Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner GEPA Pictures/Gold & Goose

A gruelling stint in the 2012 season rounds off this weekend with the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello, the last in a trio of back-to-back races.

At the conclusion of this Sunday's race the season will be exactly halfway through, with nine races down and nine more to go. This trunk of three was expected to see the championship take shape, and so it has with plenty of drama thrown in along the way.

After Jorge Lorenzo was taken out at Assen, Casey Stoner crashed out on the last lap in Germany last weekend as he looked set to sneak ahead in the standings by the most slender of margins.

A lost front end going into the penultimate corner at the Sachsenring as he chased down team-mate Dani Pedrosa after a close race between the duo put paid to Stoner's hopes of pushing for all 25 points, and instead he picked up the first DNF of his own making since Estoril in 2010.

That victory for Pedrosa, his first of the 2012 campaign, drew the Spaniard right into the thick of the title battle and Stoner now arrives in Italy 20 points off Lorenzo and third in the standings behind the Yamaha man and his Honda team-mate.

Each of the three has won at Mugello in the last three years; Stoner, on the Ducati, in 2009, Pedrosa, on the Honda, in 2010 and Lorenzo last year, on the Yamaha.

With Stoner's retirement at the end of the 2012 season already confirmed and Lorenzo's future at Yamaha tied up for the 2013 and 2014 seasons, an announcement about the extension of Pedrosa's contract with HRC was made on the eve of the Italian GP as the formalities of a two-year addition were wrapped up.

That just leaves Andrea Dovizoso, Cal Crutchlow, Valentino Rossi, Nicky Hayden and Ben Spies with no definite plans for 2013! Dovizioso is agitating for Spies' factory seat and has so far outperformed the American on the satellite Tech 3 machine, while a Crutchlow-Rossi partnership at Ducati for next season has been strongly hinted at.

One rider whose seat for next year is already assured is MotoGP rookie Stefan Bradl, and the LCR man took his best premier class result in the dry so far in his home race last time out.

Fifth matched his result in the wet at Le Mans and it's been a more than impressive debut campaign to date for the 2011 Moto2 World Champion, who finished second in last year's intermediate category race at Mugello.

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Marc Márquez has built up a sizeable lead in the Moto2 title race and is now an imposing 43 points ahead of Pol Espargaró, and a huge announcement regarding the teenager's future was made on the Thursday before the GP.

Honda confirmed that Márquez would ride alongside Pedrosa in its factory team for the 2013 and 2014 seasons, thus bringing into the premier class one of the sport's most exciting talents in recent years.

In the meantime there is of course the Moto2 title to tackle. A fourth win of the season in Germany gave the Spaniard even more of a march on his rivals and he was victorious in the Moto2 race at Mugello last year.

Márquez is now equal with his future team-mate, Pedrosa, as the most successful teenager in the history of the World Championship having amassed 21 GP wins at the age of just 19. And there are still nine more races to go...

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There may be clear daylight between Márquez and his peers in Moto2, but it's a far closer story in Moto3, where Sandro Cortese has the upper hand over Maverick Viñales.

The Red Bull KTM Ajo rider may hold an 18-point advantage over his Spanish rival, but the pair are locked in a scrap which has been swinging back and forth for the duration.

Cortese struck the latest blow with victory in his home GP last weekend but Viñales stepped onto the podium in last year's 125cc race at Mugello, in which Cortese finished down in 12th. It will be a much closer affair this time around.

Danny Kent will hope to round out this three-race leg with a strong result after tasting the high of a first podium at Assen and the disappointment of a crash in Germany, and his rookie Red Bull KTM Ajo team-mate Arthur Sissis will be looking for another top-10 result as he pushes on in his debut season.

Both the Moto3 and Moto2 classes take a four-week break after this round, with just the MotoGP class in action at Laguna Seca at the end of the month.

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