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Lüthi rides off with world championship title

Thomas Lüthi, 125cc 2005 world champion

(Keystone)

The young Swiss motorcyclist Thomas Lüthi has been crowned world champion in the 125cc category in Valencia, at the last grand prix of the season.

In only his third season as a professional, "Little Lüthi" is the third Swiss rider to achieve this honour after Stefan Dörflinger and Luigi Taveri.

Going into the Spanish race, the 19-year-old from canton Bern had amassed 235 points and a 23-point lead over his Finnish rival Mika Kallio.

Kallio won in Valencia, but Lüthi's ninth-place finish was good enough to secure the title – ending the season five points ahead of the Finnish racer.

In becoming world champion, Lüthi joins two other Swiss racing heroes: Stefan Dörflinger, who won two 50cc and two 80cc titles (both categories have been discontinued) in the 1980s, and Luigi Taveri, who won three 125cc titles in the 1960s.

Pocket beginnings

Lüthi, who comes from a small village in the Emmental in canton Bern, started riding motorbikes when he was 11 – albeit 40cm-tall "pocket-bikes", which can be carried under one's 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.

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.

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 in Switzerland.

But then came disappointments and injuries, and last season – when he finished 25th in the world championships, ten places below his position the previous year – it seemed his time in the limelight was over.

"It's only when you're at the bottom that you learn to fight," Lüthi said at the time. "I know next season I'll set the bar much higher right from the start and I'll hold onto it."

Bounce back

And how. Right from the first corner of the 2005 season Lüthi proved himself worthy of the confidence shown in him by his Swiss boss, Daniel Epp.

In May Lüthi notched up his first grand prix win at Le Mans and rapidly asserted himself as the man to beat.

Even his spectacular fall in Japan in September – he bounced down the track, dislocated his right shoulder and seriously bruised both ankles when another bike rode over them – couldn't upset his momentum.

Despite heavy bruising, Lüthi got back on his Honda RS125 Kit A one week later and beat Kallio by just 0.002 seconds at the Malaysian grand prix.

The apprenticeship is over – Little Lüthi is one of the big boys now.

swissinfo

Key facts

Lüthi was born on September 16, 1986. He is 170cm and weighs 53kg.
Lüthi won his first 125cc race in Germany in June 2002.

end of infobox

In brief

Thomas Lüthi has been crowned world champion in the 125cc category.

Lüthi is the third Swiss rider to manage this after Stefan Dörflinger and Luigi Taveri.

This season Lüthi, who rides for Team Elit, won grand prix in France, the Czech Republic, Malaysia and Australia.

end of infobox


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