in Germany and has now placed second in three of the last four races, whilst Maverick Viñales (Blusens by Paris Hilton Racing) already has two victories to his name in his debut campaign. The Spanish rookie has started from pole position three times in the last four rounds, and is hot on the heels of Zarco in the Championship.
Jonas Folger (Red Bull Ajo Motorsport), who has not finished higher than seventh since taking his first GP win at Silverstone, will be another rider eager to start the second stint with a strong result at a track he placed fourth at last year, and his German compatriot Sandro Cortese (Intact Racing Team Germany) will be looking for a first podium result since the third round at Estoril.
Héctor Faubel’s (Bankia Aspar) first win of the 2011 season in Germany will have given the Spaniard a huge confidence boost, and he can be expected to be pushing his team-mate Terol and the rest of the frontrunners at Brno.
Home rider Jakub Kornfeil (Ongetta Centro Seta) will inspire the home support, and he scored his best ever World Championship result of fifth at last year’s Brno GP. Additional home interest via wild card riders Ladislav Chmelik (RJR Racing) and Miroslav Popov (Ellegi Racing), with Luca Gruenwald (Freudenberg Racing Team), Manuel Tatasciore (Phonica Racing) and Jakub Jantulic (AMK Brno Junior Team) also riding as wild cards.