The 2006 MX1 Motocross World Championship title looks like it is Stefan Everts' to lose after Sebastien Tortelli joined fellow title contenders Mickael Pichon and Josh Coppins on the injury list last time out in Portugal.
With 2005 title runner-up Coppins out even before the season began - and former world champion Pichon sidelined through illness after the opening round - Tortelli had been the only rider capable of consistently threatening reigning nine-times world champion Everts, but now faces a two-month absence after dislocating his hip while battling with the Belgian.
It will thus be left to young guns Kevin Strijbos, Tanel Leok, Steve Ramon, Jonathan Barragan and Ken De Dycker to challenge Everts at this weekend's Grand Prix of Germany - the fourth round of the 2006 championship - while Stefan's attention may well switch to winning ten of the remaining twelve grands prix, thus meaning that he could retire from the sport at the end of the year with 100 grand prix victories.
But there is more suspense in the MX2 class where, despite Tyla Rattray - like Everts - winning all three of the opening GPs, the South African hasn't been able to repeat Stefan's level of dominance.
Indeed, three other riders - Antonio Cairoli, David Philippaerts and Kenneth Gundersen, who are respectively fourth, seventh and ninth in the standings - have won at last one of the six motos held so far this season. Christophe Pourcel, Marc de Reuver, Alessio Chiodi and Billy Mackenzie look capable of adding their names to that tally, but need to react promptly to put some pressure KTM rider Rattray.
Meanwhile, for only the second time in the history of Motocross, women will be involved in a world championship event this weekend as the second edition of the FIM Women's Motocross World Cup kicks-off this weekend.
After a promising first edition in Uddevalla last year, the FIM has extended the 2006 series to Germany and Sweden, home of the second and final round of the World Cup. Last year's races were very impressive and many GP riders were surprised by the style and the competitiveness of the ladies.
This year no less than 50 girls (an increase of 20 over last year) have been selected to enter the event, and they will attempt to qualify for the two 'twenty minutes plus two laps' races via a 30-minute timed-practice session on Saturday afternoon.
Representing fifteen countries, some of the rider are already well known with the likes of Stephanie Laier (Germany, KTM), Katherine Prumm (New Zealand, Kawasaki) and Livia Lancelot (France, Yamaha) favourites for the event after finishing on the podium last year while others to watch will be Ellie de Winter (Belgium, Yamaha), Elin Mann (Sweden, KTM) and Marie Karlsson (Sweden, Yamaha).
"I am very happy about the huge interest of so many riders in the FIM Women's Motocross World Cup. It is only the second year of the World Cup and there are already two events on the calendar: Teutschenthal, this coming weekend, and Uddevalla in July. I am looking forward to an exciting competition on a high level," said Wolfgang Srb, FIM's Motocross President.
Three months before the first ever Veteran's World Cup, at Namur on August 6th, Giuseppe Luongo is also really pleased.
"With the huge success of the FIM Women´s Motocross World Cup last year, it shows our sport can really be a family sport. We want to see more families, more women and more children at Motocross events and the FIM Women's Motocross World Cup is helping with this movement. We believe to this cup, and expect to increase the number of events in the future. We wish all the participants great racing," said the president of Youthstream.