High Hopes The Repsol Honda Team heads to this weekend's Dutch TT at Assen with a spring in its step after the promising results from the test session that followed the last race in Catalunya. With the latest modifications to the RC212V...
The Repsol Honda Team heads to this weekend's Dutch TT at Assen with a spring in its step after the promising results from the test session that followed the last race in Catalunya. With the latest modifications to the RC212V allowing Andrea Dovizioso to set the fastest time of all the MotoGP riders a week ago - significantly quicker than race pace the previous day - hopes are high within the factory Honda squad that both riders will be competing at the front this weekend.
Dovizioso made full use of the modified chassis he tried at the Catalunya test and will be eager to see if the improvements to handling he experienced at the Spanish track will translate to the famous curves of the Assen circuit. The 23-year-old Italian has finished each of the last three races less than a second from the podium and his motivation will be high this weekend. And though he has scored only one podium finish from his previous outings at the Dutch TT - a third place in 2006 in the 250cc class - his determined fight from 11th on the grid to 5th at the finish in the MotoGP race last year proves that Dovizioso has what it takes to master the challenge of Assen.
Dani Pedrosa arrives in the Netherlands having taken some valuable time to rest after his remarkable injury-defying performance at the last race in Catalunya. The tough Spaniard is determined to reignite his championship challenge after a tough few weeks. Depending on the feeling from his injured hip as he prepares to take to the track on Thursday, he will decide with his doctors whether to once again make use of painkilling injections this weekend. Pedrosa took his first ever Grand Prix victory at Assen - at the age of just 16 on a 125cc Honda in 2002. In last year's race he retook the lead of the World Championship by finishing second and, if he is able to ride at full pace this weekend, the 23-year-old triple World Champion is sure to figure at the front of the pack.
The Dutch TT marks the first of four races in just five weekends and launches the Repsol Honda Team into the busiest part of the 2009 MotoGP season. Dovizioso and Pedrosa, who lie fourth and fifth in the World Championship for the factory Honda squad, know that the next few weeks will do much to shape the outcome of their season. As is traditional, the Dutch TT takes place on the last Saturday of June, meaning that the weekend programme begins a day earlier than usual, with first practice starting at 13.55 on Thursday afternoon.
ANDREA DOVIZIOSO -- World championship position: 4th, 69 points
"I've been really looking forward to getting back on the bike since we left Catalunya last week. We had a positive test on the Monday after the Barcelona race and that, combined with the constant improvement we've been making race after race, means I'm very confident. So I'm look forward to getting back in the garage with the team, continuing to work on our machine package and to getting a good result in Assen. I've been really close the podium in the last three rounds and at the same time closing the time gap to the race winner, so I'm determined to get into the top three as soon as possible - hopefully this weekend. Assen is not actually one of my favourite tracks though. Since the layout modifications, the fascination of the circuit has been lost a little, but still I have good memories of last year's race where I finished fifth after qualifying 11th. It's a circuit of two sections - the first part is quite slow while the second part is more technically demanding - and the weather can also play its part in the Netherlands too. But whatever happens, I'm looking forward to another strong weekend for me and the team."
DANI PEDROSA -- World championship position: 5th, 67 points
"Since the race in Barcelona I've basically been resting, trying to give my hip as much chance to improve as possible. Obviously there hasn't been a lot of time - just over one week - but I certainly feel a lot better now than immediately after the last race when I was totally exhausted. I'm feeling positive about the weekend and we'll just have to see how it goes when riding starts on Thursday. My intention would be to ride without receiving any pain-killing injections because gradually they lose their effectiveness and they are not something I want to rely on - we'll see how the feeling is when I start to ride. Assen is a track with good memories for me because I won my first GP here and I've had quite a few podiums here too. The recent changes where they shortened the circuit have removed some of its character but it still requires a lot of commitment to ride it well - especially through the fast direction changes where you need an agile machine set-up. The atmosphere is always special here because it's such a historic place, so I'm looking forward to getting out on track again."