Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner take their '12 title fight to Assen but might '11 winner Ben Spies have something for them this weekend?
The MotoGP World Championship kicks off its European busy-season at the Iveco TT Assen race this Saturday, as the grid prepares for three weekends of action-packed racing in a row. Riders across all classes will look to collect as many points as possible in the coming weeks, to put themselves in the strongest possible position for the second half of the season. Assen, which is a circuit that is generally very popular among riders, is the only venue that has hosted a Grand Prix event every year since the motorcycle World Championship Grand Prix series started back in 1949.
Yamaha Factory Racing’s championship leader Jorge Lorenzo will have mixed memories from the Assen circuit, as last year he was taken out by the late Marco Simoncelli on board his San Carlo Honda Gresini bike. Lorenzo did however manage to remount, and charge his way up into sixth. This year, the Spaniard, who holds a 25-point lead in the championship, will be looking for a less eventful race to cement his place at the top of the standings. His win in Silverstone last time out put him equal with Repsol Honda Team’s Casey Stoner on 50 wins a piece in their Grand Prix careers.
Stoner, who struggled with tire issues in Silverstone, will be hoping that his team can help in dial in the chatter that has plagued him all season, to claw back some points on his rival. His teammate Dani Pedrosa, now only 14 points behind the Australian, missed last year’s round due to injury, but looked strong in Silverstone, and will no doubt be looking to put himself in contention for a title shot.
Arguably the greatest talking point at present is Cal Crutchlow’s phenomenal effort at his home round, where he fought from the back of the grid with a fractured ankle to take sixth. Whilst still suffering from the injury, the Brit has shown it hasn’t slowed him down, and he will be looking to extend his lead in the tight battle for fourth place. He will be challenged by teammate Andrea Dovizioso, who will look to make amends for his crash at the previous race.
Ducati Team pair Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden will both aim to bounce back after a less than ideal race in the UK. Whilst Hayden showed outright pace, he will hope that his tires can last the distance at Assen, while Rossi admitted that he struggled with the circuit. He has however confessed to being a big fan of the Dutch track and is hoping to regain some of the form that showed promise for the Italian outfit in Catalunya.
San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista will aim to continue his good run this season, which saw him take pole position at the last race and finish an equal premier-class best in fourth. LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl, who suffered a finger injury at the last race will be taking to the Assen circuit in a little less discomfort this time and will look to take another forward step in his Rookie season.
Lorenzo’s teammate, Ben Spies, who currently lies 11th in the championship standings, had his best race weekend all season on the UK, and will undoubtedly be trying to rekindle some of the magic he found at Assen last year, where he took his first MotoGP victory. Pramac Racing Team’s Héctor Barberá heads to the race after suffering tire issues at Silverstone, whilst Cardion AB Racing’s Karel Abraham should be declared race-fit after missing the UK round with multiple breaks in his fingers.
The CRT line up is still headed by Power Electronics Pair Aleix Espargaró and Randy de Puniet, with Bautista’s teammate Michele Pirro, Paul Bird Motorsport’s James Ellison and Speed Master’s Mattia Pasini in tow. NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards will be hoping to find some of his early season pace, while Came IodaRacing Project’s Danilo Petrucci, and Avintia Blusens’ Yonny Hernández and Iván Silva will be looking to challenge the top CRTs.