Ridiculously Early 2006 MotoGP Sachsenring Preview

Whenever riders or followers of MotoGP refer to a "Mickey Mouse racetrack", the example which always gets cited is the Sachsenring. This is a rather cruel jibe for a track so steeped in history. Racing has taken place in the area since 1927 over public roads, like Assen, until a new circuit was built here in the 1990s, after German reunification. The track is short, and just under 2.3 miles, so speeds are not high, but the track is situated among the rolling German hills, surrounded by woods. The rolling landscape also provides the biggest challenge on the track: after a long series of left-handers, a drop down and a climb up the hill, the track crests a blind right-hander before rocketing downhill along the short back straight, on a real roller coaster ride. Both John Hopkins and Carlos Checa have painful memories of that roller coaster, the two riders both coming harshly unseated down the back straight, Checa leaving a spectacular long red mark where his leathers had slowed his fall and protected him from injury.

And with the numbers of injured in the paddock still alarmingly high, though improving, the riders must be worried about coming to Germany, especially as the flight to the US for the Laguna Seca race follows a week after. In particular the US riders, and especially John Hopkins, must have the fear of falling and injuring themselves just before their home GP at the back of their minds. Which is a shame, as the technical nature of the track suits both the Suzuki and the Bridgestones. It suits the Kawasaki even more, and Shinya Nakano, after his second spot in Assen, will surely be looking for another podium at the very least.

But actually getting on the podium could prove difficult. Valentino Rossi is almost back to full strength, fired by his second place in Donington substantially reducing his points deficit to championship leader Nicky Hayden, and will be gunning for more points at a track he does not particularly like. Nicky Hayden will put up a stiff fight, at a track he has always run well at, and will want to carry some momentum to Laguna Seca, in the hopes of repeating his home win last year. His team mate, Dani Pedrosa, will surely put up stiff competition at the track he has won at for the last two years, albeit in a lower class. The win at Donington is bound to be a boost to his confidence.

With two weeks to rest, Loris Capirossi will hope to be more competitive, rather than just struggling as he has done in the last two rounds, and Marco Melandri should be almost back to full fitness by then. Capirossi's team mate Sete Gibernau is expected to be back racing at the Sachsenring, but the track holds bad memories for the Spaniard: last year, Gibernau ran wide into the first corner of the last lap, allowing Valentino Rossi, who had been following close behind for much of the race, to breeze past and take the win. Gibernau will want revenge for his own mistake of last year, but may find it hard freshly back from an injury. There is currently no word on Toni Elias' replacement.

Kenny Roberts Jr is getting ever closer to the front of the races, and is just getting better, and Casey Stoner is becoming less excitable and managing not too fall off quite so regularly. Carlos Checa will be hoping that the Dunlops will continue their improvement, and could possibly break the top ten purely on merit, rather than on riders dropping out. Colin Edwards beat Nicky Hayden last week at Donington, but will find it much more difficult at the Sachsenring. Edwards, in particular, will be focussed on winning a week later at Laguna Seca. If he wants to stay in MotoGP, he will have to start winning races, and what better place to start than your home Grand Prix?

With Rossi clawing back 11 points at Donington, the pressure is on Hayden to defend his title. The championship has been jimmied open again, and there are still lots of riders in contention with eight races to go. There's everything to race for, and a whole pack of people raring to ride for it.


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