After just over two full weeks off the 2011 MotoGP World Championship roars back into action this weekend at Brno, where the Cardion ab Grand Prix České republiky takes place. With ten of the 18 rounds of the campaign complete Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda) leads defending title holder Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing) by 20 points at the head of the standings, as the duo re-ignite their tussle at the top once more.
Fresh off the back of a masterful victory at Laguna Seca last time out Stoner will be full of confidence after taking his fifth win of the year, having turned around a weekend that had seen the Australian working hard to find a suitable set-up on his RC212V until he produced a superb display in the 32-lap race. Stoner won at Brno in his own title-winning 2007 campaign, but it is Lorenzo who has the freshest memory of taking 25 points there thanks to his result from last season.
Indeed Yamaha are the most successful manufacturer at the Brno circuit in the four-stroke era with five wins, and that will be a statistic Lorenzo will be aiming to add to as he aims to close the gap to Stoner again. Thirty points behind him in third position overall is Andrea Dovizioso, who is yet to finish on the podium at Brno in the premier class having come close in 2009 when he placed fourth. The Repsol Honda rider holds a similar advantage in the standings over team-mate Dani Pedrosa, who completed the podium in the previous round at Laguna Seca and who has finished second for the past two seasons at Brno.
Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) holds fifth position in the Championship going into this weekend, just two points behind Pedrosa, and returns once again to the site of his first ever GP win which came in the 125cc class in 1996. From his 11 premier class starts at the track Rossi has taken five wins and three second-placed finishes and was fifth last year, and the hard work being carried out on the Desmosedici GP11.1 will continue this weekend.
American duo Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing) and Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) are separated by just four points in the standings. Spies, who has finished in the top five in the last three races since taking his first MotoGP win at Assen, placed fourth at Brno in his debut season last year whilst Hayden will aim for an improvement on the seventh place he scored at Laguna last time out.
Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini) finished just outside the top ten on his premier class debut at Brno last season and the Italian’s determination will be steeled after a DNF in the previous round in the US. An elusive first MotoGP podium continues to be the aim for Simoncelli, whilst his team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama rides for the first time in the elite category at the track having missed last year’s race through injury.
Last year’s race day attendance saw nearly 150,000 fans packed into the Brno circuit and this year interest will be even greater, as Karel Abraham (Cardion ab Motoracing) becomes the first Czech rider to compete in the premier class at his home Grand Prix since Pavol Dekanek did so in 1989. The premier class rookie will hope that the enthusiastic home support will play a part in spurring him on to better his best result so far this season of seventh.
Álvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki), eager to make up for his non-finish at Laguna Seca, will be joined on the GSV-R by wild card rider John Hopkins as the American looks to follow up an impressive appearance at Jerez earlier this season. Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Colin Edwards and Cal Crutchlow will hope that a brief break will pay dividends after neither left Laguna Seca satisfied, whilst Spaniards Héctor Barberá (Mapfre Aspar) and Toni Elías (LCR Honda) will also target improvements. Loris Capirossi will have had an extra fortnight to recover from the injuries which hampered him in the US round, and it remains to be confirmed whether his Pramac Racing team-mate Randy de Puniet will be fit enough to try and ride after being ruled out of the Laguna Seca race through injury.
The premier class will remain at the Brno circuit for an extra day on Monday for the official MotoGP Test.