Jorge Lorenzo (99) leads Casey Stoner (1) by 25 points as MotoGP heads to the Assen TT in The Netherlands.
Round 7 of the 2012 MotoGP season takes riders to the Netherlands to pay homage at “The Cathedral” in the Assen TT . The 18-turn, 2.82-mile Dutch circuit has hosted a Grand Prix every year since the motorcycle World Championships started in 1949, and this season sees Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo arrive the points leader. Lorenzo sits 25 points ahead of Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner, as the last two MotoGP champs continue their 2012 title fight.
Lorenzo’s victory at the preceding Silverstone round tied him with Stoner at 42 career Grand Prix wins a piece, though the Spaniard has 14 more premier-class victories to earn before reaching Stoner’s record of 35 MotoGP wins. Lorenzo returns to Assen hoping for a simpler contest than in 2011. The late Marco Simoncelli of San Carlo Honda Gresini took Lorenzo out during the race last year, and the Yamaha rider finished in sixth after remounting and battling through the ranks. In 2010, the year Lorenzo won his first GP championship, he took the win at Assen by more than two seconds ahead of Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa.
“Assen and Brno are the tracks I think I have won at the most,” Lorenzo said. “I feel very strong there and we are very focused this season so I’m confident. We haven’t made so many mistakes and are working well towards the Championship title.”
Lorenzo’s teammate Ben Spies has also fared well at the Dutch circuit, earning his first, and currently only, career MotoGP win there in 2011. The 2012 season has been rife with obstacles for Spies and he currently sits 11th in points with a fifth-place finish at Silverstone marking his best GP showing so far this year. The American rider has come out hot off the start a few times and maintained pace with the lead pack, but has failed to turn these instances into a podium finish. He hopes going back to the venue where he first tasted GP victory might spur him to the top of the timesheet.
“I’m really looking forward to this race. I love riding the Assen track and have always had great results here, especially last year! The place of your first Grand Prix win will always be unique. We’ve had a tough start to the year but have made good steps forward so I’m confident that we can step up and be fighting for the podium this weekend.”
Stoner has needed little help earning podiums, but wins have become more elusive as the season wears on. The Australian rider has been dealing with chatter and grip issues which have kept him from pushing against Lorenzo late in the race. Inclement weather has also been a factor, most notably at LeMans where Stoner and Ducati’s Valentino Rossi faced off in a battle for second on a drenched track. The weather in the Netherlands is often unpredictable, so the Honda rider is hoping for some consistency as he works to dial-in his bike before the Grand Prix on Saturday.
“You spend a lot of the time on the edge of the tire in Assen and unfortunately on our bike at the moment this is a weak point, so we will need to work on Thursday and Friday to improve before we can consider ourselves competitive there. I really hope the weather is good for us, as we need as much track time as possible to work on various issues on the bike.”
Dani Pedrosa has been a regular fixture in the top three, but has been unable to secure a victory yet this season.
Stoner’s teammate, Pedrosa, missed out on the race at Assen in 2011 due to injury, but comes into the round third in overall points this year, having missed just one podium when he came in fourth at Le Mans. Pedrosa echoed Stoner’s sentiments about the need for consistent weather to address bike issues after the previous round at Silverstone, but is looking forward to entering the round in good health at a circuit where he has earned six career podiums, three of which are in the premier class.
Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow has yet to earn a MotoGP podium finish, but after his performance at Silverstone, it seems only a matter of time before the he stands atop the rostrum. The resilient Brit took to his Yamaha moments before the start with a broken ankle in last place, an injury he suffered during practice, after missing out on qualifying and receiving medical clearance just minutes before the race was set to begin. He then charged ahead, setting lap times that contended with Lorenzo’s lead pace, and made it up to sixth place just before the checkers, all in front of his home crowd at Silverstone. His effort, and his teammate Andrea Dovizioso’s unfortunate late race crash at the British GP, put Crutchlow into fourth-place overall.
In last year’s showdown at Assen, it was Crutchlow who came in last whereas Dovizioso took the podium in third. Dovi has one top-three finish to his credit so far in 2012 , third-place at Catalunya, but has been close on a number of other occasions. The Italian is only six points down from Crutchlow in fifth overall and will most likely be near the front at Assen if he can keep his Tech 3 upright to the finish.
Cal Crutchlow was the hero of the day at Silverstone and will be fighting for his first podium of the season at Assen.
Following Dovizioso in points is Rossi, tied at 58 with San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista. Rossi has seven career wins at Assen, and though his performance in the current season with Ducati has been less than extraordinary, he looks forward to returning to a track he cites as one of his favorites.
“Assen is a great track. I like it a lot, and it brings to mind a bunch of nice memories. We’ll try to start off with a good feeling with the track in order to improve our results a bit. For the moment, we can only work on the setup to prepare the bike as we try to return to the level that we had attained prior to Silverstone, which was a very difficult race.”
Rossi’s teammate Nicky Hayden has been a mid-pack prototype rider all season, unable to finish higher than sixth and falling outside the top ten once at Estoril where he placed 11th. Both he and Rossi have been dealing with various mechanical issues which have kept them from maintaining pace through 21 laps, the most recent being an unusually rapid rate of rear-tire degradation. Hayden explained, “If you look at the result of my last race, I can’t say that it was really positive, but we learned a couple of things. One of those is that we need to try to come up with something to be easier on the tire, so we don’t destroy it as quickly. We’ll work on that in the Netherlands and try to get a good result.”
Bautisa and LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl have been somewhat more fortunate than the Ducati riders this season. Bautista had one of his best rounds at Silverstone, taking pole position and finishing just off the podium in fourth-place. Bradl, in his rookie MotoGP season, has finished every round within the top ten so far.
Among CRT riders, Power Electronics Aspar’s Aleix Espargaro leads the way in 12th overall, ahead of teammate Randy de Puniet and Bautista’s Gresini Honda teammate Michele Pirro in 13th and 14th respectively. American rider Colin Edwards of NGM Mobile Forward Racing is near the bottom at 18th overall after missing two rounds due to injury.