The MotoGP World Championship winds up for a month-long summer break this weekend as the Sachsenring circuit in Germany prepares to host the tenth round of the season, the Alice Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland. Traditionally one of the highest attended events of the MotoGP season, a crowd of over 100,000 people is expected for this Sunday's Grand Prix, where Valentino Rossi will defend a mammoth lead of 104 points in the championship.
Rossi's seventh win from nine races just two days ago at Donington Park was also the 75th of his Grand Prix career in all classes and a repeat performance at the Sachsenring would see him go level third in the all-time winners' charts alongside the legendary Mike Hailwood. However, the Italian struggled to find a set-up for his Yamaha M1 machine at the tight and twisty German track one year ago and could only manage fourth place - one of only three occasions he actually finished a race without making the podium last season.
The only rider ever to win at the Sachsenring on a Yamaha is Max Biaggi, who also took victory there last season riding the Honda. It was Biaggi's only success of 2004 and the Italian has not won since - a seventeen-race dry spell that matches his longest ever run without a victory since he made his Grand Prix debut back in 1992. Biaggi's crash in the wet race at Donington Park last Sunday also saw him lose third in the championship to Colin Edwards, who now lies just one point behind Melandri in the chase for second place.
Melandri will also be looking for a change of fortune in Germany after only completing one full lap out of the last two races, with successive crashes at Laguna Seca and Donington Park bringing his early-season form to an abrupt halt. Whilst Rossi is now seemingly out of reach at the top of the standings, Melandri will be keen to hang on to second place before the season takes a four-week summer break. The Italian youngster has won at the Sachsenring three times in the 125cc and 250cc classes, including his maiden quarter-litre success in 2001, but has crashed out of the MotoGP race there for the past two seasons.
Kenny Roberts and Alex Barros arrive at the tenth round of the championship on top confidence after their morale-boosting podium finishes behind Rossi at Donington. Both riders have previously won the premier-class race at the Sachsenring and will be looking to turn their impressive wet performances into a dry result this weekend. Sete Gibernau won the MotoGP race there two years ago but crashed out last season and has now failed to finish in three rounds of the current campaign after sliding out of the lead in Great Britain.
One more previous Sachsenring winner will be added to the mix this weekend, with former 250cc World Champion Olivier Jacque returning to the MotoGP field as a wildcard entry for Kawasaki. Jacque scored a memorable podium finish for the factory in China earlier this season and has a strong record at the German circuit, with his only premier-class pole here on a Yamaha in 2002 adding to his 250cc victory in 2000.
Current 250cc World Champion Dani Pedrosa saw his championship lead reduced by Casey Stoner last Sunday but the Spaniard is still 34 points clear of the Australian and will be boosted by the confidence of his best ever wet result after taking fourth place at Donington Park. Pedrosa secured his first Sachsenring win last year and he will be looking for a repeat success with a number of his rivals coming into form. Third place for Stoner last Sunday was his fourth podium of the season whilst Randy De Puniet was back to his best with a victory that could prove to be the turning point to the Frenchman's season. Sebastián Porto has started from pole for the last two years in Germany and finished on the podium both last year and in 2002, whilst Pedrosa will also be keeping an eye on Anthony West after a stunning debut by the KTM machine at Donington Park that saw the Australian finish second.
The 125cc World Championship could not be closer with just eight points separating the first four riders. Joint series leaders Mattia Pasini and Gabor Talmacsi both left Donington Park empty-handed after the Italian crashed on the warm-up lap for the second race and the Hungarian slid out twice once the red lights were out. Thomas Lüthi now lies just one point behind the pair with Mika Kallio a further seven points back. Meanwhile Julián Simón, the only rider in the 125cc class to have scored points at each of the first eight races of the year, now lies eighth in the championship after becoming the sixth different winner of a 125cc race this season with his maiden success at Donington.
Source: DORNA COMMUNICATIONS