Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner will aim for his fifth win of the season at Assen during the 81st Dutch TT.
The 81st Dutch TT is up next on the 2011 MotoGP calendar. Assen will usher in a brief change to the usual schedule, with practice beginning Thursday and race day on Saturday instead of Sunday. Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner heads to the Cathedral of road racing in superb form, enjoying three consecutive victories. Emerging as a dominant force with the Honda RC212V in 2011, the Aussie is now 20 points ahead of Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo, the Mallorcan having claimed victory at Assen in 2010 on the way to picking up his first world title. Stoner’s teammate, Dani Pedrosa, will sit out another round after having yet another surgery to his collarbone. Pedrosa is set to be replaced in Round 7 by San Carlo Honda’s Hiroshi Aoyama.
“It’s been some days since the surgery and I feel much better,” Pedrosa said. “I don’t feel the pain I had before the operation and the evolution has been very good. I’ve already begun the rehabilitation and I am very positive. Every day I notice an improvement and this is very good because I really wish to get back on the bike as soon as possible. To be honest it will be very difficult for me to make it to Assen, but I really believe I will be okay for Mugello, so now I’m focused on working to get better every day and see how far I get. I want to return as soon as possible, but I want to do the right thing.”
Yamaha teammates Jorge Lorenzo (above) and Ben Spies (below) will celebrate Yamaha’s 50th year of GP racing by a full livery change with a red and white color scheme at Assen.
Lorenzo’s 25 successive top-four finishes came to a screeching halt during the last round at Silverstone. The Mallocran suffered a DNF for the first time since 2009, pushing him to his lowest point this season as he struggles to keep pace with Stoner. Lorenzo is optimistic of the upcoming round, however, the Spaniard having won at Assen in all three classes.
“Assen is my favorite track where I’ve won in all categories and also last season,” Lorenzo said. “This year it is very special coming here because we celebrate the 50th Anniversary! Now we are in second position in the Championship, we come here looking to put pressure on the leader. I need to do the same job as I’ve done before with maximum effort. The team is focused and I wish to come back to finish at least on the podium.”
San Carlo Honda’s Marco Simoncelli is one rider who’s been itching for his first ever MotoGP podium this year, and Assen may be the perfect opportunity. The Italian has repeatedly been in the front-running for top-three finishes and even wins this season, but mistakes have cost the Gresini rider the podium. The latest such incident was in the last round at Silverstone, where Simoncelli was pressuring for second before losing the front end under braking. With three DNFs already this season, he’s 11th in the overall standings, but his championship ranking does little justice to the speed he’s shown this year.
“I spent two or three days with my head down after Silverstone before I started to get over the disappointment,” said Simoncelli. “That torrid day in England is now firmly behind me though and I’m looking forward to Assen, with the sole objective of continuing to work in exactly the same way that we have done in recent Grand Prix races, but this time following it up with a result on race day. We are on the right path and we remain confident that the results will come.”
San Carlo Honda’s Marco Simoncelli will look for his first MotoGP podium after a DNF at Silverstone.
The man of the hour though remains Stoner as he pushes toward what will be his fifth win in just seven races. Rain or shine, Stoner has proven a top competitor aboard the Honda and is showing no signs of letting up. Becoming the first Honda rider since Valentino Rossi to win three consecutive races, Stoner’s main goal at Assen is putting more distance between himself and Lorenzo in the title hunt. Last year Stoner snagged third at Assen riding aboard a Ducati, but much has changed since then – namely his rise to success with Repsol Honda.
“It was a tough race in Silverstone and to come away with three wins in a row and also the championship lead is awesome, so it’s been nice to have a break after such a good time,” said Stoner. “I’m really looking forward to going to Assen, it’s a nice track, the first section is a little slow and doesn’t do too much for me, but the last part is a lot of fun. I believe the RC212V will work well for us there as it has done at all circuits so far this season. We will work hard to get the set up right on the bike and hope to challenge for another win.”
Stoner’s other teammate, Andrea Dovizoso, has shown a lot of promise this year with two podiums in the last three rounds. Currently third in the championship just 15 points behind Lorenzo, Dovizioso has expressed an affinity for the Assen circuit despite only capturing one podium there in 2006 in the 250cc class. Regardless, the Italian is riding a wave of recent success and will aim for another finish on the box.
Valentino Rossi will test a new generation GP11.1 design at Assen that uses a 800cc engine inside a GP12 chassis.
“After the podium finish at Silverstone, I look forward to race in Assen,” Dovizioso said. “I really like the old track, now with the several modifications it has lost its unique identity a bit. We are on good form and feel that we will also be strong this weekend. In particular at Silverstone we had a very good strategy and a good race so I’m motivated to get another strong result for the Championship. It’s a circuit in two sections – the first part is quite slow while the second part, the old Assen, is technically more demanding.”
Rossi continues his longest winless streak in the premier class with Ducati. Rossi will race a new generation of the GP11 at Assen. Dubbed the GP11.1 by team PR, the tweaked Desmo features many of the chassis components developed on the 1000cc GP12 chassis. The GP11.1 also includes a new gearbox that utilizes the DST (Ducati Seamless Transmission).
“We’ll try to take advantage of that good feeling and of our experience at this circuit because Thursday morning we’ll debut some updates to my bike that are very promising but also very fresh,” Rossi said. “Filippo [Preziosi], the guys at Ducati and the Test Team have worked really hard, and that has enabled us to make this new step with the development of our bike. We haven’t had the chance to test the 800 since Estoril, so we’ll do it during the race weekends, being aware that despite having very limited time, we’ll have to focus on two jobs: making basic adjustments to the new technical parts, and finding a general setup for the race on Saturday.”
Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Colin Edwards embarks for Assen fresh off his first podium of the season despite recently breaking his collarbone.
Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Colin Edwards is fresh off a stunning podium at Silverstone only eight days after breaking his collarbone. The American now heads to Assen where he’s netted two podiums in the past.
“I am really looking forward to Assen because I love the track,” Edwards said. “It is not the old Assen of a few years back, but there are still plenty of sections of the track that are awesome on a MotoGP bike. It’s fair to say I’ve got some history at Assen. I got a podium in 2005 and 2008, but don’t remind me what happened in 2006.”
In 2006 Edwards was on the verge of winning at Assen before he lost control on the final lap and gifted the win to Nicky Hayden. Even though the Texan went on to finish outside the top-10, Edwards’ ’06 performance at the Dutch GP proves the Texas Tornado is capable of that elusive MotoGP win. Meanwhile Edwards’ teammate, Cal Crutchlow, underwent surgery last week to correct a broken collarbone and has yet to make a decision as to whether he will race in Round 7.
Yamaha’s Ben Spies is another rider who will attempt to overcome setbacks from the previous round. The American DNF’d at Silverstone and dropped down to ninth in the standings. Eager to recoup his losses, Spies embarks for the Netherlands where he finished fourth during his rookie year in 2010. Before that, Spies took pole there in 2009 and won in World Superbike.
“I’ve really been looking forward to coming to Assen again,” said Spies. “It’s a track I love and the Yamaha M1 seems to really work well here. It’s a fast track which I really enjoy, I have so many memories of watching the racing on TV here as a kid, it’s a privilege to race here now. I’m still pretty sore from Silverstone’s crash but I’m not going to let it stop me giving 100% as always and going for the best results possible.”