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Classic duel to resume at Sachsenring

Classic duel to resume at Sachsenring

Classic duel to resume at Sachsenring

The battle for supremacy in the MotoGP World Championship continues this weekend with the eighth round of a stunning season at the Sachsenring circuit in Germany.

Event organisers have already promised record crowds for the Veltins Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland, with only a handful of tickets still remaining and a guaranteed weekend attendance higher than last year's record breaking total of 204,000.

The focus of the attraction centres around a classic struggle for premier-class dominance between Valentino Rossi and Sete Gibernau and their respective factories, Yamaha and Honda. Last year both were riding Honda machinery in one of the tightest finishes of the year, when Gibernau took victory by 0.060 seconds after overtaking Rossi on the final bend.

This weekend they arrive in Germany on the back of arguably their closest finish yet, with both riders picking up zero points after crashing out of the last round in Brazil and remaining tied at the top of the championship on 126, with Rossi just on top by virtue of a better win ratio.

Whilst Gibernau can turn to last year's victory for confidence, Sachsenring is not one of Rossi's favourite circuits despite two previous wins there in the 250cc and MotoGP classes. Along with Estoril and Motegi it is one of only three circuits at which Rossi has not had a pole position in the premier-class, a run he will surely be looking to put to an end to ensure grid superiority at a tight and twisty track where overtaking can be notoriously difficult.

Max Biaggi continues his quest to make the title chase a party of three after moving within thirteen points of the leading pair thanks to second place at Rio, a result which also made him only the tenth rider in the history of the sport to reach the 50th podium milestone.

Three of those rostrum finishes came at Sachsenring, including a win in 2001, and another victory this weekend would be the ideal way to mark the halfway point of the season after a consistent first seven races which have all seen Biaggi score points – Colin Edwards and Loris Capirossi being the only other two riders to match that achievement.

Whilst the experienced trio of Rossi, Gibernau and Biaggi continue to dominate at the top of the championship, Makoto Tamada proved beyond questionable doubt that there are other winners amongst the ultra-competitive MotoGP field with his stunning victory in Brazil just over a week ago.

As well as making history as the first man ever to set a fastest lap and take victory on Bridgestone tyres, beating Michelin for the first time since Simon Crafar's famous win with Dunlop at Donington Park in 1998, Tamada also ended a record run of 37 races since Tohru Ukawa became the last debut winner in the class at Welkom in 2002.

On current form Nicky Hayden heads the queue of riders looking to make sure the latter sequence does not gather pace again after pushing Honda colleagues Tamada and Biaggi all the way for victory in Brazil before claiming his first podium of the season in third place.

Unlike Tamada, who had a miserable time at Sachsenring last year with his worst qualifying performance of the season and thirteenth in the race, the American youngster has positive memories of Germany having scored his first ever top five finish in MotoGP on his first visit there last year. Back at Yamaha Valentino Rossi is not the only rider looking to make up for a bad weekend in Rio, with Carlos Checa and Marco Melandri in particular hoping for better fortune after hitting each other during a disappointing race which saw them finish behind factory colleague Norick Abe in tenth and thirteenth respectively.

However, they will be buoyed by their past form at Sachsenring and that of their factory, with Checa one of an all-Yamaha podium alongside Max Biaggi and Shinya Nakano in 2001 and Melandri having won three times in the minor categories, including his first ever win on a 250 in 2001.

Kenny Roberts arrives in Germany looking to build on Suzuki's best finish of the season and a morale boosting pole position in Brazil. The former World Champion took seventh place in Rio and has a strong base to build on as the factory look to make further progress at Sachsenring, where he rode from pole position to victory in 1999 before scoring pole again in 2000, when he also took a podium finish.

Ducati have confirmed that they will be making two versions of their Twin Pulse engine available to both riders this weekend as they also look to build on a good record at Sachsenring and consolidate the progress they have made in recent weeks. Troy Bayliss finished behind Gibernau and Rossi on the podium in third place last year whilst Loris Capirossi took fourth, the only time both riders have finished together in the top four.

Elsewhere, Michel Fabrizio is expected to return for the WCM team after missing out in Brazil with a fractured ankle, although if he is declared unfit then Spanish rider David De Gea is again likely to deputise.

Tags:
MotoGP, 2004, VELTINS MOTORRAD GP DEUTSCHLAND

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