The season was my first in the 250 class, so that race was my first grand prix on home soil. Finishing tenth made the experience all the sweeter, and therefore I freely admit to having a soft spot for the Sachsenring.
Situated eight kilometres west of Chemnitz, the venue has a long history in motorcycling, having for many years hosted the East German Grand Prix. However, in those days it was a road course, a bit like a mini Isle of Man, totalling almost ten kilometres. After the sport’s safety standards and Germany’s politics changed it was decided to build this short, tight circuit in the shadow of the Anckerberg.
The mountain adds enormously to the flavour of the grand prix, which is, believe it or not, Germany’s largest annual single-venue sporting: bigger than the Formula 1 race; bigger even that football! Although MotoGP is nowhere near as popular on TV as in, say, Spain or Italy, there is enormous enthusiasm for this race, and it is a real pleasure to be part of the fun.
Spectator attendances have risen in leaps and bounds, and this year well over 100 00 fans are expected for the race, with 250 000-odd attending over three days. Many will be camping amongst the trees on the Anckerberg, and a good time is sure to be had by all.
The circuit is extremely short, being just 3,671 kilometres in length, and is also one of the slowest on the MotoGP trail on account of its tight infield section. Having an anti-clockwise layout places enormous loads on the left side of the tyre. The layout includes no less than 13 left-handers to just three rights turns, which illustrates just how hard the left gets ridden. The brakes also come in for a hammering due to the stop-start nature of some sectors.
Cornering is the key to this track, and you ideally need a bike which changes direction easily, one which gives you a lot of confidence. The current MotoGP bikes are probably too big for this track – its layout is better suited to the 125s and Moto2 machines, whose lap times are almost as fast as the those posted by the big boys – so you need agility more than outright power.
Ferrari gave PUMA a massive fillip by winning in Silverstone last weekend, and I would dearly love Ducati to do the same here. However, although I cross my fingers for the team, I think they still have some way to go before fighting for wins with Honda and Yamaha, but I don’t doubt that Valentino Rossi, Nicky Hayden and all the team members will be giving it their all. In fact, I know they.
Casey Stoner on the Honda looks strong, but we should never underestimate Yamaha’s reigning champion Jorge Lorenzo, while Marco Simoncelli has been threatening for a while to post a first win, and could do so if he calms down just a touch.
However, an awful lot will depend upon the weather. Early forecasts predicted heavy rain, but the closer we have gotten to race day the better the forecasts have become, and Friday is dry but cool and extremely windy, which could cause problems for some.
But, that is all part of the challenge here, and I am really looking forward to another edition of my home grand prix, which also marks the halfway point of the season. It seems like just yesterday that we decamped in Qatar for the opening round!