NEC: Series Assen preview

Northern European Cup Formula Renault 2.0 starts second half of the season in Assen Only a few weeks ago, the likes of Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa were thrilling the crowds at Assen during the traditional Dutch ...

Northern European Cup Formula Renault 2.0 starts second half of the season in Assen

Only a few weeks ago, the likes of Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa were thrilling the crowds at Assen during the traditional Dutch TT MotoGP-event. Now, the Dutch circuit will be hosting the ninth and tenth season round of the Northern European Cup Formula Renault 2.0. This weekend's "RIZLA+ Racing Day" marks the start of the second half of the 2008 season in the popular single-seater category.

The "RIZLA+ Racing Day", now to be held for the ninth time, is among the most popular motorsport events in The Netherlands. A unique feature: fans will be able to enjoy not only action on four wheels, but also on two wheels: races for the Dutch Superstocks and Supersports motorcycle championships are on the programme, just as the German ATS Formula 3 Cup and the FIA Superkart championship. "In the past years, this event attracted some 40,000 spectators, so for us, it is nice to be part of it as well", says Cara de Vlaming on behalf of the organisation of the NEC Formula Renault 2.0.

After the brief summer break following the last two rounds at Oschersleben, teams and drivers from the NEC are facing a busy schedule, because the next meeting at Zolder in Belgium, supporting the RTL GP Masters of Formula 3, is following only one week after Assen. But now, it is first to Assen, the 4.555 kilometres long circuit located in the north-eastern part of The Netherlands. Mainly known as a venue for motorcycle races, hosting both rounds of the MotoGP and the World Superbike Championship every year, Assen is also a challenging circuit for car races, having even hosted a round of the now-defunct Champ Car series last year.

In the NEC, Valtteri Bottas is coming to Assen as the unofficial "half-time- champion" and as the leader in the points' standings. However, his Motopark Academy team-mates Antonio Felix da Costa and Johan Jokinen are hot on his heels, both having been able to enjoy their maiden race win at Oschersleben. Another Motopark driver, Tobias Hegewald is fourth in the points' standings, but he is only one point ahead of Van Amersfoort Racing's Dutch driver Stef Dusseldorp. Dusseldorp is one of seven Dutch drivers in the field of this year's NEC, all of them particularly eager to do well in front of their home crowd.

Formula Renault action at Assen will start on Friday at 9.00 with a free practice session of 45 minutes, followed by qualifying, as usual in two heats with separate classifications to determine the starting grid for each of the two races, at 14.40 h. The first race will start on Saturday at 15.15 h, the second race will be held on Sunday at 14.25 h. Both races will be run over a duration of 25 minutes each. TV-footage can be watched on the Internet via www.raceworld.tv

Q & A with Stef Dusseldorp (Van Amersfoort Racing), currently fifth and best-placed Dutch driver in the standings of the NEC FR 2.0

You have had some good results already, but haven't won a race yet. Can we expect a win at Assen?

Of course, we will always do our best to win, but I think that it will be very difficult. We have had some good moments, but we are not yet consistent enough to be able to win. One just has to say that the Motopark drivers are very, very strong this year. For us, it is mainly a matter of trying to score as many points as we can get.

What is Assen like from a driver's point of view?

It is a real fast circuit. After the start, there is a small twisty section, but then it is almost flat-out to the back of the circuit and then almost flat-out back again to start and finish. You can lose a lot of time in some of the corners. To be honest, it is not really my type of circuit, I rather prefer old-style circuits such as Zandvoort or Mugello.

After Assen, it is right on to Zolder for the next event. Are these back-to- back events difficult to cope with?

No, not really. We are combining the Italian championship and the NEC, so we have 16 events during the season. Assen and Zolder are not too far away from each other, so that is no problem. It would only be difficult when we would have a lot of damage at Assen, but obviously, that is not what we want!

You are in your second season. Does experience play a role?

In terms of track knowledge, it is certainly an advantage. When we arrive at a circuit, we can start working on the car right away instead of having to learn the track first. But having more experience also means that expectations are higher, people expect better results from you.

Your team-mate Nigel Melker is in his first year. Are you able to pass on something to him?

Yes, I am trying to help him as much as I can, because when he is fast, it is also more useful for me than when he is somewhere at the back.

-credit: necup.com

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About this article
Series Formula Renault
Drivers Valentino Rossi , Valtteri Bottas , Antonio Felix da Costa , Johan Jokinen , Stef Dusseldorp , Nigel Melker