Assen: Series preview

Superbike heads to classic Dutch TT circuit for Round 4 of 14 The classic Dutch TT circuit at Assen plays host to the fourth round of the HANNspree FIM Superbike World Championship this weekend, after a gap of three weeks from the Spanish ...

Superbike heads to classic Dutch TT circuit for Round 4 of 14

The classic Dutch TT circuit at Assen plays host to the fourth round of the HANNspree FIM Superbike World Championship this weekend, after a gap of three weeks from the Spanish Round.

With two second places at Valencia, Troy Bayliss (Ducati Xerox) increased his lead over his closest rivals to 48 points but the Australian is now coming under threat from a number of adversaries, mainly on four-cylinder machines. Regulation-wise, there will be no extra handicap applied to the twin-cylinder 1200s for the next three rounds, as the event average difference between the two types of machines -- twins and fours - has so far proved to be insufficient to warrant a change.

At Valencia the twins appeared to struggle against the fours, despite a Ducati 1-2 and a fortuitous win by Lorenzo Lanzi (RG Team) in race 1, because riders from three different manufacturers, Noriyuki Haga (Yamaha Motor Italia WSB), Carlos Checa (HANNspree Ten Kate Honda) and Max Neukirchner (Alstare Suzuki), were all on top form. The Spaniard and the German however had their infamous last-lap, last-corner clash, which eliminated both riders from the top slots and helped Bayliss to boost his points lead.

Second place in the championship is still in the hands of Spain's Fonsi Nieto, but the Alstare Suzuki rider has not had another result to match his Losail win and is coming under pressure from third and fourth placed men, Troy Corser (Yamaha Motor Italia WSB) and Checa, both equal on 72 points.

The Aussie has been on the podium three times this year already, but Assen is somewhat of a jinx for Corser, who is still looking for his first win there and his first win since Phillip Island in 2006. Meanwhile Checa continues to make his mark in Superbike, his CBR rapidly becoming a front-running machine, and both are competitive enough to take their first win this year at Assen.

Ruben Xaus (Sterilgarda Go Eleven Ducati) and Haga are next up with 68 and 47 points respectively. The Spaniard finished the first four races of the season in the top 4, but suffered a setback at Valencia, while Nitro-Nori looked his usual aggressive self in Spain and his season looks likely to start now.

Sterilgarda Go Eleven Ducati's Max Biaggi, seventh overall, has had another three weeks to recover from his wrist fracture, and this will be even more vital for the demanding, switchback-style Dutch circuit. The Italian is in need of a couple of good results so as not to lose touch with the leaders.

Three youngsters round off the top 10. Now with three wins to his name, the most experienced and successful of the three is Lorenzo Lanzi, two points behind Biaggi and three ahead of Neukirchner, who should be fit to race at Assen. Michel Fabrizio (Ducati Xerox) is in tenth position at this stage of the season, ahead of Gregorio Lavilla (Vent-Axia VK Honda) and Ryuichi Kiyonari (HANNspree Ten Kate Honda), who is improving race by race.

Regis Laconi and Makoto Tamada (Kawasaki PSG-1) showed signs of progress in recent testing at Jerez, where both riders succeeded in eliminating much of the chattering that has plagued their ZX-10R machines.

FIM Supersport World Championship

In Supersport, Catalan rider Joan Lascorz is the new shining light after running away with a comfortable win in front of his home crowd at Valencia. 23-year-old Lascorz was brilliant on his Glaner Motocard.com Honda and once Andrew Pitt (HANNspree Ten Kate Honda) had crashed out, he had it all his own way. Yamaha World Supersport's Broc Parkes and Fabien Foret lie second and third in the table, the Frenchman in particular recovering rapidly from a disappointing start to the season and he and his experienced Aussie team-mate are sure to go well in the Netherlands with their rapid R6 machines. Joshua Brookes (HANNspree Stiggy Motorsport Honda) lost his championship lead at Valencia and slipped down to fourth, ahead of Craig Jones (Parkalgar Honda), who has two podium finishes to his name in the first three races of this season. The HANNspree Honda duo of Pitt and Jonathan Rea, both expected to be pace-setters this year, should go well at the Dutch team's home track, with Pitt trying to add another race win to his tally to take him back to the top of the hotly-contested title battle.

Superstock 1000 FIM Cup

Brendan Roberts on the factory Xerox Ducati 1098 scored a convincing win in the opening round of the Superstock 1000 FIM Cup after fighting off the Cruciani Suzuki of Italy's Davide Giugliano early on. The Australian missed the early part of last season with an injury and was never able to show his true form but now looks to be one of the hot favourites for the title. Belgian Xavier Simeon (Alstare Suzuki), together with Italians Alessandro Polita (Sterilgarda Go Eleven Ducati) and Claudio Corti (Yamaha Motor Italia Junior Team) battled for the final podium place in Valencia and should be up there as well at Assen, while major interest will again surround the KTM RC8, which had a positive debut in Spain in the hands of Rene Maehr and should find the flowing Assen track more to its liking.

European 600 Superstock Championship

Loris Baz won on his debut in the opening round of the European 600 Superstock series for the under-20s on his YZF Yamaha Junior machine, as R6s from the Japanese manufacturer took all the podium places. The 15-year-old French sensation looks to be a star in the making within the ranks of 600 Superstock, but he can expect stiff opposition in the Netherlands from Italian Danilo Petrucci ((Team Trasimeno) and ex-250 GP rider Dan Linfoot from the UK on his Beowulf Racing Yamaha.

The Assen TT Circuit

Located in Assen, Netherlands, a couple of hours drive north of Amsterdam, the Assen TT Circuit is called 'The Cathedral' of motorcycling by fans and has a capacity of 100,000 spectators, including 60,000 seats. The current circuit was built back in 1955 and it remained basically unchanged until a 2006 redesign removed most of the northern loop to make way for a new entertainment complex. The current racetrack has a length of 4.555 kilometres (2.830 miles), with a longest straight of 560 metres (0.348 miles). The track layout makes it very technical and twisty, with little room for rider error, but modifications over the years have helped to make it safer. The curves are banked and the surface offers considerable grip, even in the wet.

-credit: worldsbk.com

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Series World Superbike
Drivers Max Biaggi , Carlos Checa , Troy Bayliss , Andrew Pitt , Noriyuki Haga , Broc Parkes , Gregorio Lavilla , Ruben Xaus , Fonsi Nieto , Troy Corser , Fabien Foret , Craig Jones , Makoto Tamada , Michel Fabrizio , Lorenzo Lanzi , Jonathan Rea , Xavier Simeon , Claudio Corti , Alessandro Polita , Ryuichi Kiyonari , Davide Giugliano , Josh Brookes , Brendan Roberts , Laconi Régis , Joan Lascorz , Danilo Petrucci , Loris Baz , Dan Linfoot , Phillip Island