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Will Morbidelli hold his nerve? We’re about to find out

The curtains are about to go up on the second half of 2017

Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) is a long way clear in the points standings in 2017, and the Italian is undoubtedly in the best position as the second half of the season gets underway. Now the pressure is on to hold his nerve – which can be a bigger mountain to climb than being the man on the chase.

That man is the same as it was in the last half of 2016, as it eventually turned out. Then it was Tom Lüthi (CarXpert Interwetten) who got closest to stopping Johann Zarco taking his second title, and it’s the Swiss veteran who looks closest to being able to halt Morbidelli this season. Lüthi’s run last year began after the Czech GP, which the Swiss rider missed after a crash in practice, but his ability to bounce back and take victory next time out will be his focus – having previous podium form at the venue in Czechia to back this up.

Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) is the next up in third on points, and the Moto2™ sophomore showed his mettle once more – and that of the new intermediate class KTM effort – in the German GP just ahead of summer. He’ll want more of the same now, and got a top ten as a rookie last year at the track – all that is left now is for the combination to take their first win.

Going into the summer break after a very different end to the Sachsenring weekend was Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS), who crashed out and injured some vertebrae – now needing to be passed fit to race in Brno. The 2014 Moto3™ World Champion has a great record at the track, however – which is one of his favourites – and will be looking to kick off part two of the year as strongly as possible. Having already taken two incredibly dominant wins this season, Marquez will be shooting straight back for the top.

Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) leads the rookie of the year charge at the halfway point and was on the podium again in Germany. The Italian is even fifth overall in the Championship – just ahead of veteran compatriot and Mugello winner Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team), who is a 250cc podium finisher at Brno.  Count in Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), who has previously taken pole position and a podium in the Czech GP, and the start of the seconf half of the season is sure to be a winner.

The points battle may seem like a Morbidelli vs Lüthi push towards the finale, but anything can happen in motorcycle racing. And the points never tell the whole story – with Moto2™ this season having produced some of the closest and most explosive racing of the year. The curtain goes up on Friday morning for practice, before the race at 12:20 (GMT +2) on Sunday.