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Jun 25, 2002

More Assen MotoGP Previews

From a press release issued by Honda:<BR><BR>2002 MotoGP 500 World Championship, round 7<BR>Dutch TT, Assen, June 27/28/29 2002<BR><BR>FOUR-STROKE MotoGP BOOM COMES TO HISTORIC ASSEN<BR><BR>Four-stroke GP bikes return to Assen this weekend for the first time in almost three decades, with Honda's rampant RCV riders Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda Team RCV211V) and Tohru Ukawa (Repsol Honda Team RCV211V)leading the charge.<BR><BR>The HRC duo have totally dominated the early stages of the sport's new four-stroke era, winning all six races so far, and this Saturday they aim to give Honda its first four-stroke Dutch TT win since Mike Hailwood won the 1967 500 race on his RC181. Rossi's and Ukawa's current form suggests that they will continue to reign supreme at historic Assen, the only circuit remaining from motorcycling's inaugural World Championship year in 1949, but the track's unique layout and the region's changeable summer weather make the outcome difficult to predict. The heavily cambered Assen track has also undergone several revisions for 2002, adding another element of surprise to the proceedings.<BR><BR>Rossi was in the hunt for 500 victory at Assen 2000 and 2001 but rain intervened on both occasions, leaving the Italian sixth and second. This weekend, when the MotoGP race will commence 90 minutes later than usual to accommodate the World Cup third-place playoff, the Italian youngster will therefore bid for his first premier-class win at bike racing's most historic venue.<BR><BR>"I've never won the big race at Assen, so I hope we have some good weather this time," says Rossi, who won his first-ever 250 GP at Assen in 1998, 12 months after winning the 125 race. "Assen is a great track, and the most difficult because it's impossible to make two laps exactly the same. I think it will be hard work on the four-stroke, because I don't know if it'll be possible to use all the RCV's power. Already with the 500 you couldn't use 100 per cent of the power. Assen is very strange and very difficult because you never go straight, you never have one second to say 'Ah, a straight, so now I can rest'. For sure we should be faster than the 500s, but only if we can use all of the four-stroke's power…"<BR><BR>Ukawa is the only man so far this year to have defeated Rossi (he beat his team-mate by a fraction of a second in April's South African GP) and another victory would be the perfect way for him to celebrate his 100th GP start. The Japanese rider knows how to win at Assen - two years ago he won the Dutch 250 TT - but last year he found his first 500 race at the track a more difficult experience. Ukawa qualified 11th and finished eighth, finding the complex venue an altogether different kind of a challenge on a much faster motorcycle.<BR><BR>"The RCV will be very interesting at Assen!" Ukawa smiles. "The 500 was very difficult around there, because the bike was almost flying off the camber! But although the four-stroke is even faster, I think it might be easier to use, because the power delivery is more smooth and because the bike is more stable than the 500. We will have to work very hard at set-up because Assen places very unusual demands on the chassis and suspension, but so far this year we've found that the bike works well everywhere. We are fast almost immediately, even when we've never used the RCV at a track before. But Assen is very different, so we won't really know what's going to happen until we get there."<BR><BR>Honda's five NSR500 two-stroke riders hope that the RCV will be more within their reach than usual at Assen, and there's a theory on pit lane that the 500s might have one of their best weekends of the year at the high-speed Dutch track. The two-strokes lose most against the new and super powerful four-strokes during acceleration, but since Assen is an ultra-fast circuit with fast corners and long straights, acceleration isn't of prime importance in the big class.<BR><BR>"It's difficult to predict how Assen will be for us," says Loris Capirossi (West Honda Pons NSR500), who started last year's Dutch TT from pole position, finishing the race a close-run third. "Some people say the 500s will be competitive there, but I'm not so sure, I think we won't really know until we've completed the first couple of sessions on Thursday."<BR><BR>Team-mate Alex Barros (West Honda Pons NSR500), who made his 200th Grand Prix start at the Catalan GP two weeks ago, is also unsure of what awaits him this weekend. "I'm quite confident of a good weekend, because the last two races have gone really well for me," says the Brazilian, who won the 2000 Dutch TT on an NSR500 and was top two-stroke rider at Catalunya. "But I'm not sure how we will compare to the four-strokes at Assen. So far this year we've not been able to get close to the quickest four-strokes. Maybe Assen will be different, maybe it won't."<BR><BR>The pair's technical director Antonio Cobas reckons that Capirossi and Barros can look forward to good results. "I think we a good chance of matching the four-strokes at Assen because there are no slow corners followed by a long straight, which is the worst situation for us," he says. "Both Loris and Alex have always done well at this circuit because it's got so many fast corners."<BR><BR>Like Ukawa last year, reigning 250 World Champion Daijiro Kato (Fortuna Honda Gresini NSR500) faces a major challenge at Assen - his first big-bike race at the track. Kato ruled 250 racing last season but poor weather spoiled his hopes of victory in the Netherlands, and he must look at this visit to the Dutch venue as a learning weekend. Back on track at Catalunya, after tumbles in France and Italy, Kato is looking forward to continuing a return to his impressive earlier form. "After two difficult races, Catalunya proved that we can perform well," says Kato. "I know Assen will be a big challenge for me, but I'm ready for that. The track probably takes more time to learn than others, so my plan is to get in as many laps as possible during practice and qualifying. For that reason especially, I hope the weather stays dry for all three days."<BR><BR>Jurgen van den Goorbergh (Kanemoto Racing Honda NSR500) ended an impressive run of points-scoring runs at Catalunya where he was knocked down by a rival on the very first lap. The Dutch hero will be hoping for a better race at home. "The last race was quite difficult in all kinds of ways, and I think we can look forward to something much better at Assen," says van den Goorbergh, darling of the Dutch crowd for the last few years. "Everyone knows we are in a development phase at the moment, developing MotoGP tyres for Bridgestone. This means we aren't just racing, we're also testing and evaluating, but I think we've done well so far, scoring points at four races and giving Bridgestone a huge amount of feedback. They're working incredibly hard and keep offering us new tyres. Assen is very unusual from a tyre point of view but I think we'll have a good race if we go okay in practice. Of course, I want to put on a bit of a show for the crowd, so I'll be doing my best to get as close to the front as I can."<BR><BR>Fifth NSR rider Tetsuya Harada (Pramac Honda NSR500), who has shown some promising flashes of speed at the last few GPs, is another man who knows all about the unique challenges offered by Assen. "I've won on the 250 there but it's a very different racetrack on a 500," says the Japanese. "Some of the bits that are straight on a 250 become corners on the 500, so you have to learn your lines all over again. The NSR will be the quickest bike I've ever raced there, so I expect to be learning and thinking a lot through the weekend!"<BR><BR><BR>From a press release issued by Kanemoto Racing:<BR><BR>VAN DEN GOORBERGH BRINGS IT HOME TO THE DUTCH FANS<BR><BR>Jurgen van den Goorbergh brings the MotoGP World Championship to his home fans on Saturday 29 June, at the Dutch TT. The famous Van Drenthe circuit in Assen hosts round seven, of the so far four-stroke dominated, 16-round 2002 series. All 60,000 grandstand seats are sold out and they will join another 60,000 track-side spectators to cheer on 32-year-old native Van den Goorbergh in what is Holland's largest sporting event of the year.<BR><BR>Kanemoto Racing have put behind them the disappointment of round six, the Grand Prix of Catalunya where a first lap racing incident saw Van den Goorbergh collide with Shinya Nakano sending the Team's Honda NSR500 two-stroke sliding into the gravel ending their race on the very first lap. Immediately following the race the Team returned to the circuit with Van den Goorbergh and Japanese-rider Shinichi Itoh for a valuable two-day test. Team Owner and Manager Erv Kanemoto hopes that with information gathered at the test, together with some better luck, could win the Team their first top-ten finish of the season in Holland.<BR><BR>"We're due some better luck in Assen as the Catalunya race was naturally disappointing for us and goes to show how luck always plays some part in racing. Jurgen made a good start, too good as it moved him quickly up into the pack which ultimately caused his race-ending collision. It was bad luck but we picked ourselves up from there and immediately returned to the track for a two-day test, joined also by Shinichi Itoh. Having two riders enabled us to gather twice as much valuable information ahead of this weekend's race.," relayed Erv Kanemoto from the Team's Belgian Headquarters.<BR><BR>The revised 6.027kms Assen circuit has hosted a grand prix every year since the championships inaugural season in 1949. It is the only circuit to be able to make that claim and further development has since produced a world<BR>class racing facility and a calendar fixture eagerly awaited by riders looking forward to performing on the circuit's fast technical bends, with few slow corners, which could aid the racing style of two-stroke competitors.<BR><BR>"The Assen course is fantastic and having a home crowd supporting you definitely makes you go quicker. I've put the incident in Barcelona behind us now and I'm totally ready for the Dutch Grand Prix. I know the track well but recent changes will make it a new challenge for me and the other riders. The opening practice sessions will be interesting and while I hope it stays dry for the fans - a little rain, for us, could be good," said Jurgen van den Goorbergh following the Barcelona testing.<BR><BR>This year the circuit has been slightly shortened from 6,049 metres to 6,027 metres, with the former main straight moved to enlarge the paddock, the Mandeveen and Duikersloot corners have been moved back ten metres to create larger run off areas.<BR><BR>Kanemoto Racing is currently 12th placed in the Team championship and Jurgen van den Goorbergh 18th in the rider's tables.<BR><BR>DUTCH TT - ASSEN FACT FILE<BR><BR>The 6.027kms TT Circuit at Assen is the longest and one of the most famous in the MotoGP calendar. The Assen circuit has hosted a grand prix round every year since 1949, the inaugural year of the series and the only circuit that can make that claim.<BR><BR>Original racing was on public roads before the development of a purpose built track for motorcycles in 1954. 60,000 fans are expected to watch from the huge new grandstands with a total of 120,000 expected to enjoy Holland's largest sporting event of the year.<BR><BR>23 million Euros have been invested over the last three years in upgrading the facilities. A new grandstand, hospitality units, race control tower, Media centre, medical centre and pit boxes have all been constructed.<BR><BR>Length: 6.027kms. Direction: Clockwise.<BR>Pole position: Left.<BR>Right corners: 15.<BR>Left corners: 9.<BR>Width: 10m.<BR>Longest straight: 970m<BR>Constructed: 1954<BR>Modified: 2002.<BR><BR>Lap records: New circuit length.<BR>500cc Race winner 2001: Max Biaggi (Yamaha) 30m56.346s, 175.961km/h<BR>(Stopped because of rain.)<BR><BR><BR>JURGEN VAN DEN GOORBERGH DUTCH GRAND PRIX MEDIA OPPORTUNITIES<BR><BR>Wednesday 26 June<BR>Public appearance in Assen city centre<BR><BR>Jurgen van den Goorbergh under Questioning<BR><BR>Following the successful autograph session held at Assen last year, race fans will be offered the chance to meet the GP stars. Honda have made it possible for Dutch MotoGP favourite Jurgen van den Goorbergh to be at the Koopmansplein, in the center of Assen where he will sign autographs and answer the questions put to him by race fans.<BR><BR>TV motorsport presenter Allard Kalff will be on hand to interview Jurgen, but the public, particularly the young race fans, will be invited to put their questions to Van den Goorbergh. The young TT-fans who put the best questions to Jurgen will be invited to visit the race paddock on Thursday, and attend a press conference with 500cc World Champion Valentino Rossi and Jurgen. From among those who put the best questions to Jurgen, one youngster and one girl will be chosen for a ‘Meet and Greet' with Rossi and Jurgen, visit to the Honda Racing Team, in which Japanese star Tohru Ukawa will also take part.<BR><BR>