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First Grand Prix victory for Swiss teenager

Thomas Lüthi celebrating his first MotoGP victory

(Keystone)

Thomas Lüthi has pulled off a double coup at the French MotoGP at Le Mans, notching up his first grand prix win and the first by a Swiss rider for 16 years.

Lüthi was a media darling at the age of 16 and future stardom seemed guaranteed, but he then lost form and his star faded.

However, the 18-year-old farmer’s son has looked like fulfilling his dream since the start of the season and comfortably won the 125cc race.

Lüthi is the first Swiss since Jacques Cornu, who won at Spa on July 2, 1989, to win a motorcycling grand prix.

As a result of this victory, Lüthi now lies in second place in the overall world championship table with 54 points, 12 points behind Mika Kallio, who finished third on Sunday.

Rapid acceleration

Lüthi, who comes from a small village in the Emmental in canton Bern, has been in the spotlight for several years in Switzerland.

Lüthi started riding motorbikes when he was 11 – albeit 40cm-tall "pocket-bikes", which can be carried under your arm – and was Swiss pocket-bike champion in 1999 and 2000.

He then advanced on to 125cc machines but had to move to Germany as Switzerland doesn’t have any racetracks.

Until his 16th birthday, Lüthi was hitting speeds of 230kmh on racetracks abroad but in Switzerland he wasn’t even allowed to cruise at 50kmh on a moped.

But that didn’t hold him back. In June 2002 Lüthi won his first race in the 125cc International German Championships and soon afterwards picked up the silver trophy at the European Championships.

Big break

On June 15, 2003, aged 16 years and nine months and in his first world championship season, Lüthi crossed the line in the Spanish Grand Prix in second place.

This result – he was the youngest Swiss ever to stand on the world championship podium – catapulted Lüthi to fame and popularity.

He was named "Newcomer of the Year" at one sporting awards ceremony and found himself pictured next to tennis star Roger Federer, the Swiss Sportsman of the Year.

But then came disappointments and injuries, and last season it seemed Lüthi’s time in the limelight was over.

But Sunday’s victory in France has reminded the world of Lüthi's talent.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Results of the 125cc French Grand Prix:
1. Thomas Luthi (Switzerland/Honda)
2. Sergio Gadea (Spain/Aprilia)
3. Mika Kallio (Finland/KTM)
4. Mike di Meglio (France/Honda)
5. Marco Simoncelli (Italy/Aprilia)
6. Gabor Talmacsi (Hungary/KTM)
7. Pablo Nieto (Spain/Derbi)
8. Julian Simon (Spain/KTM)
9. Imre toth (Hungary/Aprilia)
10. Manuel Poggiali (San Marino/Gilera)

end of infobox

In brief

Thomas Lüthi won his first 125cc race in Germany in June 2002.

Lüthi was born on September 16, 1986. He is 170cm and weighs 53kg.

end of infobox

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