MotoGP Assen TT Preview

June 23, 2009
Chris McNeil
A three-way tie between title frontrunners Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, and Casey Stoner will be broken when the riders take to the TT Assen track in the Netherlands for Round 7 of the 2009 MotoGP World Championship. For the first time in the history of MotoGP, a three-way tie for the World Championship has developed among the top riders, each with 106 points following two wins apiece. Known as the Cathedral of Motorcycling, TT Assen is the oldest venue on the MotoGP schedule and is a favorite amongst the top competitors for its tight, flowing layout.

Valentino Rossi - 2009 MotoGP  Catalunya
Valentino Rossi – Fiat Yamaha – 1st, 106 points
“Assen is a very special track for all riders and it is a wonderful place to ride a MotoGP bike, even if it was better before they changed the layout. Last year I had my worst point of the season there so I want to make up for that with a good performance, because the fans are very passionate and they deserve a good show. After Barcelona we know how strong we are but also our rivals are strong too so we can’t afford to relax, we have to keep pushing. Montmeló was fantastic, one of my best wins ever, but the championship is very close between the three of us and so we have to try to win again to take the lead. There is still a long way to go but we have to remain consistent.”

Rossi has four premier victories at the Assen circuit but will be looking to improve on last year’s performance when he crashed early in the race to finish a season-worst 11th. After winning the last round at Catalunya the ‘Doctor’ now sits on 99 career Grand Prix wins and would join Giacomo Agostini as the only other rider to reach 100 should he take a victory at Assen.

Lorenzo also has a couple wins at Assen to his name while in the 250cc and 125cc classes. The Spaniard will be seeking revenge this Saturday after losing his home Grand Prix to his teammate by just 0.095-seconds. Both the Fiat Yamaha riders will come into Assen with set-up overhauls on their Yamaha YZR-M1s from the post-race test outside Barcelona.

Stoner was last year’s Dutch winner on a Ducati and will likely be in a more competitive form than at the previous round in Catalunya, where he amazingly landed a podium despite an undiagnosed illness that nearly caused him to collapse as he dismounted his Desmosedici GP9 in third. Stoner has not finished outside the top five yet this season and continued to make improvements in his lap times at the post-race test at the Catalunya circuit.

Jorge Lorenzo - 2009 MotoGP  Catalunya
Jorge Lorenzo – Fiat Yamaha – 2nd, 106 points
“I could never have imagined after the crash in Jerez that I would have the opportunity to become leader again so quickly, but here we are at the front with Casey and Valentino! The last three races have been fantastic and almost unbelievable, and now for the three of us it’s almost like we’re starting the championship all over again. Assen is my favorite track and I am going there feeling very confident in my bike and my Bridgestone tires and with all the team feeling very motivated. Last year I was sixth so the most important thing is to improve on that, but of course I am aiming for another podium, because consistency is the way to remain close to the top of the standings. We had a positive test in Barcelona and now I will hope to show our improvements with an even better performance in Holland.”

Stoner’s teammate, Nicky Hayden, also had good results at the Dutch TT circuit, having taken a victory there in 2006, a podium in 2007, and an unfortunate fourth in 2008 when his bike ran out of fuel in the final corner. The American took his best result of the season at Catalunya, but was unable to match the competitive lap times set by his factory colleagues in the post-race test session. The Kentucky Kid remains confident that his team has taken a major step forward with his race set-up, and the 27-year-old hopes to prove it in Assen.

The Honda riders Andrea Dovizioso and Dani Pedrosa currently hold fourth and fifth places in the MotoGP points standings. Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) has been building speed since the start of the season. A podium finish is well in store for the young Italian who has finished fractions of a second off the rostrum in the last three races. Dovi will come into Assen having topped the post-Catalunya GP tests using a new modified RC212V chassis.

Pedrosa has dropped two points behind his teammate Dovizioso after experiencing a string of bad luck, with crashes during the Mugullo race and Catalunya qualifying. After two weeks of rest Pedrosa should be in better physical shape than in Barcelona, where he took sixth place despite riding with the painful right hip injury. In the Spaniard’s last three years in the premier league he has taken two second-place finishes at the TT Assen circuit.
Veteran American rider Colin Edwards moved into sixth in the standings following a seventh-place finish in Barcelona. The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider is enjoying a consistent run of form and returns to Assen circuit where he took a podium last year.

Casey Stoner - 2009 MotoGP  Catalunya
Casey Stoner – Ducati Marlboro – 3rd, 106 points
“Assen is a strange track for me because before I rode there in MotoGP it was one of my favorite circuits but one where I never managed to get great results in the smaller categories. Then in 2006 I had a decent result and since then, with the Ducati, I’ve always been fast. Considering the fact that the GP9 has already shown that it is competitive on a variety of circuits, I can’t wait to get back to Assen. Ideally we’d like another weekend of consistent good weather so that we can work on the bike and find a bit more rear grip, which is the only thing we’re missing at the moment. The rest of the bike is great – it is turning well and the front is really stable under braking. I wasn’t really fit at the test and I didn’t do a lot of laps but we did what we needed to and now we’ll try and take advantage of that work in the next race.”

The other riders currently occupying top ten championship positions include the Italian competitors Marco Melandri (Hayate Racing) and Loris Capirossi (Rizla Suzuki), along with Frenchman Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) and Capirossi’s Australian teammate Chris Vermeulen.

The Rizla Suzuki riders will be using their new GSV-R 800cc engines for the second time when they race at Assen. Vermuelen will be searching for points at a MotoGP circuit where he has never finished within the top six, while Capirossi will be determined to extinguish the memory of the crash he suffered at last year’s Dutch TT that also knocked him out the next round.

Many technical updates brought on track by Ducati at the post-race test in Spain will hopefully help out the Pramac Racing Team. Mika Kallio and Niccolo Canepa were happy to have recorded the fourth- and tenth-fastest times during the post-race test using a new carbon fiber swingarm and updated traction control.

Free practice for the premier class riders at the Alice TT Assen commences on Thursday, the 25th of June, followed by the final free session and qualifying on Friday. The 26-lap Assen Grand Prix is the only venue on the MotoGP calendar that holds the race on a Saturday. The main event gets underway at 12:00hrs GMT

Other MotoGP Assen Pre-Race Rider Quotes

Andrea Dovizioso – Repsol Honda– 4th, 106 points
“I’ve been really looking forward to getting back on the bike since we left Catalunya last week. We had a positive test on the Monday after the Barcelona race and that, combined with the constant improvement we’ve been making race after race, means I’m very confident. So I’m looking forward to getting back in the garage with the team, continuing to work on our machine package and to getting a good result in Assen. I’ve been really close to the podium in the last three rounds and at the same time closing the time gap to the race winner, so I’m determined to get into the top three as soon as possible – hopefully this weekend. Assen is not actually one of my favorite tracks though. Since the layout modifications, the fascination of the circuit has been lost a little, but still I have good memories of last year’s race where I finished fifth after qualifying 11th. It’s a circuit of two sections – the first part is quite slow while the second part is more technically demanding – and the weather can also play its part in the Netherlands too. But whatever happens, I’m looking forward to another strong weekend for me and the team.”

Dani Pedrosa – Repsol Honda – 5th, 67 points
“Since the race in Barcelona I’ve basically been resting, trying to give my hip as much chance to improve as possible. Obviously there hasn’t been a lot of time – just over one week – but I certainly feel a lot better now than immediately after the last race when I was totally exhausted. I’m feeling positive about the weekend and we’ll just have to see how it goes when riding starts on Thursday. My intention would be to ride without receiving any pain-killing injections because gradually they lose their effectiveness and they are not something I want to rely on – we’ll see how the feeling is when I start to ride. Assen is a track with good memories for me because I won my first GP here in 2002 and I’ve had quite a few podiums here too. The recent changes where they shortened the circuit have removed some of its character but it still requires a lot of commitment to ride it well – especially through the fast direction changes where you need an agile machine set-up. The atmosphere is always special here because it’s such a historic place, so I’m looking forward to getting out on track again.”

Loris Capirossi – Rizla Suzuki – 8th, 49 points
“I am still very happy from my performance in Catalunya, but this is a whole new race and we have to begin again. We used the new engine specification in Spain and then did a lot of testing with new parts on the Monday so we have a lot of data to use for this weekend. We hope we’ll use the new spec engine again at Assen but it is still being developed and Suzuki needs to check everything, so we will just have to wait and see. I really want to carry on with the good progress we are making, especially at Assen because I didn’t get the chance to race there last year. I also want to do well for Rizla – they deserve a good result at what is really their ‘home’ racetrack.”

Randy de Puniet – LCR Honda – 9th, 42 points
“Assen is another amazing track on the MotoGP calendar. I like it very much although it was modified two years ago, which took away some of its character. I have been very fast at Assen in the past – even last year I was fast there but in the beginning of the race Rossi hit me and I ran off the track into the gravel. The straights are not very long and the high corners required speed suit my riding style and my bike set-up. Considering the competitiveness of my machine package and my positive results at recent races I think we can again finish in the top ten this weekend.”

Chris Vermeulen –Rizla Suzuki – 10th, 42 points
“I really look forward to going to Assen. Holland is where my family came from so there are always people around that remember my Grandfather and tell me how they are related to me – so I feel like a bit of me is coming home! We had a good test after the Catalunya race and if we can translate that into the forthcoming weekend then I am sure we can be competitive. I enjoy riding at Assen and I have won there in World Superbikes, but I have never quite got the results I think I’ve deserved – or certainly wanted – in MotoGP. I hope this will be the weekend when that all changes!”

Alex De Angelis – San Carlo Honda Gresini – 13th, 25 points
“I love Assen because it’s so fast, as is the next track at Laguna Seca, so I’m looking forward to the next two races with optimism. I know the results this season are not as good as the same stage one year ago but the races are much closer and I truly believe that with some small steps forward with the setting of the bike we can make up a lot of positions on the guys in front of us. It is vital that we keep this in mind, stay positive and continue to work hard, because if you drop your guard in this series you can suddenly find yourself behind. I have a great record at Assen in the 250cc class but I crashed out of my first MotoGP race here last year on the opening lap so I want to make up for that with a solid performance this time around.”

Toni Elias – San Carlo Honda Gresini – 14th, 23 points
“Assen has always been my favorite circuit because it is technical, fast and flowing, although it hasn’t always been kind to me. I missed the race completely in 2005 because of injury and then the year after that I crashed after just two laps of free practice and broke and dislocated my left shoulder. Then in 2007 I crashed again in free practice and broke my leg! Last year was the first time I had raced on the modified circuit and I finished twelfth, so hopefully that ended the jinx and we can look forward to a much better result this time around. We have been struggling for rear grip this season but we made some progress in the test at Barcelona after the race. It will be very interesting to see how these improvements transfer to Assen because I really feel like we deserve a top result after all the hard work the whole team has put in.”

Nicky Hayden – Ducati Marlboro – 15th, 19 points
“Assen is a special circuit for me – I love it here. The final split is my favorite because you have a run of fast corners that are crucial to a fast lap. The weather can change from one minute to the next so it will be important to make the most of all the track time available to us. I’ve had some of the best races of my career at Assen, like the fight for the win with Colin (Edwards) in 2006, which is my favorite. In 2007 I finished third and the last year I had the heart break to loose the podium in the last corner! We know we have a lot of work to do but myself and the team are hoping that the Catalunya race was the start of a major turnaround that we can continue to build on until the end of the season.”

Yuki Takahashi – Scot Honda – 18th, 8 points
“I never liked Assen too much when I was a 250 rider. But I didn’t used to like Barcelona either on a 250, but I have to say that all tracks are different on a MotoGP bike, and this year I’ve enjoyed tracks I didn’t used to like so much. My finger injury stopped me from taking part in the post-race tests at Catalunya but this is not going to affect my performance. We tried some new solutions during the race weekend, so I could express my opinion to the team, so we know what we want.”

Gabor Talmacsi – Scot Honda – 19th, 0 points
“Assen is a circuit I like very much. I’m satisfied with my performance at the GP of Catalunya, and with the job done at the test, the following Monday. Everything is new, for me. But if I continue to progress as I did, I’m confident I can do well in MotoGP. When I first tested the RC212V, I immediately realized it was something totally different from what I used to ride. Sometime I practice with a tuned CBR1000RR, but there is no comparison. I have to say that at the very beginning I was a little scared. But it’s been exciting from the first moment. Having tasted a MotoGP bike, I’ll never be back to 250. It’s great!”