The championship pressure builds as the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup heads for the Sachsenring in Germany for races 9 and 10 this weekend. The intensity of competing in front of their home crowd will bear on the German duo at the head of the points table as 16 year olds Florian Alt and Philipp Oettl face off against each other and the other 22 teenagers.
Last year the pair co-operated during qualifying to make sure both were on the front row but things have changed since then, the stakes are higher, especially since Alt took the points lead from Oettl with double victory last weekend at Assen and has 133 to his rival's 125.
Each will be looking for any fractional advantage they can find and showing racing lines, braking points and offering a slipstream in qualifying is probably not going to happen this time.
Alt now has 4 wins in this, his 3rd Rookies season while Oettl has 2. They are close on points because Alt had a technical failure in Race 2 at Jerez after winning the 1st round and then crashed out of Race 2 in Estoril after finishing 2nd on the Saturday. Both riders are bang on form as Oettl recorded a 2nd and a 3rd at Assen and might well have come out ahead of Alt in both races had the multi-rider press into the final corner in both races worked out differently.
Saturday and Sunday at the 'ring are likely to see multi-rider contests again and it would not be a disgrace if nether German saw the podium over the weekend. The likes of Portuguese 15 year old Ivo Lopes, Scott Deroue, the 16 year old Dutchman, Karel Hanika, the 16 year old Czech, the Britons, 14 year old Kyle Ryde and 15 year old Bradley Ray plus Spain's 14 year old Marcos Ramirez have all been on the podium this year and could shut out the Germans completely.
Then there are those who have yet to feature but have certainly shown capability, take a look at Simon Danilo and the 15 year old Frenchmen's fine riding that was finally rewarded with 4th on Saturday in Assen. Or the Spaniards, diminutive 13 year Stefano Manzi, a dreadful qualifier but great racer and 14 year old Jorge Martin who was well to the fore in both the Netherlands races.
Last but not least, Lorenzo Baldassarri, the 15 year old Italian who is our reigning Cup holder, no doubt still with some stiffness and discomfort from the dislocated shoulder he suffered in Friday's race at Assen. That he will overcome and doing so might be easier than fighting his way out of the pack, still the brilliant rider's weak point and a major problem through the ultra tight sections at the Sachsenring. Last year he managed 6th and 4th, he will need better if he is to put his Cup defence back on track as he now lies 9th and massive 74 points behind Alt with 7 races remaining and 175 points on offer.
Whoever mounts the podium the atmospheric cauldron that is the Sachsenring will be heaving with action and the Rookies Cup races alone worth the price of admission.
Race 1 starts at 16.30 CET on Saturday July 7th and Race 2 is on Sunday at 15.50. Both can be seen live on www.redbull.tv and on TV stations around the world with the show beginning 10 minutes before the races get underway.