Yamaha riders race for points and prizes at Assen The fourth round of the 2008 World Superbike Championship takes place at Assen on Sunday and for the second year in succession this popular race meeting occupies an early season position on the...
Yamaha riders race for points and prizes at Assen
The fourth round of the 2008 World Superbike Championship takes place at Assen on Sunday and for the second year in succession this popular race meeting occupies an early season position on the calendar.
The legendary Circuit van Drenthe has been much revised over its long lifespan and the last reduction in its overall length took place in 2006, forming what is now a 4.555km ribbon of asphalt. It still features many unique aspects in its design and layout, including a few trademark positive cambers in some of its untouched corners. The track is now, however, much more like a purpose-built venue than the open road circuit it once was, even if the recent work was entirely necessary to provide much-needed space for spectators and parking areas After a podium for Troy Corser, and then a stunning win for Noriyuki Haga in race two at the previous round in Valencia the Yamaha Motor Italia WSB Team is determined to secure even more points and podiums, to help Corser move on from fourth in the championship and get Haga back on the same points level as his main championship rivals. Having weathered some early season issues Haga was back to his old best in the second race in Spain, and to add to his pre-race confidence this weekend he already has experience of standing on the top step of the podium at Assen, after winning race two there in the 2000 season.
Both Corser and Haga can be lifted further by the fact that four-cylinder power in general has had great recent success at Assen, with 1000cc fours of some kind winning five of the last seven individual legs.
The entire team arrives in Assen fresh from a test at another high-speed circuit, Monza, although weather conditions in Italy were so wet that little real high-speed testing could be done.
Haga said, in the run-up to the Assen meeting, "At the previous race in Valencia we changed our machine settings on Saturday night and I got a lot better feel for the bike. Even though I fell in race one we got our first win of the 2008 season right after, and that has given me real confidence to take to Assen. We always try to win the races and Assen will be no exception. Last year we were second in race one and then retired from race two so we would like to get two strong results this year. Anyway, I like Assen and I will try my best to win the races."
Corser, who has never quite won a race at Assen, said "It was a pity that we lost so much testing time at Monza because of the rain but Assen is a different kind of track from most anyway. The circuit is not the same as it was in the past but I feel we can go there with confidence. We are learning more all the time because it's our second year with the bike."
Technically speaking - Assen according to Dave Marton (Crew chief Troy Corser)
"Although the tracks are very different in some ways, I think we will arrive in Assen with settings close to those we ran at Valencia in the last round. We will also look at the race setting from Assen last year, and see what the differences are in what we intend to run this year. The easiest way to do that is to change the settings in one bike to the specification of Assen 2007, then have the other one pretty close to the base setting we run at the moment. In general, the chassis setting of the bike should be more like the one we had for testing in Monza than the one we had at the races in Valencia.
The track has changed a lot over the years and the previously flowing early section is now basically just a slow double right, but from them you have a curving back 'straight' which is fast and flowing and there are still a few fast corners. On the last sector the pace is pretty fast and the riders would use different lines around there. The first sector is pretty much one-line.
We have the same bikes as last year, but they have had a lot of development and updates, specifically using the variable air intakes of the road model. In terms of the basic chassis geometry, rake, trail, and so on we are using the same basic settings as last year, there has not been the same degree of change in that area.
Because of the low altitude of the Assen track and the cool weather conditions we expect to have on race weekend, the engine response will be sharp. That means we will need to work really well on the engine mapping and have a good traction control set-up. Both our guys like Assen, and we know from previous experience that they can go fast there on this bike, so we're hopeful."
Valencia saw the Yamaha World Supersport Team move onwards and upwards in the championship fight, with Broc Parkes now second in the championship and Fabien Foret leading a group of riders in third place. A recent test at Assen has already provided the team technicians and the riders with some valuable information, which should speed up the task of setting up the all-new Yamaha YZF-R6 machine come race weekend.
Parkes approaches Assen with a characteristic positive attitude, especially after the completion of a strong two-day test at the Dutch track last week. "We had a very good test, and because we had the time we went back through a few things and found a better direction to go in. It was quite cold so we could not test the tyres in ideal conditions, but the ones we had at the test are the ones we will be using in the race. They say it will warm up a bit as the weekend goes on, which will be good news if it happens that way. I like the Assen track even if it's definitely not as much fun as it used to be. There are still interesting places around it. You can even hear the crowd cheering in some parts and with four new grandstands in the first section that should be even more noticeable."
After his recent test Foret stated: "I was not so happy after the first day of our test but on day two we tried a few more radical things than we have had the chance to so far; you can't do things like that on a race weekend. I found something very interesting for the chassis set-up, something to try and give me a better feeling with the front and give the tyres an easier time. I was not super-fast because it was cold and I was not taking too many risks. But I look forward to trying out this new set-up on Friday. I'm pretty confident really, and we should be OK. Assen is not my favourite track but I can still go well there."
Davide De Gea from the Yamaha Spain World Supersport team will once more be unable to line up alongside his fellow team regular Davide Salom after taking medical advice not to ride at the Assen event. His leg injuries are still not healed enough for him to try and race, and he will be substituted by experienced former 125 GP rider Angel Rodriguez who finished eight during the Valencia round
Assen will be the second round of the FIM Superstock 1000 Championship this year and will provide Claudio Corti (Yamaha Motor Italia Junior Team) with the chance to repeat his 2006 season win at Assen. His fellow official Yamaha riders Michele Pirro and Sylvain Barrier, will be out to score their first wins of the year in this highly competitive class.
In the Superstock 600 European Championship the near stock 2008 Yamaha YZF-R6 has already notched up its first success at the very first attempt, when 15-year-old French rider Loris Baz won at Valencia, being the youngest rider ever to win a Superstock 600 race and one of three Yamaha riders on the podium. Riding for the YZF Yamaha Junior Team, Baz was a clear winner and will look for his second win in a row at Assen.
Track length: 4555m
Track opened: 1955
2007 winner: James Toseland (Honda), Troy Bayliss (Ducati)
2007 fastest lap: 1'39.770 (Noriyuki Haga - Yamaha)
WSB best lap: 1'38.603 (James Toseland - Honda)