An unprecedented landmark in the history of the MotoGP World Championship will be reached this weekend as the series heads to the historic circuit of Assen in Holland for the 75th edition of the Dutch TT. The only event that has remained on the calendar since Grand Prix racing began back in 1949 has seen constant changes to what began as a 16km road circuit, keeping it in line with the swiftly changing demands of the world's fastest and most technologically advanced motorcycles.
The most recent updates, including alterations at the De Bult and Ruskenhoek corners and the installation of a revolutionary 'floating' grandstand in front of the start/finish line, have taken another 30 metres off the overall track length, which now stands at 5,997, and helped secure a recent deal between the circuit and Dorna Sports which will see the historic event continue for at least another ten years. More importantly, the modifications will help to secure the safety of the flock of MotoGP riders who will this weekend continue their attempts to put the brakes on reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi, now leading the series by the biggest points advantage after six rounds of a championship since Giacomo Agostini back in the 1960s.
The only man to finish ahead of Rossi so far this season is Alex Barros, who took victory in the second round of the year at Estoril and has also enjoyed previous success at the Dutch TT. Barros took victory there five years ago, as well as finishing second in 1994 and 2002, and is not the only rider looking to repeat history this weekend. Sete Gibernau and Max Biaggi have both enjoyed premier-class victories in the event whilst Marco Melandri, who currently lies second to Rossi by 58 points in the championship standings, took his first ever win at Assen in the 125cc class in 1998 and followed up with 250cc success in 2002.
Toni Elías, who took his first win at Assen in the 125cc race in 2001, will be simply be hoping to compete this weekend after missing the last two rounds through injury. The Spanish rider has benefited from a two-week break since attempting to return at Catalunya as he aims to recover from fractures to his leg and wrist, sustained in a testing crash at Le Mans one month ago.
Elías' former team-mate and Spanish compatriot Dani Pedrosa also took his first ever 125cc win at Assen in 2002 and arrives this weekend looking to extend his advantage at the top of the 250cc World Championship. The reigning World Champion currently has a 27-point cushion over Casey Stoner, who finished third in the 125cc race at this circuit last season after starting from pole position. Meanwhile, Sebastián Porto, who finished runner-up in the championship to Pedrosa in 2004, will be looking to get his season up and running at the scene of his 250cc triumph one year ago. The Argentinean currently lies seventh in the championship, 74 points adrift of the leader, and has scored just one podium this season.
The 125cc race promises to be another unpredictable affair, with Mattia Pasini the only rider to have taken two wins so far this season. The Italian youngster leads the championship for the first time in his career, with an advantage of one and two points over Thomas Lüthi and Mika Kallio respectively, and is the fourth rider to do so this season. However, none of the riders in the class have previously scored victory at Assen and, with just twelve points separating the top five riders, it could be all change again on Saturday evening.
Traditionally held on the last Saturday in June, the time schedule for the sixth round of the season differs slightly to other events, opening with the first free practice for the 125cc class at 8:45am (GMT +2) on Thursday. Saturday's action starts with the BMW PowerCup race at 11:15am, followed by 250cc and MotoGP at the normal times of 12:15pm and 14:00pm respectively. The 125cc race takes place at the revised time of 15:30.
Source: DORNA COMMUNICATIONS