Am Sachsenring, Germany - Eleven slender points divide leader Andrea Dovizioso from fourth-placed defending world champion Marc Marquez, who has a fantastic record at the Sachsenring circuit, as the Moto GP season hits its halfway point in Germany on Sunday.
Marquez has been gradually regalvanising his defence after struggling on his Honda early in the season - and has won at the Sachsenring in his previous seven appearances across all three classes.
"I can't wait for the race at Sachsenring," he said. "The circuit has been so good for me and we're just 11 points off Dovizioso, the championship is wide open and were going to buckle down and keep working."
Spicing up the race for the top-class crown are Yamaha duo Maverick Vinales, who is four points behind Dovizioso in second, and 38-year-old nine-times champion Valentino Rossi in third after his first win of the season in Assen last time out.
The German Grand Prix is the ninth of 18 races and, after a flying start, young Vinales was finally knocked off his leader's perch last weekend when he crashed out.
Top of the heap
Ducati's Dovizioso, who had won the two previous races before Assen, is on the form of his life, and fifth was enough to lift him and his Italian team to the top of the heap.
The surprise leader isn't getting carried away though and is carefully plotting his run for the title.
"It gives me great satisfaction to arrive in Germany as leader of the championship," he said, "but it won't change my way of racing because I've never raced for each individual result."
One man who does appear to race like that, the Italian legend Rossi, crossed the line barely the length of his bike in front of compatriot Danilo Petrucci in a breathtaking finish last Sunday, with Marquez completing the podium.
"I race with motorcycles for this feeling, for what I feel in the five or six final laps of the race," said Rossi, showing all the old passion is still there as he looks for a 90th MotoGP victory. "You really wouldn't know what could happen from one circuit to the next. We've all seen how quickly things can change."
Vinales, a winner of three Grands Prix so far this season, is desperate to make up for his fall last time out.
"I need to learn from my mistakes and not repeat them," said Vinales, who escaped unscathed from the crash whilst bits of his bike littered the track. "I can't let my fall get me down and anyway I'm just four points off the leader."
The Sachsenring has freshly layed asphalt and the free practice sessions for Friday have been extended to allow the riders to get used to it.
"Sachsenring has created a few problems for us in the past," Dovizioso commented, "but it has just been resurfaced and so it will be new for everyone."
World motorcycling championship standings ahead of Sunday's German Grand Prix:
MotoGP (after eight of 18 races)
1 Andrea Dovizioso (Italy) Ducati - 115 points
2 Maverick Vinales (Spain) Yamaha - 111
3 Valentino Rossi (Italy) Yamaha - 108
4 Marc Marquez (Spain) Honda - 104
5 Dani Pedrosa (Spain) Honda - 87
6 Johann Zarco (France) Yamaha - 77
7 Danilo Petrucci (Italy) Ducati - 62
8 Jorge Lorenzo (Spain) Ducati - 60
9 Cal Crutchlow (Britain) Honda - 58
10 Jonas Folger (Germany) Yahama - 51
1 Franco Morbidelli (Italy) Kalexv - 148 points
2 Thomas Lüthi (Switzerland) Kalex - 136
3 Alex Marquez (Spain) Kalex - 113
4 Miguel Oliveira (Portugal) KTM - 94
5 Mattia Pasini (Italy) Kalex - 82
6 Takaaki Nakagami (Japan) Kalex - 62
7 Francesco Bagnaia (Italy) Kalex - 61
8 Dominique Aegerter (Switzerland) Suter - 50
9 Luca Marini (Italy) Kalex - 41
10 Xavi Vierge (Spain) Tech 3 - 39
1 Joan Mir (Spain) Honda - 140 points
2 Aron Canet (Spain) Honda) - 110
3 Romano Fenati (Italy) Honda - 108
4 Jorge Martin (Spain) Honda - 89
5 John McPhee (Britain) Honda - 83
6 Fabio Di Giannantonio (Italy) Honda - 80
7 Andrea Migno (Italy) KTM - 78
8 Marcos Ramirez (Spain) KTM - 63
9 Juanfran Guevara (Spain) KTM - 54
10 Enea Bastianini (Italy) Honda - 49