-- World Superbike hits Assen
The TT Circuit Assen, the home of motorcycle racing for the last 78 years and for the FIM Superbike World Championship since 1992, gets ready to host the third round of the 2011 production-based series this weekend.
The circuit, which strange to say is the northernmost leg on the WSBK trail, acts as a magnet for fans across northern Europe; once again it will attract large numbers of British, German, Scandinavian, Belgian, French and Dutch fans, as well as numerous Italians, all eager to see a continuation of the battle that at the moment sees the domination of Carlos Checa (Ducati Althea Racing), winner of three of the first four rounds of the season.
The Catalan rider has established a perfect feeling with his Italian twin-cylinder machine, and this allows him to lead the table on 91 points, 19 clear of his closest rival, Marco Melandri (Yamaha World Superbike Team). The Italian won race 1 at Donington and all signs could point to him repeating the feat at the Dutch circuit, where he stepped onto the podium in 2004 and 2005 when he raced in MotoGP, and where he won in 2002 in 250 GP. The Yamaha YZF-R1 machine also has a good recent record at Assen, having won the first 2009 race here with Ben Spies on board, but in terms of overall manufacturer wins Ducati clearly leads the way on 23 victories, with Honda next up on 12.
Assen should represent the start of the resurgence of Max Biaggi (Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team) who, at the moment is lying fourth overall, 42 points behind Checa. Last year, in his title-winning season, the Italian’s results at Assen were slightly below-par as he could only finish sixth and fourth. On this track Biaggi has only won once in 500 GP in 2001, while his other two wins came in 250 GP.
Double Dutch Rea
Jonathan Rea (Castrol Honda) scored a fantastic double win last year at what is the Ten Kate Racing team’s home track. The third round of the championship could be an ideal opportunity for the Northern Ireland youngster to improve on his current standing of sixth overall. One notable absentee at Assen will be James Toseland (BMW Motorrad Italia SBK Team), the British former double world champion who twice finished on the podium last year but who is still recovering from a testing injury. But another Brit, BMW Motorrad Motorsport’s Leon Haslam, who twice finished fourth at Donington, and who was on the Assen podium in 2010, will be aiming for more of the same this weekend.
But the true merit of the Assen TT Circuit is that it does allow rider talent to emerge and that is the case of Leon Camier (Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team), a podium finisher last year and also at the last round. Other surprises could come from outsiders Jakub Smrz, the Czech Republic rider getting closer and closer to that all-elusive first win, and the still convalescing Frenchman Sylvain Guintoli, both on Effenbert-Liberty Racing Ducatis. All eyes will also be on Noriyuki Haga (Pata Racing Team Aprilia), Assen winner in 2009, as well as the factory Kawasaki team, back at full strength with Britain’s Tom Sykes, Spain’s Joan Lascorz and Australian Chris Vermeulen.
Michel Fabrizio is still struggling to hit the big time on his Suzuki Alstare machine, while the remaining Assen slots go to Ayrton Badovini (BMW Motorrad Italia SBK Team), flanked for this occasion by Dutchman Barry Veneman, the experienced Supersport man coming in for Toseland, Roberto Rolfo (Kawasaki Pedercini), galvanized by victory in Sunday’s opening CIV Superbike round at Misano, and by Maxime Berger on the Supersonic Ducati 1098R.
Points (after 2 rounds of 13): 1. Checa 91; 2. Melandri 72; 3. Haslam 53; 4. Biaggi 49; 5. Smrz 42; 6. Rea 38; 7. Camier 37; 8. Fabrizio 27; 9. Haga 26; 10. Sykes 19; etc. Manufacturers: 1. Ducati 95; 2. Yamaha 74; 3. Aprilia 66; 4. BMW 53; 5. Honda 38; 6. Kawasaki 32; 7. Suzuki 27.
World Supersport and Superstock Preview to follow.
About the Circuit
The TT Assen Circuit, which is situated in the north of the Netherlands, a couple of hours drive from Amsterdam, underwent major renovation work in 1998, with brand-new grandstands being built, and again in 2005, when 1.5 km was knocked off the lap distance. A further adaptation was made to Ruskenhoek in 2010, shortening the circuit’s current distance down to 4.542 km. New grandstands were also built at Haarbocht, Strubben and TT World.
- Yamaha Preview
- HRC Preview
Assen in 2010 marked a coming of age for Honda Superbike rider Jonathan Rea as he took superpole and then his first double win in this category of racing. This year Rea rides in the iconic Castrol Honda colours, but being in the same team set-up and on largely the same CBR1000RR machine as he used last year, he will approach the classic Circuit van Drenthe in the north of the Netherlands with similar aspirations as he goes for his first wins of the new season.
Both Rea and another proven WSBK race winner Ruben Xaus (Castrol Honda) have spent some time in the Netherlands in the past week, at the traditional Ten Kate Honda Pit Stop open day, and they will soon be heading to Assen to compete in the third round of a 13-round championship.
Currently Jonathan is sixth in the championship standings, Xaus 14th and each is chasing a first podium in what has been a challenging season at some points already. Rea was a heroic fourth in race two at the opening round in Phillip Island, despite carrying injuries from crashes in testing and practice. He enters the Assen round having scored two top six places at his home event at Donington last time out.
Ruben's tenth place in race two at Donington was a better result than it looked on paper as he was only ten seconds from a podium finish after 23 laps or racing and had been up to sixth place until his tyre performance dropped off.
Assen is one of the most evocative and unique circuits in the whole roadracing scene, starting off as a pure roads circuit before morphing through several layout changes over the decades to become a thoroughly modern circuit that hosts both MotoGP and WSBK races. At 4.542Km long in its present guise Assen still features some of the changes of camber and flowing high-speed curves that have characterised it over the years. It always attracts a strong crowd of both Dutch and international fans, who are always treated to close battles and audacious overtaking manoeuvres.
WSBK Rider Comments
Jonathan Rea, Castrol Honda says: "Assen is my team's home race and I always look forward to racing there. Last year may be nothing to go by this time, but we proved that the CBR1000RR works well at Assen last time we were there. I am a lot more upbeat than I was going into Donington and I have had a couple more weeks to heal up a bit. My wrist feels a lot better. It actually affects me more in every day life than it does when riding the bike, but it is getting better all the time in any case. I have not tested the bike since Donington, but I have been doing a good bit of preparation because we have been camped out at the back of the team's workshops, training a bit with Fabien Foret and Florian Marino from the Supersport team. The long-range weather forecast says that it should be good for race weekend, but we'll see."
Ruben Xaus, Castrol Honda says: "Race two was good for me in Donington because I was only ten seconds from the podium, which was great after only two meetings with this team and on this bike. Not a bad start. Of course we need more and I always want more. I am just trying to enjoy the racing and I so far I have done that. It is a home race for the team, they know a lot about this track and of course last year Jonathan won both races. It is a big important day for the team and a big motivation for me at the same time."
World Supersport - Harms and the Honda Boys set for third encounter of the season
Honda CBR600RR riders dominate the entry list in the Supersport World Championship standings in 2011 and after the opening two rounds seasoned competitor Robbin Harms (Harms Benjan Racing Honda) is the best placed of them all, now third in the overall rankings.
Harms has been impressive on a machine which relies on a lot of in-house development between the Danish rider and his Dutch-based Benjan partners. But for some bad luck in the latter stages of the previous round at Donington, Robbin would already have one podium finish to his credit this year.
Gino Rea (Step Racing Team Honda) and Sam Lowes (Parkalgar Honda) have already stepped onto the podium for Honda in 2011, Lowes in Australia and Rea at home last time out at Donington. One no-score apiece means that they are seventh and eighth respectively, just behind Hannspree Ten Kate Honda rookie Florian Marino. The French rider, only 17-years-old, has secured seventh and eight place finishes so far as his consistency has found an early reward in the championship standings.
The current top ten is rounded out by another fast and impressive Honda privateer, Alexander Lundh (Cresto Guide Racing Team Honda) with the Swede having been ninth in Australia and tenth at Donington.
Assen is a significant round for some other top Honda riders as they attempt to recover from early bouts of misfortune in what will be a 12-round series. Former champion for Honda, Fabien Foret (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda), has had to fight off the effects of finger and back injuries over the first two rounds, but feels much more ready to take on the latest challenge in the Netherlands after some decent time off since the previous round at Donington on March 27.
James Ellison (Bogdanka PTR Honda) was unlucky to be forced out with a technical issue at his home round, making him particularly motivated to take on Assen, another track he enjoys racing at. James is currently 11th overall after finishing sixth in Australia, despite suffering from a painful knee injury picked up in testing.
Ondrej Jezek (SMS Racing Honda) sits 13th in the championship standings after two solid midfield finishes, while Miguel Praia (Parkalgar Honda) scored an 11th place at Donington and he now finds himself 15th in the rankings.
Balazs Nemeth (Team Hungary Toth Honda), Bastien Chesaux (MACH - Moto Academy Swiss Honda) and Imre Toth (Team Hungary Toth Honda) have all got off the mark in terms of points scores, but other potentially strong Honda riders Pawel Szkopek (Bogdanka PTR Honda), Vladimir Ivanov (Step Racing Team Honda and Mitchell Pirotta (KUJA Racing Honda) are yet to score.
After the Assen round is completed another truly classic venue, Monza, hosts the fourth round of the year, on Sunday May 8th.
WSS Rider Comments
Robbin Harms says: "Assen is a really great circuit and it reminds me of old style tracks. I have been there several years in a row so I have good experience of it. The feeling for Assen is not much different than for PI or Donington and I like all the tracks we race at. For me I will be treating it like it is a new track on the calendar. We are analysing the data to take the good things from the bike set-up at Donington with us to Assen."
Gino Rea says: "Having finished on the podium at Donington I am looking forward to Assen, but as far is my injured thumb goes, it is still nowhere near where it should be. I am going to have to ride with a splint on it again. We got through Donington OK riding that way so I think we can get through this round as well. After that I think we can start physio again. I am more concerned about getting the bike right, and hopefully we can pick up where we left off at Donington, because it took us a long time to get the bike setup where we wanted it. We have a lot of development to do with it still, so hopefully we can make progress and get back up to the sharp end again."
Sam Lowes says: "I have ridden Assen before, in 2008 and it suits my style because it has fast corners out the back end of the circuit and I am definitely looking forward to going back there. Overall, I am aiming to have a strong meeting to move forward from the disappointment of Donington. We just need a normal race meeting at Assen. Looking back at the last race we were basically on the pace so we just need to keep doing what we are doing. There have only been two races so far and it's a long season."
James Ellison says: "It is going to be awesome at Assen and I had my first international win there, in 2000. I have been working hard in rehab with the knee I injured in Australia. It is still quite tender sometimes so I have to stop it flaring up again between sessions. Once on the bike it should be no problem again. They keep changing the layout at Assen, tweaking it, but I have ridden it during the 2006 MotoGP season and I think it was the same then as it is now. It's a great place to go racing and the team are confident they have sorted out the problem we had at Donington."
Miguel Praia says: "I think that I have not made any fantastic races at Assen, but after the race at Donington we took another step forward. I want to make Assen another place where I have done well, to put it into my personal 'maps'. I need a little bit more confidence in the front of the bike to make my settings in the best possible way and at Assen it is so important to go fast around the corners. We are working well on this plan. For sure the WSS class is harder than anyone expected this year, especially now that another manufacturer is back in. Some good riders left the series last year but the new riders are strong as well, and they have been improving the lap times."
Fabien Foret says: "My hand is better, just the finger I broke in Donington is a little problem because cannot bend it, but it is OK. It will be better when I arrive at Assen. In Donington my back was sore, a little bit more than I expected it to be, but again I have had the chance to let it heal up since then. I am not 100%, but I have been training I am looking forward to this weekend. I think it will be a good circuit for us, and it is one of the tracks I like. If I feel good on the bike and the weather is fine then maybe we can have an OK weekend. It is too early to say something more right now. I just need to jump on the bike to see how I will be for real on the weekend."
- BMW Preview
The BMW Motorrad Motorsport team is preparing for the third race weekend of the 2011 FIM Superbike World Championship, which will be held from 15th to 17th April at the iconic “TT Circuit” in Assen (NDL). Assen is the capital of the Dutch province of Drenthe and is situated in the north-east of the Netherlands.
The team has reached another important milestone in the lead up to Assen: BMW Motorrad Motorsport now has exactly 500 World Championship points to its name since joining the FIM Superbike World Championship. This season, the two works riders Leon Haslam (GBR) and Troy Corser (AUS) have already picked up 69 points for BMW. In the Manufacturers’ Championship, for which only the best race result counts, BMW is currently in fourth place on 53 points. Leon finds himself in third place in the Riders’ Championship on 53 points with Troy in 13th place on 16 points.
During the break since the last race weekend in Donington (GBR) the team has been testing in Valencia (ESP). Information acquired during these tests has been used to develop solutions to allow Leon and Troy to take another step forward.
Both works riders have good memories of last year’s event in Assen. Troy’s third place on the grid was his second best Superpole result of the season.. He finished both races in fifth place. This made Assen one of Troy’s most successful race weekends in 2010. Qualifying in fourth, Leon also started from the front row and went on to claim a podium finish.
Leon Haslam: “Assen is one of the circuits I really like. I have really enjoyed racing there. I think I have stood on the podium with every bike I have ridden there. For this reason I am really looking forward to it. I hope we can take another step forward and continue pushing at the front of the field.
The circuit has a unique layout. The most important thing in Assen is to find a good rhythm. You cannot simply push without thinking – that would actually slow you down. You have to use your head. BMW’s performance in Assen last year showed that the circuit suits the bike. Our goal is to build on what has so far been a good start to the season.”
Troy Corser: “Assen is a fast and flowing circuit. You spend a lot of time leaning in bends, and the riders are subjected to enormous G forces. In Donington Park we had some issues, as our tyres did not give us enough grip. We are working on solving this issue, so that we do not have to cope with the same problems in the next race.
The circuit in Assen is known for its high speeds and some really fast changes of direction. For this reason it is very important to have the bike working well if we are going to battle at the front like we know we can.”
Bernhard Gobmeier, BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director:
“Assen is a very interesting circuit for us, as it is very flowing. We gained important information from the race weekend in Donington and the tests in Valencia. In preparation for Assen we have used this to improve the areas, in which we still had problems.
The team has continued to work very hard in the break since Great Britain. I am very confident that we have taken another step forward and that Leon and Troy will be able to exploit the potential of the BMW S 1000 RR even better in Assen. We have already shown that we are capable of challenging for the top positions. Our goal now is to achieve this consistently.”
- Team Suzuki
Suzuki Alstare's Michel Fabrizio is looking for a change of luck at this weekend's third round of the World Superbike Championship at Assen.
The Dutch circuit, a fixture on the WSBK calendar since 1992 and a flowing circuit favoured by many riders, hasn't always been kind to the Italian; since his third place in race one in 2006 his best finish has been a fourth in 2009.
Michel Fabrizio: "Other riders say how good the Assen circuit is, but it has never been much of a happy hunting ground for me - well not since 2006 that is. I'm not exactly sure why I have never got on with the circuit as well as some of the other riders, but the track and I have just not gelled - for whatever reason. Mind you, things will be a bit different this year because, after years on a twin, this time I will be on a four cylinder bike. The characteristics are very different to a twin and I am hoping that the bike will suit the circuit and I will enjoy the ride.
"Because the track has a 'flowing' nature, once again it will be important to get a good, stable set-up before pushing too hard. If you push too hard at this track, you will end up going slower, so I need to keep calm and just get into a good rhythm. If I can do that and qualify well, then I am sure I can challenge the top guys.
"I was happy with my performance in the second race in the last round and felt I was working well with the bike, or maybe the bike was working well with me! I need to get a good set-up for the bike early on in practice and qualifying and then I will be able to run with leaders.
"The competition is very, very hard this year and often just fractions of a second can make the difference between the front row of the grid and the third. I think this is probably the toughest season in World Superbike history, but I am enjoying the challenge. I like a good fight and certainly intend on improving on my last year's results."
All three official Kawasaki riders will be challenging at Assen, as Chris Vermeulen joins his fellow regulars Joan Lascorz and Tom Sykes for what should be his first full race weekend of the season.
Despite being so early in its overall development programme, the Ninja ZX-10R has already proved its worth as a serious contender in the hands of Sykes and Lascorz, after only two rounds of a 13-round season have been completed. The push for top finishing positions continues apace with everyone involved in the Kawasaki effort energised by the front row qualifying performance of Sykes at the previous Donington round, followed by a strong top five race result from WSBK rookie rider Lascorz in the second contest of the day.
Assen is a firm favourite with the vast majority of riders but for Lascorz it will be another new challenge, as he has not ridden a Superbike before at the classic venue in the north of the Netherlands. He has lots of happy memories of racing there on Supersport machinery, however, which fills him with hopes of two strong results as he continues to recover full strength around his injured right shoulder and arm.
For Vermeulen Assen is almost a second home track when you consider his family connections to the Netherlands while Sykes is not only a fan of the track layout itself, he should be able to count on support from a good number of fans from Britain as many UK bikers make an annual pilgrimage to Assen for the WSBK race weekend.
In readiness for the Assen round both Chris and Tom undertook shakedown tests at the Brands Hatch circuit on Tuesday 12 April, all of which went according to plan. Now the entire team heads to round three in confident mood that all possible preparations have been made to take on their latest challenge.
The supported Pedercini Team Kawasaki squad will also arrive at Assen with their usual pair of Superbike riders, Roberto Rolfo and Mark Aitchison, but they have even more combined confidence after Rolfo beat the opposition at the opening Misano round of the Italian Superbike Championship (CIV) last weekend, while riding the all-new Ninja ZX-10R.
Tom Sykes: “I am looking forward to Assen partly because Donington was a bit unfortunate for me, but there were a lot of positives to take away about the ability of the new Ninja ZX-10R. I really enjoy racing at the Assen circuit and we were not too shabby on the older model last year. I never got to sample the real old Assen layout, but judging by the sections that remain the full old circuit would have been interesting to ride. But to be honest most circuits on the WSBK calendar are fun to ride, especially with this new bike that is able to work at each circuit. It is pleasing to ride. As long as the bike works at every track I am happy to ride at every track, but Assen is still one of my favourites.”
Joan Lascorz: “The result of Donington was good for my motivation and for Kawasaki to see that we are heading in a good way. Is nice to ride with people like Biaggi, Rea, Haslam, Xaus and others, so I learned a lot. I'm not at 100% yet physically but even with this we were able to make a good race in England. I'm better than I was in Australia and in Assen I will be better than I was in Donington. I like Assen, and used to made good races there in the past in WSS. We will see in WSBK how we can manage. Since Donington I have ridden some Supermotard with my chief engineer Pere Riba, which was very funny. We also tested with a 600 in a small circuit just to keep up my race fitness a little. Kawasaki is working so hard all the time so I hope to have a good weekend in the Netherlands.”
Chris Vermeulen: “My impressions of the new bike are all positive. Kawasaki has done an amazing job with it and I am just excited to look at the development of this bike, even thought it is in the early stages. I think the biggest difference on the new model comes from the chassis, the balance and the character the bike has in turning. Also the electronics are a big step forward. The engine feels smoother even thought it is more powerful, and the whole bike is what we need to compete.”
Roberto Rolfo: “My win in the Italian Superbike series at Misano boosted both my morale, and that of the team, because we were finally able to see the fruit of the work we had put in at Phillip Island and Donington. At Misano we found a good set-up for my Ninja and so we’ll go from there this weekend at Assen. I really like the track, as it is very technical and hard work. I’m confident and hope to do well in Sunday’s races, for my team and for all my fans.”
Mark Aitchison: “At Donington we collected a lot of valuable data that will enable us to refine our bike setting and hopefully make me more comfortable on the bike throughout the upcoming weekend. So really the goal for Assen in the first two days of practice and qualifying is to regain the feeling that I had with the bike in Phillip Island. Once I get this sensation back, I can really start to push for better lap times and look for some race consistency.”
WSS Duo Join The Congregation At The Cathedral
Parkes is second in the championship standings after the first two rounds in Australia and Great Britain, while Salom is also well placed, in fourth spot, and only eight points behind his team-mate.
Broc enters the Assen weekend with the lingering effects of a heavy fall at Donington still having a painful effect on him, but luckily he has not suffered any fractures.
Kawasaki’s Ninja ZX-6R is a well-proven and highly successful machine in this class of racing, and former Kawasaki WSS rider Joan Lascorz posted podiums in the previous two years of competition at Assen.
The supported Lorenzini by Leoni Team has had a generally bright start to the season in what is a very tough class this year, with Vittorio Iannuzzo sitting in ninth place overall currently. His team-mate Massimo Roccoli is 12th after making only one race finish, posting seventh place at Donington in the most recent round of the series.
Broc Parkes: “I have been a little bit laid up in the past couple of weeks because I broke the cartilage between my ribs, in the middle of the right hand side, after my fall at Donington. I was sore after that so I got some checks done but they found no broken bones, just the damaged cartilage. The doctors asked me to relax until it mends itself, so I have not been able to do that much. I rode in the race at Donington after the crash so I will be OK for Assen. I have been having some magnetic treatment on the affected area and it feels a lot better than it did last week. I feel good for Assen and I like it a lot; had pole position there in 2008.”
David Salom: “The circuit at Assen is very good for me. There are a lot of fast corners and I like that very much. This is the best circuit on the championship for me! I did not test since Donington but I have been riding a lot of Supermotard and been in the gym to make sure I am really fit for Assen. I am lucky to be able to do many kinds of training outdoor each day at home in Mallorca.”
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