After a welcome four-week summer break, hostilities continue at the eleventh round of the MotoGP World Championship in the Czech Republic Grand Prix at the magnificent Brno circuit on Sunday.

It heralds the start of a frantic couple of months for the MotoGP teams with seven races, four outside Europe, culminating in the final grand prix of the season at Valencia in Spain.

It's not really a matter of who will win the MotoGP Championship - but when, since Valentino Rossi comes into the 22 lap race not only refreshed after a welcome holiday but with a massive 120-point lead in the Championship.

The Italian, riding the Gauloises Yamaha, has dominated the opening ten rounds of the title chase and has only been beaten twice, by the Hondas of Alex Barros in Portugal and Nicky Hayden in America.

Italian Marco Melandri has hung onto second place by his finger nails after scoring just nine points in the last three races, which included crashes in America and Great Britain.

The Movistar Honda rider leads his team-mate Sete Gibernau by a single point and both will be looking to repeat previous Brno victories. Gibernau inflicted a rare defeat on Rossi last year while Melandri won the 250cc race in 2002 on his way to the World Championship and the 125 races in 1998 and 1999.

But while the championship winner may be all but decided, the battle for second place could not be closer with three points separating Melandri in second place and the Repsol Honda of Max Biaggi in fifth.

Sandwiched between them are Gibernau and former World Superbike Champion and Rossi's team-mate, American Colin Edwards. Biaggi will be the man to watch on Sunday with an amazing record at Brno; the Italian won four consecutive 250cc grands prix at the circuit plus three-premier class wins in 1998, 2000 and 2002.

The two Rossi beaters, Barros and Hayden, share sixth place just 12-points adrift of Biaggi and both are in good form. American Hayden followed up his home victory in Laguna Seca with a third place in Germany after starting from pole, while Barros, riding the Camel Honda, was third in the British Grand Prix and is also the lap record holder at Brno.

Japanese Kawasaki star Shinya Nakano has been in tremendous form this season and currently lies ninth in the championship. He won the 250cc race at Brno five-years ago while Spaniard Toni Elias returns to the circuit for the first time in MotoGP riding the Fortuna Yamaha, after winning the 125cc race four-years ago.

It's an important time of the year for a number of riders hoping to secure their MotoGP futures - with two in-demand names yet to confirm their 2006 plans being Ducati Marlboro's Loris Capirossi and Team Suzuki's John Hopkins.

Former 125 and 250cc World Champion Capirossi will be looking to improve on his eighth place in the championship, while Hopkins is expected to be fit after an operation on the left foot he broke in two spectacular highsides in Germany.

Hopkins and former 500cc World Champion Kenny Roberts are joined by a third rider in the Suzuki team at Brno, with former 250cc Grand Prix winner Nobuatsu Aoki making a welcome wild-card appearance.

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 V5 machine.

Meanwhile, Spanish teenager Dani Pedrosa will be looking to sign off his amazing 250cc career with some more grand prix victories before joining MotoGP next year.

Riding the Telefonica Movistar Honda, the current 250cc and former 125cc World Champion faces round 11 of the Championship with an impressive 50-point lead over the Aprilia of Australian Casey Stoner after winning four of the last six races.

Stoner has won two while current 125cc World Champion Andre Dovizioso still seeks his first 250 win, despite holding third place in the Championship, just seven points behind the Australian. The only other two grand prix winners this year are team-mates Randy De Puniet and Sebastian Porto.

The 125cc class is easily the closest of the year and the 19 lap race on Sunday will have a crucial bearing on the outcome of the Championship.

Swiss Honda rider Thomas Luthi re-took the lead in Germany after finishing second to the KTM of Finnish rider Mika Kallio. They are separated by just three points in the Championship while Kallio's Hungarian team-mate Gabor Talmacsi is a further three points adrift.

 

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