2012 Assen MotoGP | Pre-Race Conference


2012 MotoGP Championship

As the MotoGP grid descended on the historic Dutch circuit for the IVECO TT Assen, World Champion Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda) was joined by Cal Crutchlow (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha), Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team), Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing) and Michele Pirro (San Carlo Gresini CRT) at the press conference on Wednesday marking the seventh round of the MotoGP World Championship, which is the first of three races on successive weekends.

Repsol Honda Team’s Stoner, the Australian who currently lies 25 points behind Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo, is looking to claw back some points on his Spanish rival for his title defense.

Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC213V MotoGP) says: “We’ve had a tough few races, things haven’t gone really to plan and we’ve given it everything we have, but we didn’t really get the results we wanted. In general we can’t really complain, we’ve still be on the podium, we’ve still been getting good points, except for one. It makes things tough for this second part of the season; we just need to pick up our performances a bit and get a bit more comfortable with the bike.”

Heading into the weekend the double world champion is still concerned about his bike’s chatter problems.

Casey Stoner says: “Chatter’s the first and foremost [problem] and as we’ve improved the rear chatter and understanding of what’s causing it, with this new front tire – we felt from the first minute we tested it – it made things a lot worse. Every step Bridgestone are taking is making it a lot more complicated for us. But I suppose it makes the challenge bigger and if we can at least take the fight to the championship towards the end then I think it’ll be a great achievement, because everything seems to be staking up against us at the moment.”

Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow, who bravely contested the last round with a fractured ankle, is currently leading the charge for fourth in the table. After two weeks of rest he is in slightly better shape heading into the Assen race.

Cal Crutchlow (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha YZR-M1 MotoGP) says: “It’s not been too bad, my ankle is coming along good. I went back to the Isle of Man and used the hyperbaric chamber there to get the swelling down. Luckily I didn’t have to have any surgery on it. As you could see in Silverstone it didn’t hinder me too much in the race, but it’s still a bit sore to walk on.”

One talking point over the past weeks has been the pre-Silverstone test the Brit had to pass.

Cal Crutchlow says: “It wasn’t that nice. They made me run the length of this room about four times. Wasn’t really a run, but more of a hobble, and do some foot raises. I think they were right to. The medics at the circuit and the Clinica Mobile did a fantastic job. The main concern was not for me, but the other riders – if I can’t get out of the way on the track if I had a crash or something because I couldn’t run because of my ankle.”

And lastly he quashed any rumors about a possible factory switch: “I’m going to do the best job I can for Monster Yamaha Tech 3.”

Ducati Team’s Nicky Hayden, who has won at the Assen track in the MotoGP class once in 2006 is a big fan of the Dutch circuit.

Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team GP12 MotoGP) says: “Definitely some good memories here. This track has always been one of my favorites. Last year was ok on the Ducati; I got fifth, but obviously 2006 is the one I prefer to remember. It’s not been an easy season but that’s how they go. Every now and then we get a little momentum and feel like we’re getting a few gains, but these guys aren’t sitting still. In Silverstone until the tyre went away, the first five or eight laps, were as quick as I’ve been on the Ducati in a long time and quite enjoyed it. We need the grip, and when it goes away I think we maybe suffer more than others.”

Ducati had announced a radical upgrade for the Laguna Seca round late in July, but the American remained coy on the matter.

Nicky Hayden says: “Maybe we’ll have some more upgrades for Laguna, but definitely I don’t know about new bike, new engine. Laguna’s not really in the plan. Maybe we’ll have some updates when we test in Mugello in the week off, but there won’t be a radically new bike. We need to keep working with what we’ve got.”

Yamaha Factory Racing’s Ben Spies, who has endured a difficult season so far, apart from his fifth place last time out at Silverstone, is looking for three good results to get his season firmly back on track.

Ben Speis (Yamaha Factory Racing YZR-M1 MotoGP) says: “It’s not just been bad luck so far, it’s been a lot of itty bitty things going on, but that’s just the way it goes. You’ve got to remind yourselves of the last ten years you’ve been racing and remind yourself that things don’t always go to plan. The last four to six weeks we’ve been getting a lot more comfortable on the bike and the last race at Silverstone was pretty good. Now we’re back here at one of my favorite tracks.”

When prompted about speculation about his future next season, Spies replied: “That’s racing, that’s normal. As soon as Jorge signed, everybody’s in a big scramble; and that’s how it works. I need to worry about me and the bike and my results. That’s all we can do.”

San Carlo Honda Gresini’s CRT entry Michele Pirro, who has been getting progressively better all season on his FTR-Honda machine, joked at the start: “Sorry for my English, but I’m improving, like my bike. The start of the season was not easy as we only had one test in Jerez. The first two races were difficult, as we didn’t finish due to a problem on the bike. But after the bike improved a lot and my feeling now is not so bad. In the last two races we finished very close to the ART.”

As much as many of the riders will be hoping to break previous records at the historic track, they will be in fact the first people to set track record. Records from previous years are no longer deemed relevant due to changes in the layout of turn 6 – Ruskenhoek. While the total track length wasn’t affected by the change, the now more open turn 6 is a significant enough change to consider the TT Assen a new circuit for time-keeping purposes.

On the day where the premier-class is usually the main talking point, it was in fact the Moto2TM grid that stole a lot of the limelight. Earlier in the day, the FIM International Disciplinary Court (CDI), rejected Pons 40 HP Tuenti’s appeal against the overturned penalty for Marc Márquez in the Catalunya Moto2 race.

The FIM CDI, represented by independent lawyer Mr František Schulmann, conducted a hearing at 2pm local time on the case surrounding the incident during the Moto2TM race at the Gran Premi Aperol de Catalunya, where Pons rider Pol Espargaró crashed out of the race in the final stages after a coming together with Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol’s Márquez.

Shortly after the incident, Race Direction imposed a 60 second penalty on Márquez for riding in an irresponsible manner causing danger to rider Espargaró, sighting an infringement of the article 1.21.2 of the 2012 FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix Regulations. Márquez’s team subsequently lodged an appeal with the FIM Stewards, who did not confirm the decision of Race Direction and cancelled the penalty.

With Márquez taking valuable points from the race and Espargaró none, the Pons 40 HP Tuenti team took the next step and lodged an appeal with the FIM CDI, as it deemed its rider to have incurred a significant disadvantage to Márquez in the championship standings.

Following the appeal hearing at Assen, at which Mr. Schulmann, Espargaró and team manager Sito Pons were present, the FIM CDI decision was that the FIM Stewards ruling remains, and that Márquez will not incur any penalties.

Mr. Schulmann says: “The final decision [appeal by Pons 40 HP Tuenti] has been dismissed as unsubstantiated, because the decision of the FIM Stewards was found legal and correct. There are accusations and indications that his [Márquez’s] behaviour is not always correct, but nevertheless, in this particular case, he was definitely in front of Espargaró. It was [up to] him to chose the line and the other riders that are following must respect it.”