No rest for Fiat Yamaha Team as title challenge heads to Assen
After a seventh podium in as many races for Valentino Rossi at Donington Park on Sunday, the Fiat Yamaha team take their title challenge straight to Assen this week for the second Grand Prix in just six days. For 78 years the Dutch TT has been held on the final Saturday in June and despite the quick turnaround this year the tradition will be upheld, as the MotoGP World Championship paddock packs up and races against the clock across the North Sea from England to Holland.
It is a demanding but pleasurable trip for Rossi, who travels from one of his favourite and most successful circuits to a legendary venue where he has celebrated victory on six occasions - including four of the last six races there in the premier-class. The Italian arrives at the ninth round of the season in great form, with an 11-point lead in the championship over Dani Pedrosa and having not missed the podium since the opening round of the season in Qatar and not finishing outside the top two since round three in Portugal.
Rossi's rookie Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo has dropped to fourth overall after a stressful run of races but the youngster remains in the championship hunt, 58 points off the summit and with conviction and courage back on his side after a confidence-inspiring ride to sixth place at Donington Park, having started from 17th on the grid. A crash-strewn few weeks are now a distant memory for the youngster, who was back to his best in Great Britain and still has ten rounds left to enjoy and entertain before the end of the season.
One of the most technically and physically demanding circuits on the calendar for the MotoGP riders, Assen has barely a straight piece of tarmac in sight. Handling is a major focal point due to high-speed chicanes and dramatic camber changes - the latter, in some places, resembling the profile of the public roads that the original circuit was based around - features that have traditionally favoured the nimble YZR-M1. Last year Rossi took a comfortable victory by 1.909 seconds over Casey Stoner in one of the highlights of his season after starting 11th, whilst Lorenzo also has a strong record there, having won the 250cc race for the past two seasons to add to a 125cc win in 2004.
Valentino Rossi - Aiming for the top step
"I'm really glad that we're going straight on to Assen, which is another of my favourite circuits. Donington was good and we took important points and extended our championship lead but it was still a bit disappointing not to be able to fight at the front with Stoner and I am happy that I only have to wait a few days to try to turn this around! Last year's race in Assen was magic, the best of the year, and I would like to repeat that victory again this year. Of course this time I would prefer to start from the front row instead of the fourth, even if making all those overtakes last year was great, great fun! I still miss the 'old' Assen but it's still a fantastic track and the atmosphere is very special, plus our M1 usually works very well there so I'm looking forward to another exciting weekend. Once again Donington showed how strong our rivals are, so we can't rest even for a moment and we have to be on our best form from Friday morning if we want to achieve our aim of getting back to the top of the podium."
Jorge Lorenzo - Hoping for some fun
"Thinking about Sunday's race is still giving me a lot of pleasure and it makes me feel much more confident about riding than I felt this time one week ago! I hope, after the good result in the UK, that the bad times of the recent weeks are now just a memory and in fact I won't be thinking about them at all anymore, only about the rest of the season. I had a lot of fun on Sunday, which I wasn't necessarily expecting, and this has helped me to move on and look forward to the next races. Assen is one of my favourite tracks, maybe my best of all. Last year I won there and I hope I can have another good result this year, although I know I still have to take things gently and not take too many risks. I'm really looking forward to riding a MotoGP bike there; I think it will be great fun!"
Davide Brivio - Half-way through
"So now we arrive at the half-way point of the championship in Assen, and I think we can be pleased with our performance so far. We're leading the championship and our motivation is very strong, but there is no time to rest at the moment. Our primary aim is to be on the podium every round and we did this again in Donington, where we took some important points and extended our lead over Pedrosa, but we really want to be fighting for the win and so we will be trying to make up for this in Assen. Our bike has traditionally been very good in Assen, both on the old and the new circuits, and we hope that we will be in the best shape from the start this week."
Daniele Romagnoli - Assen is a temple
"The aim at Donington was to get Jorge's feeling back with the bike and he did that, setting some very good laps towards the end of the race, so whilst there is still no pressure on him to get results I think we have a good chance of success at Assen. For sure he took practice much more carefully at Donington, putting long runs together and avoiding taking risks - especially in the early part of the session when the setting was not perfect. A big part of his job this year is to learn, but unfortunately some lessons are more painful than others! Despite the changes to the track in recent years Assen is still a temple for motorcycle racing and we always look forward to competing there. It is a good track for Jorge's riding style, as we have seen in the past, and it is also good for Yamaha so I think we can be very competitive."