2011 World Superbike: Assen Preview
The TT Circuit Assen, the home of motorcycle racing for the last 78 years and for the FIM Superbike World Championship since 1992, gets ready to host the third round of the 2011 production-based series this weekend.
The circuit, which strange to say is the northernmost leg on the World Superbike trail, acts as a magnet for fans across northern Europe; once again it will attract large numbers of British, German, Scandinavian, Belgian, French and Dutch fans, as well as numerous Italians, all eager to see a continuation of the battle that at the moment sees the domination of Carlos Checa (Ducati Althea Racing), winner of three of the first four rounds of the season.
The Catalan rider has established a perfect feeling with his Italian twin-cylinder machine, and this allows him to lead the table on 91 points, 19 clear of his closest rival, Marco Melandri (Yamaha World Superbike Team).
Carlos Checa won race 1 at Donington and all signs could point to him repeating the feat at the Dutch circuit, where he stepped onto the podium in 2004 and 2005, when he raced in MotoGP, as well as winning in 2002 in 250 GP.
The Yamaha YZF-R1 machine also has a good recent record at Assen, having won the first 2009 race here with Ben Spies on board, but in terms of overall manufacturer wins Ducati leads the way on 23 victories, with Honda next up on 12.
Assen should represent the start of the resurgence of Max Biaggi (Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team) who, at the moment is lying fourth overall, 42 points behind Checa. Last year, in his title-winning season, the Italian’s results at Assen were not entirely satisfactory as he could only finish sixth and fourth. On this track Biaggi has only won once in 500 GP in 2001, while his other two wins came in 250 GP.
Double Dutch Rea
Jonathan Rea (Castrol Honda) scored a fantastic double win last year at what is the Ten Kate Racing team’s home track. The third round of the championship could be an ideal opportunity for the Northern Ireland youngster to improve on his current standing of sixth overall.
Brits In and Out
One notable absentee at Assen will be James Toseland (BMW Motorrad Italia SBK Team), the British former double world champion who twice finished on the podium last year but who is still recovering from a testing injury. But another Brit, BMW Motorrad Motorsport’s Leon Haslam, who twice finished fourth at Donington, and who was on the Assen podium in 2010, will be aiming for more of the same this weekend.
World Superbike Rider Merit
But the true merit of the Assen TT Circuit is that it does allow rider talent to emerge and that was the case of Leon Camier (Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team), a podium finisher last year and at the last round. Other surprises could come from outsiders Jakub Smrz, the Czech Republic rider getting closer and closer to that all-elusive first win, and the still convalescing Frenchman Sylvain Guintoli, both on Effenbert-Liberty Racing Ducatis. All eyes will also be on Noriyuki Haga (Pata Racing Team Aprilia), Assen winner in 2009, as well as the factory Kawasaki team, back at full strength with Britain’s Tom Sykes, Spain’s Joan Lascorz and Australian Chris Vermeulen.
Michel Fabrizio is still struggling to hit the big time on his Suzuki Alstare machine, while the remaining Assen slots go to Ayrton Badovini (BMW Motorrad Italia SBK Team), flanked for this occasion by Dutchman Barry Veneman, the experienced Supersport man coming in for Toseland, Roberto Rolfo (Kawasaki Pedercini), galvanized by Sunday’s opening CIV Superbike round at Misano, and by Maxime Berger on the Supersonic Ducati 1098R.
2011 World Superbike Point Standings (After 2 of 13 Rounds)
1. Carlos Checa Ducati ESP 91
2. Marco Melandri Yamaha ITA 72
3. Leon Haslam BMW GBR 53
4. Max Biaggi Aprilia ITA 49
5. Jakub Smrz Ducati CZE 42
6. Jonathan Rea Honda GBR 38
7. Leon Camier Aprilia GBR 37
8. Michel Fabrizio Suzuki ITA 27
9. Noriyuki Haga Aprilia JPN 26
10. Tom Sykes Kawasaki GBR 19
11. Joan Lascorz Kawasaki ESP 17
12. Eugene Laverty Yamaha GBR 16
13. Troy Corser BMW AUS 16
14. Ruben Xaus Honda ESP 16
15. Ayrton Badovini BMW ITA 12
16. Roberto Rolfo Kawasaki ITA 12
About the Circuit
The TT Assen Circuit, which is situated in the north of the Netherlands, a couple of hours drive from Amsterdam, underwent major renovation work in 1998, with brand-new grandstands being built, and again in 2005, when 1.5 km was knocked off the lap distance. A further adaptation was made to Ruskenhoek in 2010, shortening the circuit’s current distance down to 4.542 km. New grandstands were also built at Haarbocht, Strubben and TT World.