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Preview Dutch Grandprix, Assen, The Netherlands
Posted by: newsla on Jun 25, 2014 - 06:22 AM
Preview Dutch Grandprix, Assen, The Netherlands

Honda leads the way to the classic Dutch TT at Assen on Saturday, with Repsol Honda RC213V rider Marc Marquez aiming for his eighth straight win in eight races, and a further extension to his ever-growing championship lead.


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Already the youngest-ever premier-class World Champion after his maiden victory last year, the former 125cc and Moto2 title-holder has been in dominant form on the class-leading 1000cc V4 Honda RC213V prototype over the first third of the season, winning every race, from pole position. Two weeks ago at Catalunya he missed out on pole, but still added a seventh victory, under severe pressure from his three main rivals.

The strongest push came from his team-mate Dani Pedrosa, attacking so fiercely in a last-lap showdown that he actually touched Marquez’s back wheel and was forced to run wide – ceding second place to Valentino Rossi (Yamaha). The pair are closely engaged also for second place in the championship standings. Rossi’s team-mate Jorge Lorenzo eventually fell out of touch, finishing fourth.

Marquez’s win was a landmark for Honda’s series of V5 and V4 RCV MotoGP machines – the 100th victory since the four-stroke series began in 2002. The nearest rival is Yamaha, with 79 wins.

The 21-year-old from Cervera, Spain has a strong record at Assen: winning in 2011 and 2012 in the Moto2 class, as well as in 2010 on a 125. Last year he qualified and finished second, in spite of foot and finger fractures sustained in a practice crash.

Team-mate Pedrosa has an equivalent record at the iconic circuit. The 28-year-old from near Barcelona scored his first-ever GP win at Assen, on a 125 Honda in 2002, the year before winning the title in the class. He has finished on the podium four out of eight times in the MotoGP class, but his best hope of victory was dashed in 2012. Qualified on pole, he fell innocent victim of another rider’s mistake to crash on the first lap. Last year he finished fourth.

The veteran factory Honda rider was on the podium for the first four races of this season, twice second and twice third; but his campaign suffered a set-back with the recurrence of arm-pump, requiring corrective surgery. He was fully recovered and back to fine fighting form with third at Catalunya.

Two satellite teams also campaign the RCV213V machine, with German former Moto2 champion Stefan Bradl currently ahead. Riding the LCR Honda RC213V, Bradl has led on track this year, but has yet to finish on the podium, lying eighth overall with a fourth and a fifth boosting his points tally.

GO&FUN Gresini Honda RC213V rider Alvaro Bautista claimed a top three in France, but early season crashes dented his points score, and he currently lies 11th. Spaniard Bautista is a former Assen winner, in the 250cc class in 2008. He and team-mate Scott Redding have an extra role: race-testing Nissin brakes and Showa suspension, made by Japanese companies with strong links to Honda.

Redding, last year’s Moto2 runner-up, is one of four riders campaigning Honda’s new for-sale production-racer MotoGP bike. The RCV1000R is a close replica of the factory bike. The British youngest-ever GP winner has claimed the best finish for the machine, built for the new Open category, with seventh at the opening round.

A veteran Honda rider and 2006 Assen winner Nicky Hayden (Drive M7 Aspar Honda RCV1000R) is three points ahead of Redding overall, however, in spite of failing to score when he was knocked off on the first lap at Le Mans, exacerbating a troublesome right wrist injury, then again in Italy, where wrist weakness forced an early withdrawal. The popular American 2006 World Champion underwent corrective surgery and returned for a fighting four points in Catalunya.

Hayden’s Drive M7 Aspar Honda RCV1000R team-mate Hiro Aoyama is another former Assen winner, taking the top step in the 250cc class in 2009, when he claimed the last-ever two-stroke World Championship in the class for Honda. Returning to the marque this season in Grand Prix racing, the Japanese star is just one point shy of Redding after finishing in the points in every race so far.

The fourth production-racer Honda is ridden by Czech law graduate Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing Honda RCV1000R), whose run of improving form as he recovers from major shoulder surgery was interrupted by a race crash in Catalunya. He is eager to make amends at Assen.

In Moto2, all 34 competitors are powered by Honda … teams are supplied with race-tuned Honda CBR600 engines by the series organisers, to guarantee close competition and reliable racing.

So far this season, Spanish rider Tito Rabat (Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex) has emerged strongest, with four wins from seven races, and off the rostrum only once, when he was fourth at Jerez. All his wins came from pole position, and he was second in Texas after another pole start.

His strength has given him an impressive 34-point lead overall; his nearest rival is Marc VDS Racing Team team-mate Mika Kallio, who has won twice this year.

An influx of fast rookies up from Moto3 has enlivened the racing, with one of them – Moto3 champion Maverick Vinales (Paginas Amarillas HP 40 Kalex) – lying third overall after claiming a first win at only his second attempt.

Experienced Swiss campaigner Dominique Aegerter (Technomag carXpert Suter) is fourth, after a lucky escape in Catalunya, when his bike was struck on the windscreen by an airborne machine of another crashing competitor. Aegerter had been with the lead group, but recovered to score two points.

Fellow rookies Luis Salom (Paginas Amarillas HP 40 Kalex- sixth overall) and Jonas Folger (AGR Team Kalex - eighth) have shown strongly, battling against relative veterans Simone Corsi (NGM Forward Racing Kalex – fifth); former 125 champion Thomas Luthi (Interwetten Paddock Suter – seventh) and Johann Zarco (AirAsia Caterham Caterham-Suter – ninth) in a lively top-ten contest. GP first-timer and reigning Supersport 600 champion Sam Lowes (Speed Up Speed Up) is an impressive tenth.

The closest racing of all is in the smallest class, where rival factories using strictly controlled single-cylinder 250cc engines are locked in combat. Honda’s 2014 contender, the NSF250RW, has taken a leading role, and claimed its first win at the previous round in Catalunya. Marc’s younger brother Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda) took a rare runaway win in a class where victory is more often measured in inches.

Six Hondas are up against machines from KTM and Mahindra, and Honda’s top scorer is Efren Vazquez (SaxoPrint-RTG Honda), a close third overall in spite of an out-of-character 12th in Italy. Penalised for jumping the start with a ride-through penalty, the Spaniard stormed through the field after rejoining last to claim his hard earned four points at the finish in a lap-record performance. He came back with another close fourth in Catalunya.

Second Estrella Galicia 0,0 rider Alex Rins lies fourth, two points ahead of his team-mate Marquez, hampered by retirement after a mechanic’s error at the last round in Catalunya.

French veteran Alexis Masbou (Ongetta Rivacold Honda) is seventh after several strong top-ten results including two sixth places. Scots teenager John McPhee (SaxoPrint-RTG Honda) – in his second Moto3 season – has impressed by running with the leaders increasingly often, and claiming the lap record at Catalunya. He is 13th; while Honda newcomer Zulfahmi Khairuddin (AirAsia Rivacold Honda) is 20th, starting to build his score with two successive 11th places in France and Italy.

Assen was first used for motorcycle racing in 1925, over a long public-roads circuit. Over the years the length has been cut in several stages, although when the Dutch TT took its place as the third of six rounds of the inaugural World Championship in 1949, it was still 16.536 km (10.275 miles) in length.

In 2006 came a radical revamp to the present fully closed circuit of 4.542 km (2.822 miles). The first part comprises a series of tight corners under new grandstands in the style of a modern stadium-circuit, but the second part of the lap is faithful to the characterful old track, which, in some measure, helps the circuit retain its long-standing racing nickname, “The Cathedral”.

Uniquely among 2014 GPs, the Dutch TT at Assen has been on the calendar every year since 1949. Fiercely defended local tradition means it also the only Saturday race on the calendar.

Motogp Honda Rider Quotes

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda says:
“We are still enjoying a really good momentum but we know it can’t go on forever! I really like Assen and have had some good results in the lower categories, and last year we took second in my first visit there on the MotoGP machine. The weather is always unpredictable there so we will, as always, work hard from the first session to find a good setup.”

Dani: Pedrosa, Repsol Honda says:
“It was good to be back at the front and fighting in Catalunya! I’m looking forward to going to Assen and hope I’m one step fitter again as last year I didn’t really have a good race, so I hope to improve. The weather is usually tricky so you must make the most of any dry track time. I like the track but it’s important to find a good setting and feeling with the tyres as there are a few very fast corners.”

Stefan Bradl, LCR Honda MotoGP says:
“I arrive in Assen pretty positive after the good weekend in Barcelona. The fifth place there gave us more confidence for the future. Assen is an iconic venue of this sport and it’s always a unique feeling racing there. It’s not one of my favourite race tracks but last year I qualified on the front row ending the race in sixth. As I said in Catalunya the top five is our target and with the current bike set-up we can target another good result. The only question mark might be the weather.”

Alvaro Bautista, GO&FUN Honda Gresini says:
“During Barcelona qualifying I had a big crash, but fortunately nothing is broken, so I will be fully fit for Assen race weekend. This circuit has several fast corners, like at Mugello and Catalunya: at the moment we are struggling with this kind of corner, so we need to improve in this area. Anyway, during the post-race test in Spain we found some improvements with regard to the brakes and hopefully we will use the new parts already in Assen. Unfortunately I was still sore from the fall, so I couldn’t do a lot of work on the bike set-up, but we remain confident: if we stay focused during the practice, looking for a good compromise for the fast corners, we can achieve a good result.”

Nicky Hayden, Drive M7 Aspar Honda says:
“We had a tough weekend at Catalunya but we still managed to have a good race. Hopefully this weekend at Assen is less of struggle – I like the circuit a lot and I have a lot of good memories after some good results in the past. I am looking forward to getting there and seeing how I feel: hopefully I will be stronger than last time. I am sure that the team will continue to work hard and the chemistry between us will continue to build as it has been doing all year. On paper we should be more competitive at Assen than we were in Barcelona because the straights are shorter and the layout should suit our bike. The weather is always changeable in Holland but I am looking forward to getting there and riding and hopefully challenging for a better result than Barcelona.”

Hiroshi Aoyama, Drive M7 Aspar Honda says:
“The last race in Catalunya wasn’t an easy one for us because we had a technical problem. Fortunately we were able to make it to the finish and score points but the result wasn’t what I had hoped for. I am sure we will have better luck at Assen and we’ll be able to spend the weekend working on the bike. Assen is a relatively small and technical circuit and I am sure we can be more competitive there. The weather tends to be quite unstable so we will have to keep an eye on that. Our bike handles very well, that’s its strongest point, so Assen should be one of the circuits that suits it the best. We will work very hard to be competitive and achieve the best possible result.”

Scott Redding, GO&FUN Honda Gresini says:
“I like the Assen TT circuit, and I also like The Netherlands. There is always a good atmosphere. We only need to take a look at the weather, as it could be a little tricky there, always changing. Anyway, this is another circuit on which I’m comfortable, even though it’s quite narrow, so I will need a bit of time to get acquainted with it aboard a MotoGP bike. The first sector could suit our bike well, but surely the other two sectors will be difficult for us because of the straights. During the Barcelona post-race test we managed to find some more traction: it will be interesting to see if this could be helpful to be fast in Assen, with all those long corners where you need as much traction as possible.”

Karel Abraham, Cardion AB Motoracing Honda says:
“Assen is one of my favorite tracks in the championship and it was my best race last year here in Cathedral of Speed. A year ago we fought with the satellite Ducatis, but couldn´t beat them. This year I hope we can make it. “We” means me and the other open Honda riders. I personally must forget the crash in Barcelona and re-establish the way we found in Mugello. I hope we’ll see an exciting race.”

Moto2 Honda Rider Quotes

Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex rider Esteve Rabat says:
“The approach for Assen will be no different to previous races. We head to Holland to try and win again. I like the Assen track, with its fast corners and many changes of direction. It’s quite a physical track, one that is demanding of the riders, but my preparation has been good and I head into the weekend fighting fit and ready to push from the opening practice, like always. We are not quite at the halfway point of the season yet, so I’m not thinking in terms of the championship, only in terms of winning races.”

Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex rider Mika Kallio says:
“The goal this weekend, and in Sachsenring, is to keep Tito behind me, as this means we will go into the summer break a little closer on points at the top of the championship. It’s not going to be easy because Tito is on form, but also we have some issues with rear grip on the hard option tyres. On these tyres in Mugello and Barcelona we couldn’t find the rear grip we needed during the race weekend. For this reason I hope that, here at Assen, Dunlop will bring the softer compound rears we had in Jerez and Le Mans, as we know we are more competitive on these tyres. Ten years ago, before it was modified, Assen was the best racetrack in the world. It’s not quite the same anymore, but there are parts of the old track still left and it still ranks as one of my favourites, and one where my results have been not so bad in the past.”

Paginas Amarillas HP 40 Kalex rider Maverick Vinales says:
“We need to find a good set-up earlier in the weekend. At Montmelo we found the right way only in qualifying, but that is too late, because I think in this class you cannot fall behind the others guys at all. At Assen we will try to start strong.”

Moto3 Honda Rider Quotes

Saxoprint-RTG Honda rider Efren Vazquez says:
“After returning to the podium in Barcelona, I’ve recovered my confidence 100 percent. We are still the top Honda in the championship, and this is very important. We need to keep adding points, so we must continue working at Assen. We need to find a solution to our problems with the chassis. We need more turning and this is what we will concentrate on at the next race.”

Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda rider Alex Rins says:
“The Dutch TT will be hard, as I have three micro-fractures of three of my left toes to deal with. It will be a little difficult and I will try not to do too many laps if it hurts during practice and thus save my strength for the race – which is most important thing. Last year I struggled to adapt to the layout at Assen, this time I hope to find things easier with the Honda.”

Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda rider Alex Marquez says:
“Last year I rode for the first time in Assen and it went very well from day one, because the circuit is well suited to my style. I think that it will also suit the Honda well, but we cannot be confident just because we were good there in 2013. This season it could be different and the weather can also vary things, because there it is very changeable. We come into this round off a win and a test that was very good, so it could be a great weekend. We’ll be 100-percent motivated, like at every Grand Prix.”

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