Traditional Saturday date for MotoGP's Dutch visit2008-06-23 08:17
Riding two races in less than seven days, the fastest turnaround on the MotoGP World Championship calendar takes place on June 28th. The A-Style TT Assen is the scene of the series´ ninth round, and this year marks the Netherlands' 60th consecutive season holding a Grand Prix event, as always on the last Saturday of the month.
Whilst MotoGP may be 'going Dutch' for the halfway point of the 2008 season, thoughts of sharing the points are not on any rider's mind. Valentino Rossi currently holds the advantage in the premier class with 162 points, a mere eleven more than nearest rival Dani Pedrosa. Both have seven podiums to their name thus far this year, most recently sharing the rostrum at Donington Park.
Rossi holds four premier class wins at Assen, and a further pair of podiums. The Fiat Yamaha rider emerged victorious from a thrilling race at the 'Cathedral of Motorcycle Racing' last year, and his only bad memory of the Dutch track is that of the 2006 race, at which he experienced a nasty practice crash that left him contemplating withdrawal from the Saturday activities.
Persistent rival Pedrosa has a record of a third and a fourth place from his pair of MotoGP visits to Assen, and can be expected as ever to challenge for the victory this time around. The Spaniard is expected to continue using the standard spring valve version of the Repsol Honda RC212V engine on Saturday, despite teammate Nicky Hayden's having given a pneumatic valve version a full rider debut in round eight.
Second at last year's TT and the winner of the bwin.com British Grand Prix yesterday, Casey Stoner's title challenge has picked up speed over recent weeks. The reigning World Champion was unstoppable at Donington Park, although whether he can pull the same breakaway trick on the likes of Rossi and Pedrosa at Assen will be the source of much anticipation in the run-up to raceday.
Having missed the Catalunya round of the series with a concussion, Jorge Lorenzo returned to action in Britain looking to regain confidence. Sixth place from a lowly grid spot did much to elevate the Fiat Yamaha man´s spirits, and he now aims to complete a 'holy trinity' of race victories in the Netherlands after wins in 125cc and the past two 250cc duels there.
Colin Edwards' fortunes at Assen have been nothing if not varied; in his previous visits he has crashed out whilst a corner away from victory, finished in the top six and been set on fire. With a record like that, who could begrudge a victory for the 'Texas Tornado' this weekend?
Andrea Dovizioso completes the premier class top six, ahead of 2006 Assen racewinner Nicky Hayden. The American's victory is his only triumph outside of his homeland to date.
Rizla Suzuki will have Ben Spies on standby for the race after his debut and first MotoGP points at Donington Park, depending on the condition of injured regular rider Loris Capirossi. It also remains to be seen if Alice Team's Toni Elias will participate in the race itself; in his three seasons in MotoGP, various injuries have always ruled him out of action before Saturday afternoon.
Mika Kallio heads the 250cc standings after his third victory of the 2008 season at Donington, extending the gap between himself and Metis Gilera's Marco Simoncelli to eight points. Both were involved in the dramatic end to the last race, as Red Bull KTM's Finnish star took advantage of Simoncelli's misjudged overtaking move on Alvaro Bautista to snatch an unlikely win.
Simoncelli quickly apologised for his actions on Sunday, and it seems likely that any rider looking for a podium finish in Assen will have to cross his path. He is currently on a four-race run of rostrum placings.
Alex Debon moved up to third place with a seventh place in Britain, elevating him above Mattia Pasini as the Italian crashed out early on. Hector Barbera and Hiroshi Aoyama both badly need a win to make up ground on the rest of the top six. Pre-season favourite Bautista sits just behind them in the standings.
The 125cc class is led by Ajo Motorsport's Mike di Meglio, who took an impressive podium from 20th on the grid last time out. The Frenchman has been a revelation in 2008, proving his ability in both the wet and the dry conditions. He holds a 23-point advantage over Simone Corsi.
A further 32 points back, Stefan Bradl currently lies in third place, as the competitiveness of the class means that consistency pays dividends. Nico Terol, Pol Espargaro and Joan Olive complete the top six, ahead of World Champion Gabor Talmacsi as the title holder feels the pinch of some cruel misfortune.
Espargaro will be examined in Barcelona to assess if he will be able to race,having suffered a broken collarbone less than a week before the A-Style TT Assen and missing out in Britain.
The winner of the eighth round - the youngest ever victor in Grand Prix history - is Blusens Aprilia's Scott Redding, currently in ninth place in the championship.
Modifications to the Assen circuit over the winter of 2005/6 saw the length of what was the championship's longest serving track cut from over 6km down to 4.555km/2.83miles, with the majority of the Northern Loop section giving way to new parking and viewing areas although the banked Strubben corner remains in situ.
The Circuit van Drenthe is the only venue to have held a round of the Motorcycle World Championship every year since its creation in 1949. The circuit was purpose built for the Dutch TT in 1954, with previous events having been held on public roads. The track is narrow, with rapid changes in direction, and is fully surrounded by grass banks and grandstands, providing excellent viewing for the hundreds of thousands of fanatical spectators who are drawn to the most prestigious event in Dutch motorsport every year. A huge favourite with riders, Assen is well known for its festive and extravagant atmosphere.
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