Assen TT Preview: MotoGP, Moto2, 125cc
Round 7 of the 2011 MotoGP World Championship, the Iveco TT Assen, keeps the action coming thick and fast as Championship leader Casey Stoner aims to defend his newly-found position at the top of the standings. The 2011 campaign is now one-third through its 18-round course, laying the way for a busy mid-section of the schedule to commence this weekend. Having enjoyed a weekend off following back-to-back rounds at Catalunya and Silverstone, the focus returns to business with the 81st Dutch TT event.
Stoner has been installed as the Championship leader following an eventful Silverstone race in which the Repsol Honda rider secured his fourth win of the season, in the process becoming the first Honda rider to win three successive MotoGP races since Valentino Rossi in 2003. The Australian now holds an 18-point lead over reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo, who crashed out of the wet Silverstone race and will be desperate to recoup lost ground on his rival.
In failing to finish the British GP Lorenzo brought to an end a phenomenal run of 25 successive top-four finishes, a sequence which started towards the end of the 2009 season. The Yamaha Factory Racing rider won last year’s Assen race, a result which means he has now tasted victory in all three classes in which he has ridden at the famous circuit, and the aim will be clear this weekend.
Following close on the heels of Lorenzo is Andrea Dovizioso, and the Repsol Honda rider took his second podium of the campaign in the rain-soaked Silverstone race – he is 15 points behind Lorenzo – whilst Valentino Rossi is the same margin of points down on his fellow Italian in fourth in the standings. The Ducati Team rider is now on his longest winless streak since moving up to the premier class in 2000 having gone nine races without a victory, but as is the case at many of the circuits on the World Championship calendar he has a strong record at Assen. Rossi has won there five times in the premier class but missed last year’s race due to injury, and will be targeting a second podium of 2011 this weekend.
Despite having missed the last two rounds Dani Pedrosa remains fifth in the Championship standings, but the Repsol Honda rider’s participation this weekend is yet to be confirmed. Pedrosa underwent further surgery on his injured right collarbone last Thursday to fix a small fragment of bone which had become dislodged, and will discuss his fitness with his medical team before making a decision on whether he takes part.
Assen is a track at which Nicky Hayden has fared well in previous years, the American having taken a victory there in his Championship-winning 2006 season, but on the Ducati he is yet to finish higher than seventh at the Dutch venue. Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini) will ride for the first time in the premier class at Assen after missing last year’s race through injury, but the Japanese rider took a victory in the 250cc class in 2009 so knows what is required from the technical layout.
Colin Edwards scored an incredible podium at Silverstone just eight days after breaking his collarbone and the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider returns to the site at which he has twice stood on the rostrum. The American’s team-mate Cal Crutchlow suffered a similar injury in a qualifying crash at Silverstone and after undergoing surgery last week will have to wait to make a decision as to whether he tests his physical condition at Assen.
A first premier class podium continues to elude Marco Simoncelli but the San Carlo Honda Gresini rider will be confident he can finally end the wait at Assen after proving his pace repeatedly this season, whilst Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing) will be eager to rediscover the podium form he displayed at Catalunya after a crash in Britain.
Rookie Karel Abraham (Cardion ab Motoracing) continues to improve in his debut season and is schedule to make his 100th GP start this weekend. Héctor Barberá (Mapfre Aspar) will aim to break back into the top ten at Assen, whilst Álvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki) will be keen to follow up his season’s best finish to date of fifth from Silverstone. Likewise Toni Elías scored his best result of 2011 so far with eighth in the UK and the LCR Honda rider and his team will hope that the progression continues, as will Pramac Racing pair Loris Capirossi and Randy de Puniet.
The first practice session for the MotoGP class at the Iveco TT Assen is scheduled to get underway at 10.10am local time on Thursday, with race day on Saturday.
Stefan Bradl heads to the Netherlands following his fourth Moto2 victory of the season at Silverstone. The Viessmann Kiefer Racing rider has a superb record thus far in 2011, entering the Dutch TT with a 62 point lead, the greatest number of points that any rider has led a Grand Prix World Championship after just six races in any class of GP racing. His five successive poles have not been seen in the intermediate-class since Toni Elías in 2003.
Ioda Racing Project’s Simone Corsi is second in the Championship, and is the only rider in Moto2 outside of Bradl to have scored points at all of the six races this year. Though only finishing 12th at the Dutch TT last year, he crossed the line seven places ahead of Bradl in 19th. Moving into third place in the Championship hunt, nine points behind Corsi, is Yuki Takahashi, who finished 10th last year in the Moto2 race at Assen from 13th place on the grid. The Japanese had his best result at the Dutch TT with a 6th place in the 250cc race in 2006.
Fourth with 49 points is Speed Master’s Andrea Iannone, who, although he started the season strong, has finished outside the points twice in the last four races. The Italian will be looking to turn his season around at the Dutch TT, where he positively dominated in last year’s Moto2 race, qualifying on pole and leading every lap of the race.
Iannone is matched in Championship points by Mapfre Aspar rider Julián Simón, who is recovering from surgery on a fractured tibia and fibula he sustained at the Catalunya GP. Simón will have a new replacement rider in the form of Elena Rosell for the upcoming Assen GP. The 25 year-old Rosell currently races in the Stock Extreme series of the CEV Buckler (Spanish National Championship) and will be the first woman to compete in the intermediate class since Katja Poensgen took part in the 250cc championship eight years ago.
Thomas Luthi is sitting sixth in the Championship points and proved to be a strong rider here when he finished third in the 2010 Moto2 race while suffering from shoulder injuries received in a motocross training accident. One point behind the Swiss rider is Bradley Smith, whose incredible second place after starting from 28th on the grid at Silverstone moved him into the top Rookie position in the class, two points ahead of Marc Márquez. Catalan rider Márquez won the 125cc race at the Dutch TT last year from a pole position start.
The Moto2 class will feature two wildcards for the Assen race, Dutch rider Michael van der Mark (EAB Racing) and South African rider Steven Odendaal of MS Racing.
The chasing pack aim to close in on Championship leader Nico Terol at the Iveco TT Assen, with Jonas Folger leading the group and buoyed by his first World Championship win in the previous round. Having become the youngest ever German rider to win a Grand Prix (at Silverstone), Folger’s (Red Bull Ajo Motorsport) title challenge received a timely boost with a valuable victory in the wet British GP and the 17 year-old German now heads to Assen aiming to put more pressure on Championship leader Nico Terol.
Bankia Aspar rider Terol remains a healthy 35 points clear at the top of the standings but his eighth place in the British rain did end an impressive record-equalling run of 14 consecutive podium finishes in the 125cc category. That will matter little to the Spaniard however as he is well aware of the importance of collecting more points as he protects his strengthening title challenge.
With Folger in second his fellow rider in the Ajo set-up Johann Zarco is placed third in the standings and the 20 year-old will be more eager than ever to emulate his colleague and secure a first GP win. Zarco’s best finish at Assen in his two previous visits has been 12th (last year), but the Avant-AirAsia-Ajo rider is looking ever more likely to take his maiden victory having been denied in Catalunya, and comes into this round off the back of his best-ever finish of second in Britain.
Sandro Cortese (Intact Racing Team Germany) sits just two points behind in the standings and the German will aim for a return to the podium positions, whilst Efrén Vázquez (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo) and Maverick Viñales (Blusens by Paris Hilton Racing) are closely matched as well. Héctor Faubel (Bankia Aspar) scored his first podium of the season in the previous round and will expect to kick on from there, whilst Sergio Gadea (Blusens by Paris Hilton Racing) will want to bounce back from a disappointing DNF last time out.
Aiming for a strong follow up to the last race will be Spanish youngsters Luis Salom (RW Racing GP) and Adrián Martín (Bankia Aspar) who placed fourth and sixth respectively at Silverstone, whilst British trio Danny Kent (Red Bull Ajo Motorsport), Danny Webb (Mahindra Racing) and Taylor Mackenzie (Phonica Racing) all finished in the points and will expect to do so once again.
Four Dutch wild card riders will add to the depth of talent on display with Bryan Schouten (Dutch Racing Team), Ernst Dubbink (RV Racing Team), Jerry van de Bunt (Jerrys Racing Team) and Thomas van Leeuwen (Racing Team Van Leeuwen) all participating. German wild card Luca Gruenwald (Freudenberg Racing Team) will also ride, whilst Norwegian Sturla Fagerhaug continues in place of the injured Sarath Kumar on the WTR-Ten10 Racing Team.