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WEC: Australian riders Assen summary

Nowland and Cudlin third at Assen Australians Warwick Nowland and Damian Cudlin have kicked off the 2006 world endurance title in strong fashion, securing third place in the season-opening event at a revamped Assen layout on April ...

Nowland and Cudlin third at Assen

Australians Warwick Nowland and Damian Cudlin have kicked off the 2006 world endurance title in strong fashion, securing third place in the season-opening event at a revamped Assen layout on April 17.

After starting from grid position five on the Yamaha Phase One Endurance YZF-R1, the duo circulated consistently for the entire 500km race, eventually finishing two laps down on the victorious Suzuki Castrol combination of Vincent Philippe and Japan's Keiichi Kitagawa (GSX-R1000). The podium was completed by Yamaha Austria, with Igor Jerman and Sebastien Scarnato at the helm of the team's YZF-R1.

"I had a couple of little problems during the race, but to finish on the podium gives us a lot of confidence heading into the big 24-hour (Le Mans) next weekend," said Cudlin, who finished fourth at Assen last year. "We changed the bike a little bit in warm up and it wasn't spot on for me, and when the wind picked during the race up it was a little bit unstable."

Meanwhile, reigning world champion Suzuki Castrol enjoyed the perfect weekend, kick-started when its full complement of riders -- Matthieu Lagrive is the third -- went fastest in their individual qualifying sessions.

Lagrive was then set aside for the 110-lap race, leaving Philippe and Kitagawa to deliver Suzuki Castrol's third successive win at Assen -- and Suzuki's fourth in a row after Nowland was successful in 2003.

The duo was a lap ahead by the 250km mark, and could afford to cruise in the closing stages -- but not before Philippe set the fastest lap of the race (1:43.659) on the extensively remodelled circuit in northern Holland.

"It was an easy race for the team," said Philippe. "I made good start, and tried to stay constant during the race. I saw Yamaha Austria had a problem, so I kept a good lap time but not too fast; I was thinking about Le Mans next week. It's been a pleasure to ride at Assen."

Yamaha Austria did manage to keep Castrol Suzuki on its toes in the opening laps, before it was forced to pit early for a new front tyre.

Twenty-eight teams completed the distance, with nine DNFs.

Round two of the 2006 Endurance World Championship will be held at Le Mans this weekend -- the first time the iconic 24-hour event has been on the calendar since 2001.

A third Australian will join Nowland and Cudlin at Le Mans -- Damian's younger brother Alex, who will ride for Kawasaki Diablo 666 on a ZX-10R. Diablo finished eighth at Assen.

-www.ma.org.au

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Series FIM
Drivers Keiichi Kitagawa , Warwick Nowland , Vincent Philippe , Sébastien Scarnato , Damian Cudlin , Igor Jerman