Preview World Superbike-Supersport, Assen, Netherlands

2012-04-17 15:34
Jonathan Rea (Honda World Superbike Team) heads to the third round of the 2012 FIM Superbike World Championship, to be held at the classic circuit of Assen, determined to improve on his current sixth place championship ranking.

Rea and his team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda World Superbike Team) tested at Assen for two days last week, encountering changeable and frequently cold track conditions. A post race test, held one day after the previous Imola round, was of even more use to the team as both Rea and Aoyama made real progress with overall setup.

The more recent Assen test was still valuable in allowing the Dutch based team to make initial preparations to race again at their home circuit, a track which Rea has enjoyed much success at in the past. Jonathan has scored three of his eight career SBK race wins at Assen, the most recent just last year.

With a new model of Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade to work with in 2012 Rea is keen to get back to winning form again, having yet to score a podium this year. Jonathan has a total of 40 points so far, just seven away from fourth place rider Leon Haslam.

Assen is a circuit that SBK rookie rider Aoyama knows well from many years of racing in the Grand Prix paddock and the 2009 250cc World Champion for Honda even took the race win there during his title-winning campaign.

Aoyama has now taken part in two SBK rounds and four individual races, posting strong top tens in the opener in Australia, but no scoring at a circuit he had never ridden at before, Imola, last time out. He hopes his familiarity with Assen will allow him to make a good early start, which will serve him well on race day Sunday 22 April. Hiroshi is currently 13th in the rankings, on 15 points.

The much altered and modernised Assen circuit is still a unique venue on the championship trail, featuring a few banked corners, flowing sections and a final chicane which has been the scene of more than its fair share of drama and excitement over the years. The racing at Assen is generally close and combative, and a real test of race craft and tactics right through to the last lap.

FIRST WIN OF 2012 THE AIM FOR HONDA'S TOP SUPERSPORT RIDERS

The 2012 FIM Supersport World Championship has already proved to be more open and unpredictable than any of the most recent seasons in this class, with three individual Honda riders having posted podium results, yet none of has been quite capable of taking a race win.

Sam Lowes (Bogdanka PTR Honda) is the highest placed CBR600RR runner in the current standings, having taken a fifth in round one in Australia and then a very close second at Imola in early April. He is 14 points behind championship leader Fabien Foret, and six points ahead of the combative Ronan Quarmby (PTR Honda), who battled all the way to a career best third at Imola, having started 11th on the grid.

Broc Parkes (Ten Kate Racing Products Honda) had serious grip issues that held him back at Imola, but he is the third Honda rider to have scaled the podium so far, going third in his native Australia. Broc completed a two-day test at Assen recently, but the track conditions were far from ideal.

Jules Cluzel (PTR Honda) was very close to a podium finish in Australia, but a crash from a strong position at Imola is a mistake he has no intention of repeating at Assen, a circuit he knows well, albeit not on a Supersport machine.

Cluzel is tied on the same points score as eighth-ranked rider Roberto Tamburini, who ignited his 2012 season on his Team Lorini Honda with a podium-challenging fourth place at Imola.

Just outside the current top ten; Balazs Nemeth (Racing Team Toth Honda) was seventh at Imola, equalling his career best in this class. He is 12th in the rankings, one place ahead of Andrea Antonelli (Team Lorini Honda). Mathew Scholtz (Bogdanka PTR Honda) is the only other current Honda rider in the rankings, 20th.

Imre Toth (Racing Team Toth Honda) is in an artificially low placing at present after no-scoring in the opening two rounds, while Martin Jessopp (Riders PTR Honda) is keen to earn points at a venue which traditionally has many British fans in the crowd on race day.

Former SBK race winner Lorenzo Lanzi (PRORACE Honda) replaces the outgoing Lukas Pesek at this round. Lorenzo will have a new experience this weekend, as his previous rides in WSS have all been completed on twin cylinder machines.

Young American rider Patrick 'PJ' Jacobsen (Bogdanka Racing Honda) substitutes for the injured Pawel Szkopek this weekend. Polish rider Szkopek has had a rod inserted into his broken right lower leg, and is simply unable to race at Assen. Regular WSS rider Thomas Caiani (KUJA Racing Honda) will attempt to get his points counter begin ticking over this weekend.

French rider Valentine Debise (SMS Racing Honda) replaces Ondrej Jezek in the Netherlands, as one event rider Robert Muresan (East European Racing Honda) also lines up at Assen on his CBR600RR.

HONDA RIDER COMMENTS

Jonathan Rea (Honda World Superbike Team):
"I am looking forward to Assen. I am not one of the guys who rode the old circuit layout to complain about the newer one. For me it is a better type of track anyway because it is fast and flowing. For some reason, I tend to go well there and the bike has been pretty decent in the past at Assen. The bike does work best within a small window, however, and depending on what we find I hope I will be as competitive there as I have been in the past. In the back of my mind I know it will be very cold this weekend. That can rapidly change the race tactics, depending on the kind of tyres Pirelli is going to bring. For us it looks like we will have to use the hardest rear race tyre so we will have to maximise our potential on that tyre, to make sure we last the race and make it work. We tested here last week in cold and sometimes wet conditions, so it's been a little bit frustrating that we weren't able to get as much work done as we wanted. We've worked on the front end and I've actually got a better feeling from there and an improved acceleration platform off the rear."

Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda World Superbike Team):
"The weather that we had for the test at Assen last week was not very good and we had a lot of things that we wanted to try after the Imola test. But the day we had there was a lot more positive because I had to change some things. I like Assen very much. I liked the old circuit layout, but the new one is fun, too. And I won there on the 250 when I was riding in GPs. I am really looking forward to the weekend at Assen and continuing the improved feeling that I have with the bike. I will try as hard as I can, like always, and see how things are on Friday morning."

Sam Lowes (Bogdanka PTR Honda):
"I am fit and ready to go. We are expecting changeable weather and it could be anything at Assen. I do not mind what it is, so if it rains that is no issue. As long as it is one way or the other rather than anything in-between. I love Assen. I love the track and want to have a solid performance all weekend. I just want to push for that first race win but obviously at the minute points make prizes so I will be going out to bag them up first of all."

Broc Parkes (Ten Kate Racing Products Honda):
"We tested at Assen recently, but it was really mixed conditions - rain, dry and cold. So we did not get a lot of laps in on the two days. We learned a lot at the test the day after Imola, but Assen was difficult to judge our progress at. I did a bit of riding in the rain and that was quite positive. We got through some work in that test but it will be hard to know how it translates to a dry track. I think we can be competitive from now on and even when we went to Assen the bike setup we had was good from the start. I am confident we can be there this weekend, but only time will tell when we get there on Friday. The team is based nearby to Assen and they are keen to win the race of course but the most important thing is for us to score good points in the next couple of races, so we can get back into the championship battle."

Jules Cluzel (PTR Honda):
"I know the track and I like it also. We improved the bike a lot at Imola during the test day after the race. I hope that we also have a big improvement for the Assen event. We have to look at the conditions we may find because they say that it will rain on race weekend. I have had some good performances in the rain but I do not know my bike in the rain yet. It is the same for everyone, but rain and cold are never the best conditions for racing."

Balazs Nemeth (Team Toth Honda):
"For the first two rounds we have not had so much luck because each race I had a technical problem, but for Assen we can prepare the bike and have a good race. I have to finish in the top ten again. In Imola I equalled my best ever result and I want to make an even better result at Assen."

Patrick Jacobsen (Bogdanka Honda PTR):
"I don't really know what to expect as I haven't raced in the World Supersport Championship before, but I tested a PTR Honda in January and really liked it. I have a lot of confidence, I know the bike and know it's very good and capable, an all-round good bike, so I am just looking forward to a strong race. Assen is a fast a flowing circuit, which should suit my style and my 125cc background. I don't feel any pressure and just want to go out and ride my race with the Bogdanka Honda PTR team."

Lorenzo Lanzi (PRORACE Honda):
"I am delighted to begin this new adventure with Prorace. I have known them for a few years and they offered me the ride. World Supersport is very competitive and it won't be easy to stay with the guys at the front, but I've been training hard during the winter and I am in perfect shape."

Source: Honda Pro Image

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