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Czech Republic Grand Prix - Preview
10 August 2009
Rider and rule changes will greet the MotoGP World Championship when the 2009 season resume after the summer break with this weekend's Czech Republic Grand Prix at Brno.
The big news is that double 2009 race winner, and third in the championship, Casey Stoner has withdrawn from the next three rounds to try and finally get a grip on the fatigue problems he has suffered at the last five races.
Stoner's place at Ducati Marlboro will be taken by rookie Mika Kallio, who gets his big chance to impress on full factory machinery, while WSBK star Michel Fabrizio steps into Kallio's shoes at the satellite Pramac team.
Stoner's withdraw means the 2007 world champion is forfeiting any chance of this year's crown, which now looks to be a straight fight between Fiat Yamaha team-mate Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo.
Rossi has won four races so far this season, compared with two for Lorenzo, and will start round eleven of 17 with a 25 point lead despite crashing last time out at Donington Park.
Rossi, like Lorenzo, tumbled from his M1 while leading the race - held in tricky weather conditions - but while Rossi rejoined to claim fifth, Lorenzo was out on the spot.
The Italian now has a symbolic one race advantage as he returns to the scene of his very first grand prix victory, in the 125cc class, at Brno in 1996.
Rossi took his fourth premier-class win at the circuit last season after Stoner fell from the lead, the kind of mistake Lorenzo cannot afford to make.
Despite his Donington crash Lorenzo is in great form and knows the next three grands prix in the space of four weeks will decide if he is a serious championship contender.
The #99 won three times in Brno in the 250 and 125cc classes but needs his first premier-class victory at the track to put some pressure on the championship leader.
While his Repsol Honda team-mate Andrea Dovizioso secured his first ever premier-class victory at Donington Park, Spaniard Dani Pedrosa had a torrid time. He finally limped home in ninth place and now trails Rossi by 72 points in the championship.
The 125 and 250cc world champion has won support races at Brno and needs a repeat of his Laguna Seca victory to close the gap at the top and also fight off the challengers headed by American Colin Edwards on the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha.
Following his second place at Donington the Texan is just 12 points behind Pedrosa and remains is the leading satellite rider.
The Texan was involved in a tremendous battle with Randy de Puniet at the British Grand Prix but the French LCR rider is struggling to be fit for Brno. He broke his ankle in a Motocross training accident and had a pin fitted in an operation to mend the bone.
Dovizioso arrives brimming with confidence following his superb victory in difficult conditions at Donington to chase his first ever win in Brno, while fellow Italian Marco Melandri will be looking to consolidate his impressive season on the Hayate Kawasaki at circuit where he's won three times in the 125 and 250 cc classes. Melandri is expected to be announced as a 2010 Gresini Honda rider in the near future.
Looking less safe are the likes of Rizla Suzuki riders Chris Vermeulen and Loris Capirossi - whose third place at Brno last year was the most recent GSV-R podium - plus Spaniard Toni Elias, who crashed while challenging for the lead in Donington, but finished second behind Rossi last season in the Czech Republic.
San Carlo Honda Gresini team-mate Alex De Angelis was an impressive fourth in England and also needs more strong results to help his contract negotiations.
One rider assured of the biggest following will be former 125cc World Champion Gabor Talmacsi. Around 25,000 Hungarian fans are expected to make the short trip across the border to support their hero who is beginning to get to grips with the MotoGP class riding the Scot Honda after starting the season in the 250cc class.
Meanwhile, Brno will mark the start of new technical rules which limit each rider to five engines changes during the remaining seven rounds of the season. The rule is designed to limit maintenance and running costs, with each additional engine change punishable by a ten point penalty.
In 2010, the rules will demand further increases in engine life with each rider being limited to six engines for the whole 18-race series.
In the 250cc World Championship, Hiroshi Aoyama opened up a 15 point lead following his third victory of the season riding the Scot Honda at Donington.
Spaniard Alvaro Bautista wants to clinch the last 250cc World Championship before his expected switch to MotoGP next year but it's going to be tough. The Mapfre Aspar Aprilia rider is second in the Championship but needs to get back to winning ways with his last victory in Assen.
There is a tremendous battle for third place between current world champion Marco Simoncelli - confirmed at Gresini for 2010 - and Hector Barbara and look out also for veteran Alex Debon who won the race last year.
While his rivals fell by the wayside Julian Simon kept calm at Donington to win the 125cc race and build up an impressive 50 point lead in the Championship.
He will take some catching but anything can happen in the 125cc class although his team-mates Sergio Gadea and Bradley Smith will have to start winning again to exert any real pressure on the champion elect.
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