Assen: Ducati Fila preview

Assen (Netherlands), Thursday 4 September : Britain's Neil Hodgson (Ducati Fila), father of newly-born Holly Jean, will be facing up to the most crucial race of his career this weekend at Assen, Netherlands as he attempts to clinch the 2003 World...

Assen (Netherlands), Thursday 4 September : Britain's Neil Hodgson (Ducati Fila), father of newly-born Holly Jean, will be facing up to the most crucial race of his career this weekend at Assen, Netherlands as he attempts to clinch the 2003 World Superbike championship crown. After clinching its twelfth Manufacturers' title at Brands Hatch, Ducati Corse is now ready to face another important chapter in its history this weekend.

The 29 year-old Isle of Man resident has led the points table since Valencia's opening round in March and 11 wins and 5 seconds have powered him to an almost unassailable 140 points lead over his closest rival, Ducati Fila team-mate Ruben Xaus, which he should be able to turn into championship gold at the Dutch circuit on Sunday.

"I feel really awesome and my batteries are totally recharged after Brands Hatch" says Neil. "Going all out for the win is the plan but if that doesn't work and I get eleven points for fifth place then I'll say that was my strategy all along!. Assen is a fast track and carries a lot of corner speed so good upper body strength is needed as you have to wrestle the bike around the circuit. The middle part, which is called a straight but is anything but, is the most difficult part. It's flat-out but difficult to move the bike around as it's very physical. The weather is always a bit of a mixed bag with rain showers and sun all the time but despite that the track is still pretty 'grippy'. My form is average but that actually seems to be a good omen. My best position was fourth last year but I was on for a third before Haga ran into me".

Ruben Xaus, who has shown some terrific form recently, currently lies second in the table on 246 points on the second Fila-sponsored Ducati 999. "I feel relaxed and hoping to have better luck than in the last round and try and show I'm on top form in the coming races" commented Ruben. "Brands Hatch performance was also good, but I had some bad luck in both races. Assen is one of my favourite tracks, the bike seems to be good here, the tyres too, so we're going to try and get some good results here. At Assen you need to find a good set-up, but you need to do it slowly and carefully because it's a long track and it takes a long time to get your lap times down. If the weather holds up, you will see the good lap times by second practice on Saturday afternoon".

CIRCUIT: The legendary Circuit Van Drenthe is 2 km away from Assen and just over 100 km north-east of Amsterdam. The first Dutch TT was held in 1925 and racing has continued ever since at the 'cathedral' apart from breaks for the two world wars. The 6.027 km track is very fast with a succession of flowing corners but grip levels are high even when it rains and at Assen it rains often! Average lap speeds are also high around the TT Circuit, which can accommodate up to 160,000 spectators.

POINTS (after 9 of 12 rounds): Riders - 1. Hodgson 386; 2. Xaus 246; 3. Toseland 227; 4. Laconi 208; 5. Lavilla 185; 6. Walker 172. Manufacturers - 1. Ducati 450 (2003 champions); 2. Suzuki 235; 3. Kawasaki 84; 4. Petronas 75; 5. Yamaha 50; 6. Honda 25.

TV COVERAGE: Eurosport - Sunday 7 September, 2315 Race 1 & 2 (highlights), Eurosport News, 1200 Race 1 (live), 1530 Race 2 (live). RAI TV (Italy) - Saturday 6 September, 1730 Superpole (delayed), Monday 8 September, 0120 Race 1 & 2 (highlights).

-www.ducati.com/racing-

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About this article
Series World Superbike
Drivers Neil Hodgson , Ruben Xaus