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MotoGP bounces back at Brno for Gauloises GP Ceske Republiky

MotoGP bounces back at Brno for Gauloises GP Ceske Republiky

MotoGP bounces back at Brno for Gauloises GP Ceske Republiky

The MotoGP World Championship returns from its traditional summer break this weekend as the eleventh round of seventeen takes place at the Brno circuit in the Czech Republic. One of the longest-standing venues on the calendar, Brno first hosted Grand Prix racing back in 1965 on a 13.94km long road circuit, which was later reduced in length before being removed from the series altogether for safety reasons. The modern circuit has been in use since 1987 and retains some of the unique characteristics of the high-speed road layout, combining fast corners and sweeping camber changes with a host of up-to-date safety features that make it one of the most spectacular racetracks in the championship.

After dominating the first half of the season, reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi heads to Eastern Europe with a host of new records in sight but just one clear goal in his mind. With eight race victories already to his name this year, the Italian needs just two more to seal the title for the fifth successive season. Rossi cannot guarantee the championship this weekend but a repeat of his first ever Grand Prix win at this circuit on a 125cc machine back in 1996 would equal his tally of nine wins from last season – a record for Yamaha. Success on Sunday would also see Rossi become the first rider in history to score nine wins in a season on five occasions and would move him clear of Mike Hailwood in third place on the all-time Grand Prix winners' list.

With Rossi holding a 120-point advantage over Marco Melandri at the top of the standings, the biggest ever margin after ten rounds in the history of the series, the battle for the World Championship title is almost over. However, the fight for second place is still very much alive, with four riders currently separated by as many points. Whilst Melandri has been Rossi's closest challenger since the second round of the season at Estoril, his early season form has stuttered in recent weeks and the Italian youngster will have to be back to his best if he is to hold firm this weekend. Melandri became the youngest rider ever to compete in a Grand Prix when he made his debut at Brno as a 15-year-old in 1997 and he has since won three times there in the 125cc and 250cc classes.

Melandri's Honda team-mate Sete Gibernau is also a former Brno winner, having clinched victory ahead of Rossi in the MotoGP race last year to avenge defeat to the Italian by just 0.042 seconds the previous season. The Spaniard lies just a single point behind Melandri and will be desperate to score his first win of the season at Brno after handing victory to Rossi with a mistake on the final lap of the last round at Sachsenring before the summer break. Colin Edwards, who has been second to Rossi in the form charts over last four rounds, lies a further point behind Gibernau in fourth place whilst the same margin separates the American from Max Biaggi, the most successful rider at the current Brno circuit with seven victories in all classes.

The MotoGP lap record at Brno was set last season by Alex Barros, who crashed out of the race when battling in the lead group. Along with Nicky Hayden, the Brazilian is one of only two riders other than Rossi to win a race this season yet both riders are outside the top five in the championship standings. It presents an interesting conundrum for the other riders, who may be forced to choose between pushing for that elusive first victory of the season or consolidating with a run of consistency that should be enough to guarantee the runner-up spot in the championship.

Also competing this weekend will be MotoGP veteran Nobuatsu Aoki, who will join regular Suzuki riders John Hopkins and Kenny Roberts as a wildcard. Hopkins is confident of riding after undergoing an operation on the broken foot injury he sustained at Sachsenring although he will not be at full fitness. However, it looks certain that Shane Byrne will not ride this weekend after it was announced by KTM that they will cease to supply engines to Proton Team KR with immediate effect. Byrne, who has a contract with KTM, could be replaced by his British compatriot Jeremy McWilliams on the team's 2004 version V5 machine.


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