CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD FOLLOWS SOFUOGLU TO ASSEN2007-04-25 18:51
Having been the leading light in this year's championship since the very first round in Qatar, Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR) now approaches the fifth round of the Supersport World Championship looking for win number four. His vast 44 point championship lead and his race statistics of three wins and one second place put him in an enviable position - and this weekend he can count on the additional support of not one but two Supersport World Champions in his team come raceday.
Assen will see recently injured double world champion Sebastien Charpentier (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR) return to the track, while the team's new 'super-sub' Andrew Pitt (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR) is back in Honda colours after an impressive second place finish at the most recent Valencia round, while standing in for Charpentier.
Katsuaki Fujiwara (Althea Honda Team CBR600RR) has bounced back from frequent 2006 season injury to third overall at present, after some strong rides in race and qualifying situations. In the most recent race he was knocked off track while in a good position, recovering to finish only 18th, and deposing him from his previous second place overall.
Lorenzo Alfonsi (Althea Honda Team CBR600RR) lies 18th in the standings, after three points scores out of four races, and will be looking to Assen - where he won a Superstock 1000 race in 2004 - to get back into contention for an overall top ten.
For Sofuoglu, his Ten Kate team's home circuit is well-known to him, as he won the race last season, and he cautiously optimistic about his chances of repeating that success.
"I am still feeling very happy about the results in Valencia and want to thank the team once again for all the hard work that went into achieving the win," said the Turkish star. "I am focusing on the future and I just want to keep getting good, consistent results for the team. This race is important because it is the home race for Ten Kate. I won here last year, so I am confident about the track but I know that anything can happen, so I'm just going to keep my head down and concentrate on bringing in the points."
Fujiwara has been a consistent force this year and is looking to Assen to regain his overall second place, before mounting an assault on Sofuoglu's championship lead from there on.
"I lost a big chance in Valencia because Sebastien was out and Kevin Curtain did not finish," said 'Kats'. "Another rider's mistake has now taken me very far from Kenan in points. But our bike is great, I have a good feeling with the team and my target now is to reduce the gap to Kenan race-by-race."
The 2007 season has been a cruel one for Charpentier so far, but he knows that after early season ups and downs for most of the top runners, anything is still possible.
"I am feeling a lot better and I'll be coming to Assen with a clear mind," said the recovering rider. "I'm determined to be back at the front and I just want to forget the beginning of the season and concentrate on the future. The championship is long and I'm going to give it everything I've got to get back the title."
The presence of the 2001 season champion Pitt in the Hannspree Ten Kate team has already had immediate positive effects, ones which Pitt wants to help improve further still at Assen.
"I am really happy to be riding for Hannspree Ten Kate Honda again," stated the Australian rider. "I had a great time in Valencia and I felt like I worked well with the guys so it's an honour to be asked to ride in Assen. I understand how important this race is for the team so I'm going to come and do my absolute best - let's hope we can go one better than Valencia and see a full Hannspree Ten Kate line-up on the podium."
Alfonsi knows that getting away from the Assen grid cleanly will put him in good shape for the race itself.
"The last two races were complicated for me," said the former Superstock 1000 champion. "In Valencia my race was compromised because of a bad start so I want to start well in Assen. It's a fantastic circuit; I like the corners and the high speeds and I know that with the help of my fast bike I can run a good race. I'm not worried about the set-up, because we are working well with our Öhlins suspension and the technicians. I have confidence for this important round."
World Superbike Round 5 of 13
FOUR WINS FOR TOSELAND KEEP HIM ON TOP AS ASSEN APPROACHES
James Toseland (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) has scored an impressive four wins during his 2007 championship campaign so far and this rich seam of form has ensured that he has led the world championship since the end of the first round in Qatar. He is now 13 points in front of Max Biaggi, 27 ahead of Noriyuki Haga and 50 up on Troy Corser.
The 2004 champion is ready for his team's home race, and given the fact that previous incarnations of the CBR1000RR have won three races at Assen - and Toseland himself has won an SBK race at this venue in 2004 - the Englishman has many reasons to consider the frequently-updated track to be one laden with opportunities.
Roberto Rolfo (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) is particularly keen to get his championship challenge back up to the high levels he has displayed only fleetingly this season, but he is still the second highest placed CBR1000RR rider in the series itself, in ninth place.
Michel Fabrizio (DFX Corse Honda CBR1000RR) will not have the back up of his normal team-mate Steve Martin this weekend, as the team's budgetary constraints have now made their mark. Fabrizio is currently 11th, on the same points as another Honda rider Joshua Brookes (Alto Evolution Honda CBR1000RR).
At the recent Valencia race Brookes had his best weekend in the SBK class since joining the new-for-2007 Alto Evolution team and he currently sits 12th on 32 points. His team-mate Karl Muggeridge (Alto Evolution Honda CBR1000RR) is 16th, having missed out on the start or the finish of five races out of eight so far.
Toseland can count on a doubly strong base of support at Assen. First of all the Dutch fans who will be cheering on all Ten Kate riders, and then the many British fans who make an annual pilgrimage to the classic venue in the van Drenthe region of the Netherlands.
"So far we've won a race at every round so I'm hoping to keep this going at Assen," said Toseland on the eve of race weekend. "It's more or less like a home round for me with all the British fans that come over, and of course it's the home race for the team, so it should be a good one. I'm really looking forward to the racing and hopefully I can keep, and extend, my championship lead."
Rolfo found the previous round a challenge after a very positive race at Donington prior to that, but he knows that Assen should suit his particular riding style.
"Things did not go so well for me in Valencia - the feeling on the bike just wasn't there and I struggled to get on the pace," said the Italian. "I hope to be able to get back on track at Assen because although this is a challenging circuit, I think it will suit my style. We'll see how things go. I am looking forward to racing at the team's home track as there should be a lot of extra support in the crowd - it should be a good weekend."
Fabrizio's season has not yet seen him on the podium, but he knows that there are reasons for this in such a season as 2007. He did, however, score a third place in the wet first race at Assen in 2006, when riding a CBR1000RR for his DFX team.
"I believe that the World Championship in 2007 is the most difficult ever for a private team," said Fabrizio. "We are working hard with the motorcycle and I am sure we can demonstrate that, starting from next race in Assen. Obviously I am not happy at the moment but I will fight to replay the same result of last year."
Brookes has experience of Assen in its current format, and will be relying on that help in his campaign this weekend.
"I've been to Assen before," said Brookes, "and we know the weather will play a big part for everyone. We all want to be winners but we just need to continue making the little steps we have been making. Hopefully we can continue to improve in the next race, but every new track opens up new opportunities and difficulties."
Muggeridge was a great fan of the Assen circuit of old, but knows that even if he favours the current layout less, it is an opportunity for him to recover from some recent bad luck.
"It's not really Assen any more," said a wistful Muggeridge. "Parts of old track are still there but not much. I think we have a pretty good chance there next weekend and the team has strengthened our backroom personnel still further. That's good but it may take a little bit of time to get going together. The bike seems pretty good now. I think we have good potential in our team and it's just a case of getting the maximum out of things from now on."
After the Assen weekend is completed, first of three Italian rounds in the 2007 season takes place at another historic circuit, Monza, between 11 and 13 May.
Source: Honda Motor Company, Ltd
Click here to visit our forums to discuss this story
Tweets by @bikeland_org