First on track at the "Cathedral"
For the first time in its young history, the BMW Motorrad BoxerCup 2002 heads for the mythic Assen racetrack, where the fourth round of the eight-race series will be held alongside the MotoGP championship. Usually scheduled on the day before the Grand Prix races, the BMW BoxerCup will on this occasion initiate the Dutch TT racing weekend. After a dramatic last round where both provisional leaders Markus Barth and Roberto Panichi failed to score any points, Barcelona's winner Thomas Hinterreiter leads the pack with a 12-point advantage over defending champion Stéphane Mertens.
Mertens (n°1) leading Panichi and Mamola (n°2) on his way to second position in Barcelona.
The Dutch TT marks the biggest sporting event of the year in Holland, with around 120,000 fans expected to pack the TT Circuit in Assen on Saturday. All grandstand seats have already been sold for this the seventh round of the MotoGP World Championship as the North European fans flock to the revised 3.745 mile circuit.
Because of the World Cup third place play-off, all three Championship races will start one and a half hours later on Saturday, while the BMW Motorrad BoxerCup 2002 will open the ball at 11:40.
Austria's Thomas Hinterreiter currently leads the BoxerCup after three rounds.
After finishing fifth and third in the two opening rounds, series newcomer Thomas Hinterreiter secured a fine win in Barcelona a fortnight ago, while the two provisional leaders crashed out of the race, presumably because of a wrong tyre choice on the baking hot Spanish surface.
Although track temperatures should not reach such a high in the Netherlands, tyres will definitely be another important issue in Assen, with Metzeler providing a wide range of compounds, both front and rear, which seem to blend perfectly with the BMW R 1100 S chassis characteristics. Although a majority of the riders look forward to racing in dry conditions, rain showers occur more often than not in Holland, providing an opportunity to test the new Metzeler rain tyre.
Whether wet or dry, all BoxerCup riders are ready to encounter the very demanding Assen racetrack, the oldest and fastest of Grand Prix venues and also the only surviving circuit from the first year of the Road Racing World Championship, back in 1949. With its fast sweeping corners often interconnected and sometimes off camber, Assen is simply unique and requires something extra from the riders. Track knowledge is therefore crucial, giving maybe an advantage to ex-250cc Grand Prix rider Stéphane Mertens. VIP stars Jorge "Aspar" Martinez, Peter Öttl and Jürgen Fuchs should also entertain the eager Dutch fans around "The Cathedral".