Championship leader Dani Pedrosa
returned to the top step of the podium at Brno today after an incident - and accident - filled 125cc Czech Republic Grand Prix ended in the young Spaniard's favour.
Qualifying saw Alex De Angelis emerge on top after an entertaining battle with Pedrosa, Stefano Perugini, Lucio Cecchinello and Steve Jenkner – the latter having looked set for the top spot until the San Marino youngster's last lap effort of 2mins 08.100secs, a new pole record.
Jenkner was relegated to second spot on the grid and is joined on the front row by Cecchinello and Pedrosa. Perugini, second in the championship behind Pedrosa, starts from the front of a cosmopolitan second row after qualifying fifth fastest ahead of Spain's Pablo Nieto, Swiss youngster Thomas Luthi and Gabor Talmacsi of Hungary.
Into today's race and when the red lights went out it was Pedrosa who led the field through the long, fast, turn one - but before half a lap was complete Jenkner had moved ahead of the Spaniard, with Luthi, Talmacsi, Dovizioso, Barbera, de Angelis, Perugini, Cecchinello and Nieto completing the early top ten.
Over the following laps, Pedrosa, Jenkner and Luthi looked like they'd be able to break away, but with de Angelis soon working his way up to fourth (towing Perugini and Cecchinello with him) the 0.8secs advantage was soon lost and by lap 4 of 19 a solid six-way fight had developed for the lead.
Once they'd joined the lead group, de Angelis wasted no time in cutting through the original trio, hitting the front for the first time on lap six, while Pedrosa was now playing tail gunner.
But with much bigger problems was de Angelis, who after leading comfortably for two laps suddenly raised his hand and slowed into turn one as his Globet Aprilia hit problems.
The ensuing chaos as de Angelis tried to get off the racing allowed Cecchinello to weave into the lead – but what looked like a lucky break turned sour just a lap later when his rear wheel locked up approaching the apex of a turn (after a possible engine seizure). The helpless 'thirty something' thus highsided out of the lead, while Jenkner slammed into Lucio's wayward machine and was sent tumbling into the gravel alongside the Italian, both having good reason to feel hard done by.
That left five - Pedrosa, Perugini, Luthi, Nieto and Dovizioso – to battle for victory with half the race still to run…
But more drama was to follow on lap 12 as Nieto high-sided out of the fast final turn and, in a repeat of the earlier Cecchinello/Jenkner collision, the unfortunate Luthi slammed into Nieto's fallen machine – with both Luthi and his bike being launched high into the air, then cartwheeling through the gravel in a truly scary accident that saw the teenager thrown around like a rag doll before coming to rest next to the tyre wall.